Two Fairfax County School Board members have objected to the way Superintendent Robert R. Spillane and Board Chairman Mary E. Collier drew up a list of school repairs to be sought if there is midyear county budget surplus, saying the items were decided in secret.
"I'm fed up with decisions being made in somebody's office," board member Laura McDowall said yesterday, adding that the public has the right to know how decisions are made.
The list, including new roofs at three schools and improved telephone systems at several others, is on the agenda for the County Board of Supervisors' Monday meeting. The items would be funded only if the county shows a surplus in the spring.
Most School Board members got their first glimpse of the list at a board budget committee meeting Tuesday, when they were told it already had been submitted to County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert by Spillane and Collier.
McDowall and board member Katherine Hanley raised objections that the list had been submitted without their having seen it, according to those at the meeting. The president of the County Council of PTAs and the chairman of its education committee also criticized the process yesterday.
"I don't think there's any attempt to hide anything," Collier said yesterday. "All these items are on a list developed from years of public hearings and are well-known needs of the school system."
The dispute over the repair list comes at a time of tension for the board, which traded party-line political accusations during the recent gubernatorial election and whose members have been subject to growing political pressure by the supervisors who appointed them.
McDowall and Hanley are Democrats, Collier a Republican, but McDowall said she was not suggesting a partisan motive in Collier's actions.
Hanley did not repeat her earlier criticism yesterday, but said the wish list was drawn up in a way that is "certainly a little different from last year." She said she agrees with the items on the list and "the schoolchildren's interests have been well represented."
Kevin Bell, president of the Council of PTAs, said he would like to have seen "more discussion and the ability for interested parties, such as the PTA, to have input" in the decision.
In the future, he said, the list should be submitted in the superintendent's proposed budget "so the public at large, the PTA, the school community, can see what is happening and we do not have any impression this is happening in the closet and not in the light of day."
Spillane said the repair list was not customarily brought to the full board for approval, and in any event there is nothing new on it.
"I don't think anything was done contrary to the board's wishes," Collier said. "If it makes somebody uncomfortable, we can look at it."
Brenda Z. Greene, chairman of the PTA education committee and a member of the education committee of the local chapter of the American Association of University Women, said the secrecy is a worrisome break from past practice.
"It is the entire board's responsibility to make decisions," she said. "I am troubled that one or two individuals are acting for the board."