With Joy Schaefer stepping down from the Board of Education to fill a senior position in Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner’s (D) office, County Council members now have to pick three nominees for Gardner to consider.
The council will craft that process in the coming weeks, and decide how to interview interested applicants, council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) said Thursday.
The council is under a time crunch to submit three names to Gardner before the end of the year, Keegan-Ayer added.
Gardner said Wednesday she wants the council to pick those candidates by Jan. 1, and she will pick one for council members to confirm by a majority vote.
“We didn’t have to on our to-do list. I had not scheduled this into our calendar,” Keegan-Ayer said of the time frame. “Trying to get seven people to agree on a process is a little more difficult.”
She and other council members said they didn’t have any specific candidates in mind, but added they should be well-versed in education and budget issues.
Both Board of Education President Brad Young and member Liz Barrett said Schaefer’s departure in January is a great loss to the board.
“Joy is a talented colleague who brings a balanced perspective, and lots of experience,” Barrett said. “And we will need a colleague of the same caliber to join us.”
Both she and Young declined to state any person they might prefer, stating that is the county executive and council’s role, per the county charter.
But Young and multiple council members did say that if the candidate had run for the Board of Education before, that could be a factor.
“I think, certainly of the folks that are running, it shows they have the enthusiasm and effort to go through that process,” Young said. “I don’t think that should be the sole factor, but I think it should be one.”
Councilman Phil Dacey (R) said he hopes Schaefer’s replacement helps create a more “ideologically balanced” board.
“Having [a] unanimous board without any opposing viewpoint is not necessarily the best thing,” Dacey said. “Mix it up, sell your idea to the public, let the best idea win.”
Parallel to the interview and appointment process, Gardner, her staff, and McKay recently crafted proposed state legislation to fill vacancies on the Board of Education through special elections.
McKay said, however, that his bill would have not fit this scenario, as it’s intended for when a Board of Education member vacates their seat in the first year of a term.
So, current council members have to decide how to interview prospective candidates, Keegan-Ayer said.
She proposed interviewing all of them in closed meetings, and then releasing recordings of the interviews to the public. That way, the candidates who interview later wouldn’t have advance knowledge of what questions might be asked.
But she is only one of seven voting members, she added.
“That would be my preference, [and] I would strongly encourage my colleagues to give that a lot of thought,” Keegan-Ayer said.
She added that being appointed to a shorter term might open the pool up to candidates who wouldn’t want to serve a full term.
Both council Vice President Michael Blue (R) and Dacey said this process is better than when current Board of Education member Lois Jarman was appointed earlier this year. Gardner said Wednesday she chose to ask the council to pick three members in order to be transparent, and because her office is creating the vacancy.
“I was happy to see the county executive tweak the process. ... I think that’s a fair kind of compromise to the way the charter reads right now,” Blue said.
Whoever replaces Schaefer on the school board will need to jump right into the budget process for next fiscal year. That’s important to any candidate, Keegan-Ayer said.
“Let’s face it, they deal with a very large budget over there,” she said of the Board of Education.
Barrett, however, said the budget process is always a challenge for every school board member.
“I think it’s a lift and challenge for even current school board members,” she said. “The budget should be a new reflection of the priorities every single year.”
The council could start discussing the process for soliciting and interviewing candidates at its meeting next Tuesday, Keegan-Ayer said.