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Garrett board unsure of when to replace Raley

Commission candidate could vote on new member’s appointment for his former seat
Megan Miller
Cumberland Times-News Cumberland Times-News Fri Sep 17, 2010, 07:59 AM EDT

— OAKLAND — The decision on whether or not to close Bloomington and Kitzmiller Elementary schools will be made by the Garrett County school board after months of study and recommendations from the public, advisory committees and school administrators.

But the outcome of Tuesday’s primary election could bring another major factor into play — the selection of a replacement for board member Jim Raley.

Raley, a Republican, appears poised to become a Garrett County commissioner. He won a decisive primary victory in District 2 over incumbent Fred Holliday, and currently faces no opponent in the November general election because no Democrats filed for the seat.

If Raley vacates his seat on the board of education, Maryland code dictates that the county commissioners will appoint a replacement to serve out the remainder of his term, through 2012. The appointee could come from anywhere in the county, because Raley’s seat is designated for a member-at-large.

The question is whether the current commission or the newly elected commission — which would include Raley and at least one more new commissioner — will do the appointing.

So far, it’s a question with an unclear answer. County Administrator Monty Pagenhardt said he has spoken with Superintendent Wendell Teets and the current commissioners about the issue. County officials will discuss the matter with an attorney, and will likely consult the state board of education as well.

The process of making an appointment would probably be triggered by Raley submitting his resignation from the school board, Pagenhardt said.

The current commission has generally appeared supportive of school officials’ efforts to examine school closures as a way of cutting spending and managing the budget. But the new commission will likely include at least two members who have taken positions against school closures.

Raley has been an outspoken opponent of closing the schools. And in District 1, both Republican candidate Gregan Crawford and Democrat Eric Robison have also taken strong positions against the measure. Crawford, speaking of the potential impact on Garrett communities, told the Times-News that the schools need to remain open “at all cost.”

If the school board appointee opposes school closures, it could create a close vote on the divisive issue.

In recent months, Raley and fellow board member Charlotte Sebold have often sided together on votes related to the issue. In August, the two opposed the schedule for considering possible closures, which forced board President Donald Forrester to cast a tiebreaker vote that passed the measure 3-2.

Three members of the board of education are up for re-election in November, but two, Forrester and Thomas Carr, are running unopposed. In District 3, incumbent Rodney Durst faces a challenge from Rodney Reckart.

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