Baltimore County’s school board will not only have five new members on Tuesday but get new leadership as well. However, the options for experienced leadership are limited.
Board members will elect a new chair and vice chair at the beginning of the meeting. Julie Henn and Rod McMillion, who both ran unopposed in the Nov. 8 election, currently hold those positions, respectively. And Henn, who has been the chair for the last year, said on Facebook that she no longer wants the job.
In a Nov. 18 post, Henn said she told her colleagues that she’d neither pursue nor accept a nomination to be chair or vice chair.
“I look forward to continuing to serve as an individual contributor on the Board and amplifying my voice for the concerns of stakeholders,” she posted on Facebook. “This singular focus will drive my next term.”
Henn did not return a request for comment.
Five newly elected members of the 12-member board will also start on Tuesday: Robin Harvey of District 1, Jane Lichter of District 2, Maggie Litz Domanowski of District 3, Brenda Hatcher-Savoy of District 4 and Christina Pumphrey of District 6. Of the five, only Pumphrey was unopposed.
The new board members will be sworn in at Goucher College on Monday morning along with County Executive Johnny Olzewski Jr., a Democrat who won reelection, as well as the new and incumbent council members and the county sheriff.
Harvey will be filling a seat left vacant by the resignation in August of Lisa Mack for health reasons. Meanwhile, Lichter will replace Felicia Stolusky, Domanowski will take Kathleen Causey’s seat, Hatcher-Savoy will replace Makeda Scott and Pumphrey will be Lily Rowe’s replacement.
The terms of the four appointed school board members have also expired. However, Dr. Erin Hager, Moalie Jose, Russell Kuehn and John Offerman chose to stay on until Gov.-elect Wes Moore names their replacements. Moore takes office on Jan. 18.
Departing members were recognized at the Nov. 22 meeting. Student member Roah Hassan thanked members for their service and said she learned a great deal from them.
“As a student, I’m so so beyond grateful for you,” she said. “I’m hopeful that the next board can fill half of your shoes.”
The options for chair and vice chair will include a board member who has stated publicly that she does not want either job (Henn), four appointees who won’t be on the board much longer, and five newcomers fresh off election wins.
McMillion declined to comment on whether he’s interested in a leadership role.
Choosing a chair and vice chair has been controversial in the past. In December 2019, Cheryl Pasteur received 6 of 11 votes for chair, but was not elevated because she fell shy of the 7 votes that board guidance said was needed. Causey remained chair even though she got fewer votes.
The board’s handbook states that “a motion is adopted with the approval of a minimum of seven members,” unless it’s a topic on which the student member (one of the 12) cannot vote. So if six members voted to approve an item on the agenda, with none opposing, the vote would still fail.
The new board will inherit a number of challenges from the current board. For instance, the court case of Andrea Barr, the chief auditor, who sued the board for not renewing her contract, still hangs in the balance. Testimony revealed bitter infighting among board members. Barr has worked for the district for more than three decades.
The fate of Schools Superintendent Darryl Williams is also unclear.
Several members of the County Council urged the school board in June to start looking for a new superintendent, citing concerns about various issues. The board then held a special meeting to discuss a personnel matter. He appears to have made progress in addressing one concern of the council members, delays in school bus pickups.
Williams told WYPR in April that he would like to stay on after his contract expires in the summer of 2023. The new school board could decide to renew his contract or hire a search firm to find a replacement.