Deputy Clerk Hired for Page Program

Posted September 14, 2009 at 6:46pm

House officials have hired a deputy clerk to oversee the House Page Program, marking the latest move to improve the program in the aftermath of several recent controversies.

Maria A. Lopez fills a position that was created after two Republican members of the House Page Board complained of communication issues and resigned in 2007. At the time, Members hoped the new position would streamline communication and decision-making by giving one person the sole job of House page oversight.

Almost two years later, both Democrats and Republicans say they are happy with the decision — and with Lopez’s recent arrival. A former director of academics at Langley High School in McLean, Va., Lopez was chosen out of 78 applicants from three separate searches.

Clerk of the House Lorraine Miller called Lopez “compassionate— and “youthful,— with the ability to relate to the high school juniors who participate in the program. The pages, numbering about 60, work on the House floor, answering phones and relaying messages between Members. The House also provides them with their own school in the Library of Congress.

“This program is so massive with its components, it needed a lot of attention,— Miller said, adding that Lopez “has a combination of skills that I think we’re looking for.—

A Cuban-American in her 40s, Lopez graduated from Columbia University Teachers College. She has taught at several schools, including St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Va., and at the Washington International School in D.C.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), a member of the Page Board, said Lopez will bring a “fresh set of eyes— to the program, perhaps recommending changes and improvements.

Miller “has a lot of her plate and the program is big enough and complicated enough to warrant a person to look after it,— Foxx said. “I think this was absolutely the right move.—

Foxx’s sentiments differ greatly from that of her predecessors on the board. Reps. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) resigned in December 2007 after criticizing Miller for not alerting the board to the expulsions of pages who were accused of shoplifting and sexual misconduct. Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) replaced them with Foxx and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah).

Brown-Waite and Capito’s complaints led to a report on the Page Program by the House Inspector General and a separate investigation by consultants Richard Shapiro and William Weary. Among the recommendations: written visitation policies for the House dorm and guidelines for Member-page interactions.

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), who is chairman of the Page Board, said Brown-Waite and Capito raised “valid concerns.— The controversy was the second in as many years — in 2006, Democrats blasted Republicans over revelations that Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) has sent lewd messages to some underage pages.

But Kildee and Foxx said board members now get along well. Though there have been some page expulsions, Foxx said Miller notified the board of all of them, and she gave Miller “tremendous credit— for her work on the program.

The board also sought the help of Shapiro and Weary in the search for the deputy clerk, and ultimately the consultants recommended Lopez, Kildee said. The consultants could help with further changes in the future, he said.

“Everything is in flux around here and things change,— Kildee said. “We have not stopped looking at what we can do to make the program better.—

Lopez, who has been at the job for about three weeks, said she is still “getting to know the fine points of the program.— She applied for the position, she said, because of how unique it was in the academic world.

“It really intrigued me,— she said, adding that it was a “very different environment— than other high schools. “I thought it was really — for lack of better word — a cool program.—

Before Lopez was hired, different aspects of the Page Program were handled by various employees, with Miller in charge. For example, some employees oversaw the pages’ work on the floor, while others supervised them at the dorm. They also attend the Page School and are able to explore the city.

Lopez will oversee them all, under Miller’s direction.

“We have all of those moving parts,— Lopez said. “I can take the different components of the program and make sure they’re all aligned.—