School Candidates Make Their Pitch For Positions

Hopefuls Say Board Doesn't Listen To Public

February 23, 1992|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

School board candidates want the next superintendent to be aggressive, energetic and a year-round lobbyist for money for schools.

Several candidates want a board that will pay more attention to public comments and boost community involvement in policy decisions, points that drew some criticism of the existing board at a Wednesday night forum.

The forum was sponsored by the Citizens Advisory Committee to theBoard of Education and held at the Howard County School of Technology .

The two candidates who win six-year board terms in this year'selection are almost sure to be involved in selecting a new superintendent. Hickey is currently a finalist to head a school district in the Seattle area. If he does not win that post, he has announced plans to retire when his next contract expires in 1996.

The candidates are S. Melvina Brown, Delroy L. Cornick Sr., W. Eugene Eckhart Jr., Sandra H. French, Jerry D. Johnston, Linda L. Johnston (no relation), Richmond Laney and Debra Ann Slack-Katz.

"The (incumbent) board doesn't listen to the public. They take the word of the administration,"said Brown. She said later that board members should spend more timein the schools seeing whether programs they have approved actually work and whether changes are needed.

Brown said the next superintendent should be "a real big lobbyist," who would invite county and state elected officials into schools to see the programs financed by annual school budget requests.

Slack-Katz said the superintendent should be "assertive, have energy and be willing to make tough decisions."

Cornick said he is looking for a leader rather than a manager. "A leader does the right thing, while a manager tries to do the thingright."

French faulted Hickey for failing to implement school-based management, part of his mandate from the board when he was hired in 1984. "It took six years even to get a committee established to look at this issue," she said. School-based management gives teachers, principals and parents greater responsibility for the operation of individual schools.

French would like to see school board members lobby the Zoning Board on rezoning requests that would increase housing densities in areas where schools are overcrowded. The existing board has refused to get involved in rezoning requests on the grounds that the board's job is to oversee schools, and the County Council's job is to provide money for new schools needed to relieve overcrowding.

All eight candidates also pledged to expand the citizens' advisory committee's role. Eckhart said he would ask the committee to look at specific issues "more than I see the present board doing."

Jerry Johnston said the committee should convey community feelings to the school board, "because frequently the board members become somewhat insulated."

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