O’Malley appoints black woman to board
by PENNY RIORDAN
Gov. Martin O’Malley’s recent appointment of longtime community member and volunteer Virginia Harrison to the Carroll County Board of Education has been greeted with approval from school officials.
“She’s a wonderful choice,” said Cynthia Foley, president of the school board. “I was very pleased. I was very glad when I heard.”
Harrison, 61, who is black, is a member of the Carroll chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and a community activist. She replaces Jeff Morse, who resigned in March after controversy over his use of a racial slur at a school construction site.
Due to the learning curve for a new member, board members and schools Superintendent Charles Ecker had earlier asked the governor to keep the position open until after the November election, when Morse’s term would have expired. Morse’s name is also still on the ballot for the November election.
Board members are elected in Carroll County, and because Harrison’s name was not on the February primary ballot her name will not be printed on the ballot in November.
However, Jean Lewis, president of the Carroll NAACP, said the civil rights group and minority community will be looking at staging a write-in campaign.
Lewis had said she thought appointing Harrison would be a way to reach out to the minority community.
Harrison said she is looking forward to serving out Morse’s term.
“I think I can bring something to the table,” she said. “I really care about the children.”
Harrison’s name was one of the three names that school board members sent to O’Malley for consideration in May. Morse was appointed after member Tom Hiltz resigned in March due to increased responsibilities at work.
Harrison is a mother of two children and lives in Sykesville. In addition to running a dress-making and design business, she is also the vice chairwoman of the Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality and is the chairwoman for the Carroll County Human Relations Commission. She has also been involved in school programs and activities that have discussed race and diversity in the school system over the years.
Foley had previously expressed reservations about the learning curve a new member would have, but said that because of Harrison’s background, she is confident Harrison will learn quickly.
“She’s so familiar with the school system to begin with,” Foley said.
Lewis said she was pleased the governor chose to appoint someone who is black and someone who has been involved with the school system for so long.
“Her heart is for the children,” she said.
She added, “I have faith in the community. I think the community feels that changes will take place.”
SOURCE: Community Times