McFalls disputes view that pay issue cost her her seat on the school board ELECTION '92

November 05, 1992|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

Cheryl A. McFalls wasn't the only Carroll County school board member to approve a raise for the superintendent last summer, but she was the only one on whom voters could take out their displeasure.

And they did.

Mrs. McFalls, the board president, received only 44 percent of the vote to challenger C. Scott Stone's 56 percent. Observers said the $6,000 annual pay raise plus perquisites for Superintendent R. Edward Shilling, which Mrs. McFalls staunchly defended, cost her the election.

Mrs. McFalls disagreed.

"The contract was voted on by all five members," she said. "[Voters] wanted change, and it just meant ousting incumbents."

She said she is partly relieved to have more time for her private life. "My self-worth did not come from being a school board member; it comes from God and my family," she said.

Mr. Stone also attributed his victory to an anti-incumbent sentiment nationwide and an endorsement from the local teachers union. "I think [the endorsement] says more than anything I was willing to talk, to discuss things," he said.

Mr. Stone focused his campaign on preparing students for the technology and global competition they will face. Last summer, he criticized the board for agreeing to the superintendent's contract, and said the school budget needs to shift money from administration to classrooms.

Mr. Shilling's contract gives him pay raises each year that teachers get step increases. The raise this year brought his salary to $104,626.

"If there had been a recall provision in the law, it's conceivable we all could have been voted out of office," said Joseph D. Mish Jr., a board member who campaigned for Mrs. McFalls and has often joined her on moral issues.

"Cheryl has been traditionally a conservative on moral issues, and she voted that way," Mr. Mish said. "But Carroll County voters tend to judge someone's conservatism on fiscal issues."

The other four board seats were not up for re-election this year.

In local newspapers and at meetings, critics sharply chastised the board for agreeing to the contract in 1991 and for not making it public.

Board members said it was a private personnel record. Mrs. McFalls later agreed to release the amounts of Mr. Shilling's raises, and Mr. Shilling asked the board to make the entire contract public to take the "mystery" out of it.

The Carroll County Education Association last month endorsed Mr. Stone for being well-prepared on issues and accessible.

Association President Cindy Cummings agreed that the Shilling salary issue probably decided the election.

But, she said, "That was not why I voted for Scott Stone. My main concern was I guess I have this fear that a personal agenda was being set by Cheryl McFalls, a religious one. While I'm not opposed to religion, of course, I don't feel one person should speak for everyone."

Mr. Stone also vowed to urge night meetings if he was elected so parents who work during the day will be able to attend. Mrs. McFalls had opposed night meetings, saying that few people attended them.

That was one area in which Mrs. McFalls and Mr. Mish differed.

"When I ran, I supported night meetings," Mr. Mish said, "not because I think any more people will come, but they will have the opportunity to come."

Mr. Stone said his first priority is to get to know the board members individually. "I need to take the time to get to know them, for them to get to know me, and to find some common ground," he said.

The board now meets once a month, from 9 a.m. until about 1 p.m. Although he would eventually want all board meetings at night, he said he would be willing to compromise and have one daytime meeting a month for business matters and one evening meeting for matters of interest to the community.

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