Before he could begin to lead the fifth-largest school district in Maryland, Eric J. Smith was told he needed to make time to speak with one Severna Park family: the Sniders.
Smith sat across the dining table from Terra Ziporyn and Jim H. Snider, parents of three school-age children, and got an earful about the value of the arts and the need for new algebra textbooks and greater transparency in the district's decision making.
"They cared very much about the quality of education in Anne Arundel, and they were never shy about sharing their thoughts on what could be done to improve things," said Smith, who served as superintendent from 2002 to 2005. "They -- their participation -- was crucial."
Since moving to the county five years ago, the Sniders and their children have emerged as arguably the most influencial family in the system that educates 74,000 students each year.
The family's middle child, Sage, 17, sat at her first school board meeting yesterday, serving as a student representative two years after her sister Pallas held the same post. They are believed to be the only siblings in the state to serve nearly back-to-back stints on their school board, the only one in the country that gives a student full voting rights.
Jim Snider made an unsucessful bid for school board in 2002. These days, he writes a blog critical of the school board selection process and recently helped the Severna Park High parents' group with suggestions for an honor code to help the school heal from a cheating scandal...
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