Elected school board measure headed to Annapolis

 

Wicomico County residents could be voting in a referendum as soon as November 2016, deciding how school board members will be chosen.

The referendum will be scheduled if a bill, drafted by the Wicomico County

Council, passes in Annapolis, during the annual legislative session that begins next month.

County Council members sent a proposal to the legislative delegation outlining the plan for voters to decide if they want school board members to continue being appointed, as they are now, or if they should be elected. The third option is a hybrid method.

That would mean that, of the seven members on the school board, two would be appointed by the County Council and five would be elected.

The detailed proposal to lawmakers explains that if the elected option is favored by voters, five of the seven school board members would be elected from County Council districts and two would be elected at-large.

The proposal states, “any eligible voter, except as provided by state law, shall be qualified to serve as a board of education member.”

Board of education members would be required to live in the district he or she represents. If he stopped living in that district, or was no longer an eligible voter, he would be required to forfeit the seat.

If more than two candidates ran for an at-large position, their names would be on a primary election ballot and the two who received the most votes would move on to the general election.

“In appointing members to the board of education, the County Council shall ensure, to the extent practicable, that the board reflects the gender, ethnic, and racial makeup of the county,” the proposal states.

If vacancies occurred, the County Council would fill them from names provided by a 14-member nominating commission. That commission would be composed of members from the Wicomico County branch of the NAACP, education association, chamber of commerce offices, Educational Support Professionals Association and Council of PTAs.

“The purpose of the commission will be to recommend two qualified candidates for each of the two appointed positions on the Board of Education. The commission also will recommend two candidates to fill any vacancy that occurs,” the proposal states.

There would also be a parent of a child with special needs on the commission. All members would serve four years and reflect the gender, ethnic and racial makeup of the county.

County Council members would also appoint a student member, who would serve one term, but not be eligible to vote.

A nominating commission would suggest two names of students, from those provided by the student government associations of the high schools.

State Sen. Jim Mathias said he’s pleased the County Council scheduled public hearings to discuss the matter.

At the County Council’s legislative breakfast Dec. 12, Mathias thanked County Executive Bob Culver for scheduling the hearings.

Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes, at the legislative breakfast, asked about the process of choosing the student representative. County Councilman Marc Kilmer said each high school would nominate someone, then the successful student would go before the nominating commission before being confirmed by County Council.

“We’ve come a long way and we’re in the home stretch,” Delegate Chris Adams said about bring changes residents have called for, for years.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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