County Council reviewing school board candidates

Don Fitzgerald, right, was recently re-elected Board President; Gene Malone was elected Vice President.

The Wicomico County Council will select three new school board members from six finalists who applied, with the hope of having them begin serving Sept. 1.

Three seats on the seven-member Wicomico County Board of Education became available after Joe Ollinger resigned early, and Dr. Tyrone Chase’s and Ronald Willey’s terms expired on June 30.

Ollinger’s term was set to expire in June 2018, but he resigned so the newly formed nominating committee didn’t have to reassemble and select a replacement for him next year.

The nominating committee hosted a public hearing June 26 at James M. Bennett High School Auditorium, where applicants spoke.

They remaining applicants are Jocelyn Abbott, Dawn E. Becker, Allen C. Brown Sr., Mary Lou Coffin, Tyrone Cooper, Michele S. Cropper, Maida Finch, Earle Hatton, Kevin S. Lindsay, Michael Murray, William K. Turner and Talana Watson.

Two people seeking seats were rejected for not meeting requirements.

“They were good. They were really very good,” County Council President John Cannon said of the candidates.

“I had reservations about this new method, but to see these people publicly discuss what their contributions can be to the community was really an eye opener. It was really refreshing to hear them,” he said.

Cannon was referring to the results of a referendum last November, when County voters were asked to decide if school board members should continue to be appointed, as has been the tradition in Maryland, elected, or have some appointed and some elected. Nearly 51 percent of Wicomico’s 36,451 voters selected Option 2 on the ballot, choosing to switch to an elected school board.

Until the next election in 2018, though, the three seats will be filled by those appointed by the County Council.

Meantime, Board of Education President Don Fitzgerald was elected president for another term and Gene Malone was elected vice-president.

Nominating committee members are in the process of narrowing down 12 applicants to six, explained Ben Brumbley, chairman.

“It’s pretty much an even demographic with white, black, men, women. They range in age from 30s to retirees,” he said.

A public informational meeting is planned for at 6:30 p.m., Monday, July 31, in the County Council chamber. Brumbley said the finalists will be there but it hasn’t yet been determined if they will speak.

The current school board members are Fitzgerald, appointed in 2009, and reappointed by the governor to a second five-year term beginning July 2014; Malone, appointed in 2016; John Palmer, appointed in June 2015 to complete a term expiring at the end of June 2015 and appointed to a five-year term through 2020; and Maria Waller, appointed in June 2016 to a term that expires in December 2018.


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