The two county school board candidates took opposite positions at a forum Thursday on the controversial reinstatement of four soccer players who had been suspended for possession of alcohol.
Susan J. Cook and Sandra H. French, who will face off in the Nov. 6 general election, disagreed on the suspension issue but offered similar views on most questions raised by student government representatives at a forum sponsored by the Howard County Association of Student Councils.
The candidates also differed on weighted grades, a system sought by students that would give more points to grades earned in higher level courses in calculating a student's grade point average.
The suspension issue arose when four soccer players, three from Oakland Mills and one from Centennial High, were suspended from team play for 30 days after being caught with alcohol at a school dance. The players were reinstated by the school board before serving the full suspensions.
The students claimed they were not informed of a school board policy change that mandates 30-day suspensions from extracurricular activities for students caught with drugs or alcohol.
Cook, former president of the Oakland Mills High PTSA, supported Oakland Mills Coach Don Shea's policy, which barred students from team play for the rest of the year if they were caught with drugs or alcohol.
"I can understand the Board of Education's decision, but the students knew what the coach's policy was," Cook said. "The coach should have been allowed to maintain his policy."
French supported the board's decision. The suspensions could have been challenged in court because the students weren't properly informed of the policy change, she said.
Weighted grades has been an issue with students for several years. The HCASC has tried to persuade the school board to adopt a system that would give additional points to more advanced courses in calculating grade point averages.
Cook said she favored weighted grades. She said college recruiters tell her class standing is important in deciding which students to admit. A student who is maintaining a straight A average in honors courses should have a higher class standing than a student with straight A's in standard courses, she reasoned.
French said she would prefer to see weighted courses, not weighted grades. Honors courses, for example, could add a percentage value to the grade point averages of all students who take those courses, she suggested.
Both candidates said they favored a seven-period day, a student member on the school board and final exam exemptions for seniors who have an A in the course.
Cook said a seven-period day should include non-academic alternatives for students who don't want an extra math or science course.
If a countywide seven-period day is not adopted for 1991-1992, Cook said she favored allowing Centennial High School to continue its current seven-period schedule. Department of Education officials have ordered the school administration to phase out the program, blaming it for larger-than-average class sizes at Centennial.
Both candidates said a student board member should have limited voting rights. They said the student member should not be allowed to vote on personnel issues, for example.
The current board eliminated the final exam exemption last February.
Starting in 1991-1992, all students will be required to take finals, which will count as one-fifth of the course grade.
Neither candidate favored the state Board of Education's proposal to extend Maryland's school year by 20 days. Cook said the estimated $53 million cost state-wide could be better spent to enhance existing programs, and French said she first would cut losses of class time such as fund-raising projects from the existing 180-day school year.
Brette Goldstein, a senior from Atholton High School, tested the candidates' ability to think on their feet with a "character question": if you were a fruit, what kind would you be?
Cook's reply brought appreciative laughter. "I'd like to be a grape.
They're a bunch, and you can spread yourself around; and when you get old and dried up, you're a raisin. You're still worthwhile."
French chose an apple because it is wholesome, it's associated with teachers and it has "core values, seeds for the future, like the basic values I have."