5 More File For Primary Board Race

New Candidates Present Views On School Issues

December 29, 1991|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

Eight school board candidates will compete in the March 3 primary election, bringing county voters positions on issues that range from tight budgets to the sex education curriculum.

By last week's filingdeadline, five candidates -- W. Eugene Eckhart Jr., Jerry D. Johnston, Debra A. Slack-Katz, S. Melvina Brown and Richmond Laney -- had added their names to the list of hopefuls. They join three earlier candidates -- Delroy L. Cornick Sr., Sandra H. French and Linda L. Johnston.

Four primary winners will compete in the Nov. 6 general election for the two seats now held by retiring board members Karen B. Campbell and Ruth Y. Hutchinson. The race is non-partisan.

Two of the candidates -- Brown and French -- have run unsuccessfully for the schoolboard before. One -- Laney -- lost the race for sheriff in 1990, butwon a seat on the Republican central committee in that election. Theothers are making their first tries for elected office.

The newest candidates:

* Brown is a former language arts and social studiesteacher at Wilde Lake Middle School who organized a parent group last year to bring the Black Student Achievement Program to five westerncounty schools. The parents have been meeting with principals and guidance counselors to offer suggestions and ask for programs that willincrease white students' understanding and build black students' self-esteem.

Brown said she saw a need "to meld the two cultures." Asa school board member, she would like to find out why black students' test scores generally lag behind those of whites and Asians.

Brown, 47, left teaching to spend more time at home when her second son was born in 1975. She has been a real estate sales representative forthe last 11 years, and ran unsuccessfully for the school board in 1982. She and her husband Rochell live on Blackberry Lane near Benson Branch Park. They have five sons, four in county schools and one at the University of Delaware.

* Eckhart, now in his second year as Patapsco Middle School PTA president, says the county school system could get more for its money by using school buildings year-around. He does not advocate lengthening the school year, but staggering schedulesso buildings would not stand idle during the summer.

"We could increase capacity without committing to additional bricks and mortar," he said.

Eckhart, 42, organizes research and development programs in the industrial sector for the U.S. Department of Energy. He and his wife, Linda, have two sons, both in county schools. The family moved to Ellicott City in 1988 from Baltimore County, where Eckhart served four years on an advisory council that linked local PTAs with the county school board.

* Until recently, Johnston (no relation to Linda Johnston) was chairman of Parents for Quality Education, a group formed about one year ago to challenge proposed changes in the ninth-grade family life and human sexuality curriculum. He resigned a few weeks ago to run for the school board.

He advocates changes in the way curriculums are designed and written that would allow a stronger input for parents and greater use of packaged curriculums to cut costs. Howard County currently pays teachers to rewrite courses.

Johnston, 47, is a self-employed financial officer who brought his family to Howard County 2 1/2 years ago. He and his wife, Maureen, have eightchildren and one grandson. Five of the children are in county schools. The family lives in Ellicott City, and Johnston is on the supervisory board of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on St. John's Lane.

* Laney is an active member of Parents for Quality Education.

"If I'm elected, I would make sure things happen" when parents raise concerns, Laney said. He wants more parental involvement in curriculum and would like all sex education materials sent home.

He favors competency tests for teachers, cuts in administrative rather than teaching positions if budget reductions force layoffs, and training to help principals deal with robberies and assaults in schools, crimes that he believes will increase as population grows.

Laney, 34, is an engineer. He and his wife, Susan, live in Ellicott City with their five children, four of whom are in county schools. He serves on the county assessment appeals board, teaches Sunday School at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on St. John's Lane, andis a Boy Scout and Webelos leader.

* Slack-Katz wants to be involved in choosing a successor to Superintendent Michael E. Hickey, who has announced plans to leave the county school system when his next four-year term expires in 1996. She said she has "just started to toy with" ideas for the selection process, but she would like to see the school board, teachers and "even a few high school seniors" involved.

If budget constraints allow any new programs in the school system, Slack-Katz said she would like to see one aimed at developing average students' abilities.

The daughter of an longtime Howard County family, Slack-Katz, 47, lives in Slacks Corner near Sykesville and isa nursing shift director at Howard County General Hospital. She and her husband, Julian Katz, have a 4-year-old son who will enter kindergarten at West Friendship Elementary School next fall and a 15-month-old daughter.

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