Nearly four months ago, wearied and frustrated , Rodney F. Page bid what he said was his final farewell to the Fairfax County School Board and resigned his post as chairman. At the time, Page insisted he did not anticipate returning to the board.
The brief hiatus is over. Next week, Page returns to the board, reluctantly, as its first official tie-break. The board now has 10 members; the tie-breaker post brings it to 11 members.
"I think the whole idea is an irresponsible one," Page said after his appointment last week by the Board of Supervisors. "The only reason I took the job was to keep the position from being abused. It's absolutely absurd to think that you could turn over controversial and crucial issues to an 11th person who comes in out of the blue. . . I am as capable as anyone because I know most of the issues facing the board."
But, Page added, "inherent to the whole thing, is that the person who holds the position cannot do a good job."
Page's appointment was announced last week after warnings from the county attorney that if the board did not act by Oct. 1, they would be in violation of a recently passed state law requiring all public school boards to have a tie-breaker.
"It took us about one second to make the decision," said Supervisor Nancy Falck (R-Dranesville), who is a former school board member. "Nobody really wanted to have a tie-breaker, but if there had to be one, Page was the most appropriate choice."
As a tie-breaker, Page will be required to cast the deciding vote on issues the board cannot resolve.
The response to Page's appointment was double-edged. Most county and school officials lauded the appointment, but, like Page, protested the need and logic of the position.
"We don't need a tie-breaker in Fairfax. We don't have many tie votes, and when there is one, the motion is considered failed," said School Board Toni M. Carney, who represents the Springfield District. "Therefore, the idea that the board might be blocked from acting because of a lack of consensus just is not valid."
County and school officials say the school board and the supervisors have gone on record opposing the saw and are working to obviate the need to ever use Page in his new capacity. Already, Northern Virginia representatives to the General Assembly are planning to jseek an amendment that would allow the tie-breaker to be optional.
Fairfax officials had asked state Attorney General J. Marshall Coleman to rule on the legality of the law, and this week Coleman's office informed them that the laws was constitutional.
School board officials said they objected to the law on numerous grounds.
"The law is full of problems," contended Carney. "There are really no set procedures. There are no provisions in the tie-breaker package requiring the tie-breaker to attend all the meetings, so how do you keep the person current and well-informed?
"In effect, the tie-breaker becomes a super board member holding the critical vote -- the last vote. I just don't see how this could possibly be constitutional."
Page said he plans neither to attend every meeting, nor to be on call.
"I have absolutely no intention of running down to every meeting and I don't plan to be at the beck-and-call of the board. Those are the reasons I resigned in the first place," Page said.