Gov. Wes Moore’s office appointed three new Baltimore County school board members, but its final seat remains empty. That leaves the decision on the school system’s next superintendent in the hands of an incomplete board.
Tiffany LaShawn Frempong, Emory Young and Tiara Booker-Dwyer were tapped to join the county’s 12-seat board of education, replacing the Hogan-administration appointees, Moalie Jose, John Offerman, Russell Kuehn and Erin Hager. They will be sworn in April 18 and expected to have their first meeting that day.
The replacements were recommended by the school system’s nominating commission. It’s tasked with interviewing candidates interested in the open spots and submitting eight candidates to the governor’s office for appointment. However, the governor does not have to take their suggestions.
Cindy Sexton, chair of the naming commission and president of the county’s teachers union, said Moore’s appointment secretary interviewed the rest of the five candidates and “didn’t feel like any of them was the right decision for the school board.”
Moore’s office did not give an explanation for why the fourth seat was not filled.
Sexton said they have to return to the drawing board. According to meeting minutes and agendas, the nominating commission process took six months. Sexton said, if she’s being optimistic, the interview process for the fourth seat won’t happen until the end of June.
“It’s frustrating,” she said. “But also, we want what’s best for the school system and our students.”
Julie Sugar, a member of the nominating commission, said: “Hundreds of person hours went into the selection process and eight stellar candidates were put forward.”
She said it was disappointing only three board members were appointed, particularly because of the superintendent search.
Yara Cheikh, head of the League of Women Voters of Baltimore County’s education committee, said the refusal to pick from the recommendations is politicizing the appointment process, which shouldn’t happen.
“The work of the commission is transparent, and eight solid Baltimore County residents were put forth to the Governor to serve on the Board of Education,” she said. “The vetting process by the commission is rigorous. We need to hire a new superintendent, and all of the four necessary appointees should be in place to begin those deliberations.”
The search for the new superintendent to replace Darryl Williams after he leaves at the end of the school year is already underway, and the board will announce its pick in May.
The board consists of eight elected seats, including the student board member, and four appointed seats. Once the new members, who are all Black, start, it will be majority people of color.
“Our school board needs to represent our students,” Sexton said. “They need to see themselves in the school board. Representation is important, and getting the right people is equally important.”
She said the three new people are all familiar with the school system. Young was on the school board in 2017-2018, Booker-Dwyer worked with the Maryland State Department of Education for seven years and Frempong was appointed by former superintendent Dallas Dance to be on the school system’s northeast area advisory council in 2013. Sexton said that’s a way to really get to know what’s happening in the school system.
Young, 53, told The Banner he’d like to focus on campus safety and ensuring kids receive quality meals, “particularly those who are food insecure.”
Young, a Reisterstown resident, is an engineer for Verizon with one child who graduated from the school system and another still attending.
When it comes to a new superintendent, Young said he wants a candidate who is open to new ideas and willing to work with the stakeholders. Test scores are trending downward, he said, and he wants a leader with experience turning something like that around.
Booker-Dwyer was an assistant state superintendent for the Division of Career and College Readiness until February 2022. She had previously been executive director of school improvement and leadership development. She also has a certificate in school administration and supervision from the Johns Hopkins University.
A year ago, she later joined Policy Studies Associates, a firm that provides research and analysis for governments and nonprofits, according to her LinkedIn page.
When the appointed board members start, the majority of the school board will be fairly new. Jane Lichter, Robin Harvey, Maggie Domanowski, Christina Pumphrey and Brenda Savoy were elected last fall. Julie Henn and Rod McMillion, who were reelected in November, are the only veterans along with student member Roah Hassan.
“I do think having everybody new all at once is not ideal,” Sexton said, though she thinks the current board is doing a great job.
She said that won’t happen in the future thanks to a recently passed bill. Appointed members will be selected during the presidential election, and the seven elected members will be voted on during a gubernatorial election year. The bill also states the new terms of the new appointed members will expire December 2028, giving them five and half years on the board instead of four, like everyone else.
Liz Bowie contributed to this report.