A Circuit Court judge has dismissed the school closing case brought by the Montgomery County school board against the Maryland Board of Education, saying he had no standing to review the state board's decision.
Judge William Cave's ruling late Wednesday, which did not argue the merits of the case, is a major blow to the county school board, which sought not only to reverse the state board's decision, but to clarify the state board's power over the local board.
The ruling follows a lengthy appellate process that began when citizens contested several of the local board's decisions last November on school closings and boundary changes. The Maryland Board of Education essentially upheld the citizens last June by declaring that the county school board's decisions to close Rosemary Hills Elementary and redraw attendance boundaries for Montgomery Blair High School and Eastern Intermediate were "arbitrary and unreasonable" and had to be changed.
The local board will decide next week whether to appeal the judge's dismissal. Reluctantly, it has kept open Rosemary Hills Elementary and deferred any changes in attendance boundaries until November.
In an interview yesterday, Judge Cave said his decision was based on a Maryland law that state board actions in such situations are final.
Joseph Barse, a Montgomery school board member who strongly supported the board's court challenge, was disappointed yesterday when he heard the news. "It looks more and more like the resolution of these questions will be through the political process rather than through the courts," he said.
But board member Blair Ewing, who opposed the board's decision to go to court, said, "It's very clear that the county board is once again finding that its decisions simply won't wash when they need to be reviewed by some authoritative body."
Tom Broadwater, copresident of the Montgomery Blair High School Parent-Teachers Association, said he was "absolutely ecstatic" about the dismissal. The state board had ruled that the local board violated its own racial balance guidelines by not acting to reduce Montgomery Blair's 58.6 percent minority enrollment.
"I turned two or three somersaults mentally," Broadwater said. "Now the school board has to start working in terms of doing something for the Blair area."