- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 16, 2002

The Maryland Board of Education finalized a list of 24 potential candidates for the Prince George's County school board at a closed meeting in Baltimore yesterday, even as community members and some politicians criticized the secrecy surrounding the entire process.
The list was sent to Gov. Parris N. Glendening and County Executive Wayne K. Curry, who will jointly select and announce the nine appointees by June 1.
"The list reflects the diversity in the county," said education board member Reginald Dunn, who chaired the committee that went through 200 applications. He said the board had considered several factors, including geography, race, ethnicity and gender, while finalizing the list.
"We have given the names of some top-notch people who we feel the people of Prince George's County will be comfortable with," he said.
Community members say their input was never sought on the selection of the board, after lawmakers last month passed a bill to replace the current board.
County activist Joan Roache wanted to hold a forum at which residents could interact with the finalists. But she said she did not even get an acknowledgment for the letters she wrote a month ago to Mr. Glendening and Mr. Curry, asking that they release the names.
"The community has a right to see the list of finalists. This just feeds into the feeling that the board selection process has been carried out behind closed doors, as some sort of a political deal," Mrs. Roache said.
"This entire process shows disrespect for the democratic process," said Janis Hagey, co-chairman of Citizens for an Elected Board, a group seeking a referendum on the law for an appointed board.
Delegate Rushern L. Baker III, a Democrat and chairman of the Prince George's delegation, said he believed the process had been open so far.
"The people of Prince George's are really excited," he said, adding that they often thanked him for bringing change to the school system.
But he said that at this point people need to know who the finalists are. "I have talked to members of the state board to get them to release the names."
In Baltimore, where the state named an appointed board in 1997, the governor released the list of finalists, giving residents an opportunity to question them at open forums. A spokeswoman for Mr. Glendening said yesterday that because this was a personnel issue, the governor would need to ask each member for consent in order to release the list.
In a prepared statement issued last night, Mr. Glendening said the list "includes qualified and experienced individuals committed to improving education in Prince George's County."
Sen. Leo E. Green, Prince George's Democrat, voted for an appointed board but later lobbied for an open process of selection. He said it was important that people learn who the candidates are.
"It is most critical that people who will be utilizing public funds and authority should be subjected to a cross-examination," he said.
A letter from Mr. Green to the state's attorney on the disclosure of names by the state Department of Education yielded a reply saying that under state law, personnel records including applications are off-limits to public scrutiny.
Many of the people involved in county schools said the secrecy was not justified.
"People knew everything there is to know about me when I stood for election," said board member James Henderson, Seabrook.
Doris Reed, chief of the county administrators union, said that as a taxpaying citizen she found the secrecy over the appointed board troubling.
"We have not been given a say in the selection of this board, and we will not have a say in what our schools will be like in the future," said Mrs. Hagey of Citizens for an Elected Board.


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