A Message from the County Executive
In July 2011, after hearing strong community concerns that struck a chord with me, I convened a panel of experts to study the issue of diversity on the Howard County Board of Education. I was honored that Dr. Nancy Grasmick, one of the most respected education leaders in the nation, agreed to lead this effort. I asked her and other Commission members to complete their work quickly, so that proposed changes could be considered the next time the state General Assembly meets, in October 2011.
Dr. Grasmick and the Commission studied the very issue that citizens had asked me about at a Public Forum: diversity. I have the utmost respect for all those who offer themselves for public service, but the heavy concentration of school board members from one area of the county leaves other portions underserved and underrepresented. It is untenable that there is no Columbia resident, or Elkridge resident, on the Board of Education. And that's not because of a lack of candidates or poor campaigning, as the report shows. It's because the at-large system of elections is too difficult for both candidates and voters.
I am also concerned about a lack of racial and ethnic diversity on the school board. White students have become a minority in the school system. An achievement gap among races persists. An ethnically diverse school board would not automatically close the gap, but it would, as the report states, provide role models and refocused attention on this critical issue.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the Commission for its work. Its recommendations include a district-based election system, and supplementing an elected majority of the school board with two appointed members, and I support those findings. While I respect the opinions of those who think that alterations are not needed, or may come too fast, I believe the time is now to move forward on behalf of all Howard County residents, especially our children. Please take the time to review the final report and other information, linked below, and feel free to share your views.
School Performance Disparities
Howard County Demographic Data
Maryland Association of Boards of Education Presentation
Howard County Board of Education Achievement Gap Presentation
Prior School Board Study (2000)
Prior Study Results (Giles Memorandum)
PTA Council of Howard County Board of Directors Resolution
Selected Written Testimony