School board candidate has faith in system

April 04, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

When John J. Loughlin II and his wife, Susan, moved into the Provinces in Severn four years ago, they got a friendly warning about their local elementary school.

"One of the first things our neighbors said is, you don't want to send your daughter to Jessup," said Mrs. Loughlin.

Hoping to prove the neighbors wrong, the Loughlins decided to give Jessup a chance and enrolled their 5-year-old daughter, Victoria.

But Mr. Loughlin did not stop there.

A candidate for the county school board, the 35-year-old NASA executive makes no secret of his desire to shake up the system.

"In effect, my neighbor works for nothing because all the money she makes goes to tuition for her children in private school. She, like too many in our county, has given up," Mr. Loughlin said last week during his first appearance before the School Board Nominating Convention Committee.

Mr. Loughlin is competing against three other candidates for an at-large seat on the eight-member board.

The four will appear at three public hearings before a May 4 nominating convention at which delegates from community groups will choose a nominee and an alternate. Those names will be submitted to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who may choose DTC one or appoint someone else.

Although he is more or less satisfied -- so far -- with his daughter's kindergarten year at Jessup Elementary, Mr. Loughlin said he saw a larger problem with people's perceptions of the county schools, and problems with the schools themselves.

He contends that the school system lacks a long-range plan or vision, including measurable objectives such as attaining a certain student-teacher ratio or acquiring new equipment and supplies.

Currently, the system seems to be driven by the "politics of reaction," and not necessarily by what the schools need, Mr. Loughlin said.

"There are schools in Brooklyn Park, for instance, that are sorely in need of renovation, and yet they're on the bottom the priority list," he said. "You ask, 'How does this fit into our plan?' The answer is, 'There is no plan.' "

One thing that would help the system, Mr. Loughlin said, would be to make school board members elected rather than appointed, to make them more sensitive to the wishes of county residents.

To suggest taking that power away from the governor might seem risky for one seeking a gubernatorial appointment, but Mr. Loughlin said he isn't worried.

"I think it's more important than worrying about whether John Loughlin gets on the school board," he said.

Although Mr. Loughlin, the parent, has dealt only with county schools this year, he is no stranger to education.

Mr. Loughlin directs news and programming for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's television network, which offers space-related educational programming between broadcasts of space shuttle missions.

The programming brings the "visual excitement of space exploration into the classroom," he said.

Although Mr. Loughlin chose a career in public affairs, he has a bachelor's degree in sociology from the State University of New York in Albany. From 1986 to 1990, the Rhode Island native was a spokesman for the Rhode Island National Guard's adjutant general. Mr. Loughlin, now an Army Reserve major, performs the same duties part time in Maryland.

Mr. Loughlin and candidates R. Allen Honaker of Severn, Mark R. McKechnie of Arnold, and Nancy McCauley Schrum of Pasadena, will speak at public hearings tomorrow night at Arundel High School; April 13 at Chesapeake High School; and April 21 at Central Middle School. All meetings are at 7 p.m.

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