Four candidates for school board discuss budget priorities

October 30, 1992|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

An article in Friday's Howard County section incorrectly reported school board candidate Linda L. Johnston's position on substitute teachers' pay. As a cost-saving measure, Ms. Johnston has proposed hiring administrators as substitute teachers for a limited time to save money from the substitute teachers' payroll.

The same article also incorrectly characterized S. Melvina Brown's postion on possible budget cuts. Ms. Brown says she would consider cuts in sports and extra-curricular activities only as a last resort.

The Baltimore Sun regrets the errors.

This year's county school board hopefuls have set their sights on better schools, programs and curriculum. But financial problems are clouding that vision as the schools brace for more budget cuts.


"Money, money and money, of course, is the biggest issue" said Karen Dunlop, vice president of the Howard County Education Association, which represents teachers and staff.

Four candidates are competing in Tuesday's election for two non-partisan seats, which are being vacated by Ruth Hutchinson and Karen B. Campbell.

Contending for six-year terms are:

* S. Melvina Brown, 48, a real estate sales representative and former teacher who ran unsuccessfully for a school board seat in 1982.

* Delroy L. Cornick, 64, a retired professor of management at Morgan State University. He also served as associate superintendent of Washington D.C. public schools.

* Sandra H. French, 48, an administrative assistant for the Maryland Legal Services Program and a former substitute teacher. She ran unsuccessfully for a school board seat in 1990.

* Linda L. Johnston, 50, a professor of health education at Howard Community College.

TH School officials, who adjusted to $5.7 million in cuts during fiscal

year 1992 to meet a $187 million operating budget, say they could lose another $6.5 million in Social Security tax cuts.

Hiring freezes, pay cuts, a pay-to-play system of athletics, more portable classrooms and year-round schooling -- all have been mentioned by candidates as steps they might have to take.

The victors will join three other board members in grappling with the budget at a time of growing student enrollment, new contract talks with teachers and staff, and state-required mainstreaming of special education students.

They must also select a new superintendent to replace Michael E. Hickey, who has announced that he's stepping down after his four-year contract expires in 1996.

Three of the four candidates listed specific steps -- cuts or new fees -- they might endorse in response to budget cuts.

"Everything outside of the classroom is fair game," said Ms. French.

She said she would consider pay-to-play fees for sports using a sliding scale, and cutting programs such as the recently approved school-based management pilot program, which is expected to cost $70,000.

"It's wonderful," Ms. French said of the program, "but it's going to cost more money."

Ms. Brown said she would cut sports and extra-curricular activities.

She also would aggressively lobby the state for more money and pursue business partnerships to help funnel vital resources into county schools, she said.

"If push comes to shove, I don't want academic programs to be cut," she said.

Ms. Johnston agreed.

"Prior to cutting programs and activities, I would look long and hard at what I could do to maintain them," she said. She also would support a hiring freeze, cut substitute teachers' pay and use administrators as substitutes for limited periods.

Mr. Cornick would not discuss any cuts.

"You can't solve a problem until you see where the problem is," he said. "I'm not for going without sports, and I'm not for teachers going without salary increases."

Mr. Cornick described himself as a thinker who considers all options and who is willing to negotiate with other school board members to accomplish goals.

"We have to be flexible, creative and innovative," he said, "not only in operating schools but in our concepts of education. We need to call a lot of things into question."

The new school board also must find room for the growing student population.

The board agreed this month to postpone construction of three elementary schools and cut $17 million from the $62 million capital budget for 1993-94.

If the schools' $250 million building plan is delayed any further, all the candidates said they might use portable classrooms and other methods to accommodate an expected 14,000 more students by the end of the decade.

Ms. Brown said she would redistrict students by changing school district lines and busing students to under-enrolled schools.

"I would look at the least disruptive option," said Mr. Cornick. That would include increasing class sizes and instituting double shifts, where students attend school for a portion of the day, he said.

"There's no reason we can't look at alternative construction," he said. "Maybe we ought to re-examine the size of sites and the size of schools."

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