Over the objections of superintendent Edward Andrews, the Montgomery County school board voted yesterday to fight the Maryland Board of Education's dramatic reversals of its policies on school closings and boundary decisions.
The board's continued support of its decision to close Rosemary Hills Elementary School and of its new attendance boundaries for Montgomery Blair High and Eastern Intermediate schools came after a three-hour closed-door session with its attorneys.
The vote was 4 to 1, with president Eleanor Zappone abstaining and Blair Ewing voting no.
"We need to know, once and for all, what is the scope of the state board's power to second-guess a local board," said Montgomery board member Carol Wallace.
The turmoil created by a court case in the short run . . . will hopefully end with something much more stable."
"This is a question of policy and local control," said board member Marian Greenblatt in arguing to go to court.
But Ewing condemned the board's decision. "This is a board of education that does not know how to lose gracefully . . . I am convinced that this will take years to resolve and cost thousands and thousands."
Student board member Kurt Hirsch, a Walt Whitman High School senior whose vote does not count in board decisions, said, "This board should be spending money on education, not litigation."
The state board's reversal on June 30 of the Rosemary Hills closing was its first in history. The state found that the Montgomery board acted in an "arbitrary and unreasonable" fashion.
The local board had decided to close Rosemary Hills, a national symbol of integration efforts, and make boundary changes that would increase the number of minority students at Eastern Intermediate and fail to reduce the minority population of Montgomery Blair, which has the highest percentage of minorities in the county.
Superintendent Andrews said that Rosemary Hills will open this fall, but that the board must decide, regardless of its appeal, how many grades and what students Rosemary Hills will have.
The local board also must decide boundaries for Blair and Eastern Intermediate, Andrews said. The board set public hearings on these issues for July 27 and said it would make its final decisions the following day.
The board's appeal will be filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
"I'll be damned," said Gus Crenson, spokesman for the state board, when he learned of the appeal. Crenson noted that the state wins about 90 percent of all appeals.
Verna Fletcher, a member of the nine-member state board and a former president of the Montgomery board, was less surprised. "I expected this because of Marian Greenblatt's opening statements after our decision.
"It is a feeling that they are completely autonomous . . . Our job is to interpret the laws, by-laws and policies of the state and that is what we did."