- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2002

A group seeking to overturn Prince George's County's newly appointed school board has lost its bid for a referendum to reinstate the county's elected school board.
Leaders of Citizens for an Elected Board say the ad hoc group might consider legal action to oust the appointed board, because its members do not represent southern parts of the county and areas inside the Beltway.
The group collected only 5,000 of the 6,700 petition signatures it needed for its referendum drive by Friday, the deadline for the signature-gathering.
"We ran out of time. We were on a roll and then we ran out of time," said group leader Janis Hagey.
The group had about two weeks to collect one-third of the 19,000 petition signatures needed to put on November's ballot a referendum that, if approved, would have reinstated the county school board's nine elected members.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry last week appointed a nine-member school board under special legislation approved this year by the General Assembly. The legislation calls for the resumption of the elected school board in 2006.
State lawmakers disbanded the county's elected board after reports of financial mismanagement, sagging test scores and frequent disagreements with schools Superintendent Iris T. Metts, who will serve as the new board's chief executive officer for one year.
Mrs. Hagey said her group's fight would continue on another front in November the re-election bids of the delegates and state senators who took away county voters' ability to choose their school board members.
"We will keep that sentiment out there. We will let the people know how the incumbents voted for [an appointed board]," she said.
Mrs. Hagey said her group also would try to persuade candidates to pledge support for restoring an elected school board before 2006.
The group may pursue legal action for loss of representation because none of the new board's appointed members live in the southern part of the county or inside the Beltway, she said.
"In Fort Washington, for instance, representation has been cut by half," Mrs. Hagey said, adding that primarily lower-income, black neighborhoods inside the Beltway have been left without representation.
School board Chairman Beatrice Tignor said the board's members represent the entire county regardless of where they live. To address concerns about underrepresentation, the board will begin holding public hearings in those areas, possibly as early as next month, she said.
"We would like to begin early so that when children return to schools in September, we can reach out to those areas," Mrs. Tignor said. "We have to stop thinking in terms of regionalism and parochialism. Parochialism can hurt us all. We have to think of the big picture."


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