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De Facto Leadership On Baltimore County School Board Leads To General Assembly Action

John Lee

The fractured Baltimore County School Board’s inability to elect a chairman and vice chairman is now an issue before the Maryland General Assembly.

In December, both chair Kathleen Causey and vice chair Julie Henn seemingly lost elections to be reappointed the board’s leaders by six to five votes. However, both remain in place as de facto chair and vice chair. The reason is you need seven votes to be appointed. The vote was complicated by the death in October of board member Roger Hayden.

Now Democratic Delegate Eric Ebersole is introducing legislation that would allow future votes to be decided by a simple majority.

“It certainly did point out to us a little structural problem there in that if you lose a member or two, you still would need seven votes to pick a chair,” Ebersole said.

If the legislation becomes law, the school board could take another vote.

Causey did not respond to requests for comment.

Henn, saying she was speaking for herself and not for the board, said this is an effort to overturn a legal election.

"I can’t imagine why this would be introduced, other than the fact that there is a preference as to the outcome of the election," Henn said. "This certainly is in response to that."

Ebersole said, “I don’t have any sort of arrangement or any sort of indication from anybody on the board that they’re going to call another vote if we pass this bill. We’re really just doing this as a matter of structure.”

Ebersole introduced this as an emergency bill. That means if it passes the General Assembly and is signed by the governor, it will take effect immediately. Henn questioned whether this qualified as an emergency.

"The board is still operating," Henn said. "We’re about to consider our budget (Tuesday) night at our meeting. We’ve continued to operate. We continue to meet. We continue to take all necessary actions as a board of eleven members."

The seat on the board left empty by Hayden’s death remains open. The governor eventually will appoint a successor. He first needs to receive two nominees from the Baltimore County School Board Nominating Commission.

Ebersole said the length of time it takes to fill a vacancy on the board is another reason to be able to elect board leadership by a simple majority.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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