During her final months as a member of the Prince George's County school board, Sue V. Mills tried to convince the board to approve construction of a second gymnasium at Potomac Senior High School in Oxon Hill.
Approval of the facility was scheduled for a vote by the board this week. Mills, who, as required by state law, resigned from th board Sept. 13 after being nominated as a Democratic candidate for County Council, planned to lead a group of about 100 Potomac parents to the meeting to show support for the gym.
But by the time Mills and the Potomac parents arrived at the meeting, the agenda item regarding the gym had been tabled.
"I do not feel we should vote on this issue when there is no representative from the 8th District (Mills' district) here to represent the interests of those people," said board member Lesley Kreimer, moving to table the motion. "I think we should wait until after a new member has been elected."
The public-speaking segment of the agenda item was not cut off by the passage of Kreimer's motion, and Mills used her three minute speaking period to angrily attack the board.
"In 8 1/2 years on this board I have never before seen an agenda item tabled when the board members knew it was of public interest," Mills said, her voice shaking slightly. "We have worked overtime to accommodate the public and now you have stopped that.
"That is not a political issue, this is a community issue, and if this kind of thing can happen, then this Board of Education is in bad shape. I've been telling people this summer that the board is changing and is becoming responsive. I found out tonight that it is not."
Mills said later she felt some board members did not want her to score a victory on the Potomac issue eight days before election day.
In addition to her own race for an at large seat on the County Council, Mills is supporting Angelo Castelli to take her school board seat in a hotly contested race with Otis Ducker. Ironically, Ducker sent a representative to speak in favor of the board's allocating $380,000, but Castelli was not present.
Board chairman Norman H. Saunders supported Kreimer's contention that the absence of an 8th District representative was the reason for the tabling.
"This wasn't political," he said. "The lady is entitled to her opinion. I just think she's wrong."
The board also unanimously approved a resolution allowing schools to stage bonfires in connection with homecoming football games each fall.
Laurel Senior High School has been allowed to stage a bonfire for the past three years and other schools and requested the same privilege.
The board approved a plan that will, allow bonfires, with strict supervision, while giving principals the right to call them off at any point if they believe there might be discriplinary problems. In addition, the fire department will supervise the building and putting out of the bonfire, according to the regulations.
The motion was unanimously opposed by the County Association of High School Principals on the grounds that principals have enough problems with homecoming activities without a bonfire.
Board member Doris Eugene said, "If we treat the students as the adults we ask them to be, this idea can work." Other board members expressed similar sentiments before approving the measure by voice vote.