Abolish the School Board

The Montgomery County Board of Education meeting May 23 ["Md. Board Starts Over on Sex-Ed Revisions" and "Parents Rally for Black Students," Metro, May 24] hit a new low in how school boards operate.

Certain board members managed to insult African Americans; the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development; Wheaton residents; a childless man who gave public comment and, according to the board, didn't represent parents; and the more than 50,000 members of the county's PTAs who do have children in county schools and, according to the board, don't represent the public.

Boards of education are understaffed and overwhelmed by the responsibility of running billion-dollar operations. Consequently, boards no longer provide useful oversight and are not, as the May 23 meeting demonstrated, responsive or accountable to the public.

The Governor's Commission on Quality Education in Maryland (the Steele Commission) has heard testimony on abolishing school boards from the Harford County school board president, the Anne Arundel County executive and me -- an involved Montgomery County parent for the past 10 years who has become increasingly frustrated with how the school system operates. Instead of having a school board, change the state law and make the school superintendent accountable to the county executive.

It's an idea whose time is past due. Things couldn't get any worse. In fact, things might just get better.

Gail Melson

Silver Spring

Cheering Floreen's Recusal

My thanks to The Washington Post and reporter Cameron W. Barr for the article titled "Council Member Recuses Self From Land Issue" [Metro, April 29].

I applaud council member Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) for having the courage to recuse herself from deliberations on an issue that would benefit a contributor to her political campaign.

Ms. Floreen's action in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest is especially important in Montgomery, because we have no law requiring such a recusal and no recall mechanism should gross abuse occur.

I hope she will do the same on other issues, especially those related to development, because a large percentage of her campaign donations come from developers. And I urge the other eight members of the County Council to follow her example.

The ability of residents to believe that their legislators operate in the public interest, not to the benefit of special interests, is critical to public confidence in our representative form of government.

Jim Humphrey