In Maryland, legal provision was made in 1694 for free schools, which were those with a curriculum that included "Latin, Greek, Writing, and the like" (Chapter 31, Acts of 1694).

In 1696, King William's free school (later, St. John's College) was established in Anne Arundel County (Chapter 17, Acts of 1696). The Archbishop of Canterbury was named as Chancellor of the School, and a Board of Trustees was granted general authority over the School by the General Assembly. Board members named were: Sir Thomas Lawrence, Col. George Robotham, Col. Charles Hutchins, Col. John Addison, Reverend Peregrin Cony, Mr. John Hewett, Robert Smith, Kenelm Cheseldyne, Henry Coursey, Edward Dorsey, Thomas Ennals, Thomas Tasker, Francis Jenkins, William Dent, Thomas Smith, Edward Boothby, John Thompson, and John Bigger. They were to erect the School, manage its funds and property, and create rules and regulations for its governance.

[photo, Anne Arundel County Free School, Davidsonville, Maryland] Not until 1723 did the General Assembly authorize the raising of funds to build a schoolhouse in each county (Chapter 19, Acts of 1723). Under this "Act for the Encouragement of Learning and Erecting Schools in the Several Counties", the Anne Arundel County Free School was established and Visitors appointed.

Anne Arundel County Free School, Davidsonville, Maryland, April 1999. Photo by Diane P. Frese.

Trustees for the Education of Poor Children. In 1816, additional funds were authorized for public schools in five counties, including Anne Arundel (Chapter 244, Acts of 1816). Each of the levy courts in these counties were to appoint Trustees for the Education of Poor Children. The Trustees (seven from each election district) were to take a census of poor children above eight years of age. Anne Arundel County’s Board of Education originated from the Trustees for the Education of Poor Children. A county collector was authorized to receive school taxes and pass those revenues to a treasurer of the County school fund.


The Department of Education consists of the Board of Education, the Superintendent of Schools, and those employed in the County Public School System (County Charter, sec. 551).

Duties of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education began with the State School Fund Commissioners, the County School Commissioners, the Commissioners of Primary Schools, and the Board of County School Commissioners.

State School Fund Commissioners. The General Assembly, in 1816, appointed nine commissioners to oversee the State school fund in each county (Chapter 256, Acts of 1816). The commissioners were to “establish a central free school in each election district” and report back to the General Assembly on how funds were used. It is not clear in the 1816 law if the word “free” refers to the classical curriculum described in 1694 or lack of tuition.

By 1818, monies entrusted to Anne Arundel County’s Trustees for the Education of Poor Children were returned to the Levy Court to be overseen by the commissioners of the State school fund (Chapter 200, Acts of 1818).

County School Commissioners. In 1825, a statewide public education system was formed (Chapter 162, Acts of 1825). The justices of the levy courts in each county appointed nine school commissioners who were to divide the county into school districts. The levy courts also appointed up to eighteen inspectors of primary schools for each county. The inspectors were to examine teachers, issue teacher certificates, visit schools, give suggestions to teachers and school trustees, and report to school commissioners. Elected by the voters of each school district, three trustees were to purchase schoolhouse sites, repair and furnish the schoolhouses, and hire all teachers within the district. Authorized to keep records of school commissioner meetings, a district clerk was elected by the voters annually. A district collector collected monies from school taxes.

Commissioners of Primary Schools. In Anne Arundel County, the School Commissioners appointed by the Levy Court were named Commissioners of Primary Schools in 1827 (Chapter 173, Acts of 1827). The Commissioners distributed the primary school fund to school district trustees. Trustees used the funds to purchase school sites, erect school buildings, and hire teachers. The trustees were to report to the Commissioners, who, in turn, were to report to the General Assembly.

In each Anne Arundel County school district, white, male citizens over the age of 21 were given power to vote on the establishment of schools by 1829 (Chapter 146, Acts of 1829). This was an early attempt to allow citizens representation in the public school system.

In 1840, the West River Academy was established in Owensville, Anne Arundel County (Chapter 10, Acts of 1840). Authorized to hold property and create regulations for the Academy, Doctor Martin Fenwick, Henry A. Hall, Alexander I. Murray, John G. Rogers, Sprigg Harwood, Henry Owens, and Francis Bird were named Trustees of the West River Academy.

For the purpose of funding primary schools in Anne Arundel County, additional taxes were levied by 1853 (Chapter 255, Acts of 1853). Levying taxes for further funding of primary schools reoccurred frequently in Anne Arundel County.

Board of County School Commissioners. In 1865, the State Board of Education called for a “uniform system of Free Public Schools” (Chapter 160, Acts of 1865). The public school system became centralized; “supervision and control of Public Instruction” was vested in the State Board of Education. The State Board appointed boards of county school commissioners in each county to serve four-year terms. Three years later, boards of county school commissioners regained control and supervision over county schools (Chapter 407, Acts of 1868). The public school system was no longer accountable to the State Board of Education. Within each county, voters elected county school commissioners, from each election district, to two-year terms. These school commissioners had custody over schoolhouse property and were expected to pay teacher salaries.

For all counties, including Anne Arundel, the school commissioners reorganized in 1870 (Chapter 311, Acts of 1870). County circuit court judges were to appoint three school commissioners for their respective counties. At the same time, the Board of State School Commissioners, previously named the State Board of Education, was reformed.

In 1892, the Governor gained authority to appoint county school commissioners (Chapter 341, Acts of 1892). That year, three school commissioners were appointed for Anne Arundel County to serve six-year terms. By 1900, the Governor was to take into consideration minority party representation when appointing county school commissioners (Chapter 29, Acts of 1900).

In Annapolis, a public school building was authorized to be erected in 1894 (Chapter 620, Acts of 1894). A building committee appointed by the General Assembly purchased the school house site, developed building plans, and hired an architect for the building. Also in Annapolis, a high school was to be built in 1898.

The Visitors of the Anne Arundel County Free School were authorized to sell most School property in order to fund the building of a new schoolhouse in 1910 (Chapter 577, Acts of 1910). The new schoolhouse was to be constructed on two acres of the original property; however, those two acres later were sold as well.

Public School Building Commission. The Anne Arundel County Public School Building Commission was created in 1920 (Chapter 386, Acts of 1920). The Commission was to erect more public schools and make improvements to existing schools. By 1929, the Commission included five members of the Board of Education, seven County Commissioners, and the Superintendent of Schools who served as secretary (Chapter 203, Acts of 1929). Throughout the County, the Commission also was to establish public high schools.

Board of Education. Boards of county school commissioners were renamed boards of education in 1916 (Chapter 506, 1916). They were to be appointed by the Governor without regard to political affiliation.

Today, the Board of Education oversees educational matters that affect Anne Arundel County Public Schools (Code Education Article, sec. 4-102).

Currently appointed by the Governor to five-year terms, the Board consists of nine members. Five are school district residents and three are at large members. Also serving on the Board is a student, appointed annually by the Governor (Code Education Article, secs. 3-101 through 3-108; 3-110). The Superintendent of Schools is executive officer, secretary, and treasurer of the Board (Code Education Article, secs. 4-102; 4-201 through 4-206).

Beginning with the general election in November 2018 at which four members will be elected, the Board will transition to an elected board. At the November 2020 general election, four more members will be elected (Chapter 473, Acts of 2017). The student member will continue to be appointed by the Governor.

Presently, candidates for the Board of Education are nominated by the School Board Nominating Commission of Anne Arundel County (Code Education Article, sec. 3-110). The Commission consists of five members appointed to four-year terms by the Governor; a member appointed by the County Executive; a member appointed by the Board of Community College Trustees; a member appointed by the Anne Arundel County Council of Parent Teacher Associations; a member appointed by the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County; a member appointed by the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce; and a member appointed by the Association of Educational Leaders. The Governor names the chair.

In 2016, changes were made to the School Board Nominating Commission (Chapter 35, Acts of 2016). Under the new law, the Governor no longer appointed any members or the chair and the Governor's appointees serving on the Commission were terminated from service effective June 1, 2016. These changes became embroiled in legal actions, but were upheld by the Court of Appeals in January 2017. Meanwhile, legislation in 2017 began the process of transitioning the Board to an elected, rather that appointed, Board negating the need for a nominating commission (Chapter 473, Acts of 2017). That law renamed the School Board Nominating Commission to be the School Board Appointment Commission of Anne Arundel County, with the authority to fill any vacancies on the School Board until November 2020, when the Commission will be abolished, and the County Council will assume responsibility for filling any vacancies on the Board of Education (Chapter 473, Acts of 2017).

[photo, George Fox Middle School, 7922 Outing Ave, Pasadena, Maryland] SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS
The Superintendent of Schools administers the Anne Arundel County Department of Education, and serves as executive officer, secretary, and treasurer of the Board of Education (Code Education Article, secs. 4-102; 4-201 through 4-206).

George Fox Middle School, 7922 Outing Ave, Pasadena, Maryland, September 2016. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


[photo, Florestano Building, west campus, Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold, Maryland] Anne Arundel Community College was founded in January 1961, when the Board of Education established Anne Arundel Junior College. The College opened at a temporary site, Severna Park High School, in September 1961. The College moved to its present Arnold campus in September 1967.

Florestano Building, west campus, Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold, Maryland, April 2007. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


The Department of Libraries was founded as the Anne Arundel County Public Library in Annapolis in 1921.

Today, the Department has fifteen libraries throughtout the County (County Charter, sec. 552; County Code, sec. 2-1-604). Three of these, formerly called area libraries, were renamed regional libraries in August 2014. The Annapolis Area Library was renamed Annapolis Regional Library. The North County Area Library became Glen Burnie Regional Library. The West County Area Library was renamed the Odenton Regional Library.

Formerly called branch libraries, twelve of the county libraries were renamed community libraries in January 2014. Among these were libraries at Broadneck; Brooklyn Park; Crofton; Eastport-Annapolis Neck; Edgewater; Linthicum; Maryland City at Russett; Mountain Road; Riviera Beach; and Severna Park. Also in January 2014, Provinces Branch Library was renamed Severn Community Library; and South County Branch Library was renamed Deale Community Library.

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