- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday said he does not oppose putting appointed members on the Prince George's County school board and would work with legislators to sign a bill that would require that change.
He said there is an urgent need to create a Board of Education for Prince George's that can move ahead and improve the schools.
"Obviously there's a great deal of frustration and it ought to create a demand for change," he said.
Mr. Glendening, who was Prince George's County executive from 1983 to 1995 county's public schools when a "$1 billion operation" is bogged down in the board's "debate over $5,000 contracts and where the superintendent is going to sit."
"It's clear they are hurting students and schools [and] it's urgent that everyone put aside their differences, and frankly, a lot of pettiness,", said it's hard for him to make a case to lawmakers to approve more state aid for his former home Mr. Glendening said. "I'll work with the legislature on whatever they come up with."
Delegate Rushern L. Baker III, a Democrat and chairman of the county's House delegation, welcomed the governor's comments.
"I'm very happy that the governor has made such a forceful statement on this," said Mr. Baker.
Support from delegates and senators is coalescing around a bill that would require appointing to the school board three experts in various fields to help guide it. The legislation also would reduce the number of school board districts from nine to six and eventually revert the three appointed positions to elected ones.
It also would commit about $30 million in extra aid to Prince George's schools next year in exchange for making the change a move supporters say parallels the deal the state made with Baltimore for its agreement to change to an all-appointed school board.
Legislators said advocacy by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and a few others to mandate an all-appointed board is more divisive than helpful. But lawmakers said they believe no one wants to let another year go by without making a move to reform even if it means taking away some privileges to vote in an election year.
The bill is still being drafted, and state Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Democrat and chairman of the county's Senate delegation, said it should include $50 million in extra aid for each of the next two years the same amount that Baltimore, whose schools' standardized test scores are the only ones lower than Prince George's, got in a 1997 bill.
Late yesterday the state's Management Oversight Panel, which monitors school reform in Prince George's, was circulating a letter to fiscal committee members with suggestions on funding and reform.
Mr. Baker said it recommends making extra aid contingent on school board reform. The panel's letter also suggests funding Prince George's teachers' salaries to the level of neighboring, wealthier Montgomery County and paying for an independent assessment of school principals.


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