An independent committee of citizens and black organizations, at odds with the Montgomery County school board over integration issues, opened a formal campaign yesterday to monitor racial policies in the county's public schools.
The Citizens Minority Relations Monitoring Committee, formed after the school board abolished a similar 22-member panel last summer, will report to the public on the school system's response to the problems of minority students, said committee cochairman James Robinson.
School board president Carol F. Wallace has expressed "serious reservations" about attempts to monitor school issues independent of the school board, but Robinson said his group will serve a useful purpose.
"We will be advocates for minority youngsters in the school system," said Robinson, who also served as cochairman of the disbanded committee.
Although members of Robinson's group have clashed with the board on racial matters in the past, Robinson said the new committee will avoid politicizing school issues.
The new panel will "stay totally away from anything that smacks of politics," he said, and will be "very constructive" in its dealings with the school administration.
Of particular concern to the citizens group are issues such as the balance of minority students in nonathletic school activities and programs for the gifted and talented, the performance of minority students on tests, and what they see as the disproportionate number of black students suspended from school.
The group is also concerned that the school system no longer has a uniform method of training teachers and staff to cope with the diverse ethnic backgrounds of children in their classes. Previously the board had required teachers to take a human relations course dealing with such subjects, but that requirement was abolished in 1979.
The dispute between the old committee and the school board began last January, when the committee issued a report charging that the county had failed to meet its own guidelines for racial integration in the schools.
Seven months later, members of the board majority said they objected to the committee's "confrontational" behavior and voted to dissolve the group.
Since then, the board has solicited applications for its own new Minority Affairs Advisory Committee, which will be appointed next week. School board spokesman Ken Muir said yesterday that 16 persons have applied for nine positions on the advisory committee. Included in that group are two Hispanics, two Asians and two blacks. The rest of the applicants are white.
Board president Wallace invited members of the old committee to apply, but none did so. They urged their colleagues to boycott the board's new committee.
Robinson said 70 persons and organizations had sought membership on the citizens committee, and 20 have places so far. Among them are five of the county's six black fraternities and sororities, the Ministerial Alliance for Montgomery County, the National Council of Negro Women, and the Montgomery County Black Coalition.
The county Parent-Teachers Association will attend the group's meetings, according to Jean Hubbell, the PTA secretary.
"We've been upset with what has been happening to Quality Integrated Education the county's policy for school integration ," Hubbell said.
She said the PTA was disturbed by some of the board's actions relating to minorities, particularly its decision last summer to increase the percentage of minority students allowed in a school before the school is required to attempt to attract white students. Such a move should not have come without a public hearing, Hubbell said.