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Pr. Geo.'s School Board Back To Single Member Districts

The Prince George's County Board of Education will be divided into nine single-member districts under a bill signed into law this week by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).

The law returns the county's school board to the way it used to be, with each member representing one district. The system was dissolved in 2002 by state legislators fed up with constant bickering. At first the state appointed the board members, and then, in 2006, county voters elected five members representing districts and four at-large members.

Under the new law, the four candidates who win the greatest percentages of the vote in their districts in the 2010 election will serve four-year terms. The remaining five winners will serve two-year terms. When those five seats come open again in 2012, the winners of that election will serve four years. The result is to have roughly half the school board come up for election every two years.

Supporters of the old system said it forced board members to rise above parochial concerns to consider the interests of the entire county. Opponents argued it confused constituents and required candidates to run for election across the county, giving an advantage to candidates able to win the backing of state legislators.

Despite running into opposition in past legislative sessions, the bill passed both houses of the General Assembly with relative ease this year.

"Obviously, we're delighted that we've finally gotten back to where we should have been all along," said David L. Cahn, co-chairman of Citizens for an Elected Board, which had lobbied for the change for years. "The return to nine single-member districts means that the school board will be directly accountable. Each member will be directly accountable to the voters in his or her community."

-- Nelson Hernandez

By Anne Bartlett  |  May 15, 2008; 10:09 AM ET
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