Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. named four members to the state Board of Education last week, including a Charles County woman.
After 18 months in office, Ehrlich (R) has appointed more than half of the 12 voting members of the high-profile board, which sets policy for public schools, libraries and vocational rehabilitation services.
Yet there seemed to be relatively little politics at work in this year's selections. The most politically active of the four appointees is David F. Tufaro, a real estate developer who was the Republican nominee for mayor of Baltimore in 1999 in an unsuccessful race against Martin O'Malley.
Another newly appointed Board of Education member, J. Henry Butta, the retired president and chief executive of C&P Telephone Co. of Maryland -- now Verizon Communications -- has been known as a Republican but served as a close adviser to William Donald Schaefer, a Democratic former governor who is now state comptroller. Butta is a former chairman of the Maryland Higher Education Commission. He is a Baltimore native.
Both men will serve four-year terms, as will Beverly A. Cooper of Baltimore. Ehrlich appointed Lelia T. Allen of Waldorf to fill the final two years of the term of member Marilyn Maultsby, who resigned last year. He named Brian A. Williamson, a senior at North Hagerstown High School, to serve a one-year term as student member of the board.
The new members and their senior colleagues on the board will face several tough tasks in coming years. The board is responsible for the tests that will determine whether students are becoming "proficient" in reading and math in accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Nearly 200 of the state's 1,430 public schools failed to make the grade this year on standards that will become more stringent every year.
The board also will oversee the rollout of "exit exams" that will become mandatory for students to graduate from high school starting with the Class of 2009.
In recent years, the board has tended to take its cues from Nancy S. Grasmick, the powerful state superintendent of schools for the past 13 years, who is hired by the board.
Appointments made by Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) were scrutinized in political circles by those who wondered whether he would gain a majority that would fire Grasmick, with whom he was often at odds.
Such speculation has vanished now that Grasmick has formed a close alliance with the new governor. Last month, the board approved a contract that will keep her in the post for another four years.
John L. Wisthoff, who just completed his second and final term on the board, said he does not expect any major changes with the new members.
"It always takes awhile to get up to speed," he said. "I trust Grasmick to have impeccable politics. She will shepherd the state board through any situation."
Allen, the new member from Waldorf, has been a professor of psychology and human development at the College of Southern Maryland since 1989. She also has worked in student services and academic development.
Cooper is the vice president of the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, a charitable organization named for her late brother-in-law, a prominent financier.
She is also a board member for the Archdiocese of Baltimore Independent Child Abuse Board, Archdiocesan Board of Financial Administration, the Catholic Family Foundation, St. Mary's Seminary and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture.