Shilling retirement stirs battle over succession

April 17, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

Activists who oppose outcomes-based education are demanding that the school board wait a year to replace Superintendent R. Edward Shilling, until after the November election.

The activists say they believe their candidates will win two seats on the board, and want them to have a say in who will lead Carroll County schools.

Incumbents John D. Myers and Carolyn L. Scott have not announced whether they will run, and two of the announced challengers so far have come from the anti-outcomes camp.

When Mr. Shilling announced Wednesday that he would retire in July, a year before his contract expires, he said one of the factors in his decision was that he knew the current five school board members would do a good job in selecting his successor.

But at least one activist who has sharply criticized the board and administration is saying this board is not qualified.

"I definitely feel that this board should not be the one to select the next superintendent," said William Bowen of Westminster, who has been among the leaders of a group that opposes the trend toward outcomes-based education, in which goals are set for what students should know after each course and at the end of their schooling. "At least four of the five members of the board are just a rubber stamp for Mr. Shilling," Mr. Bowen said. "All it will be is Mr. Shilling choosing his successor. He's the most successful nonelected politician I've ever met. I only wish he was on our side."

Mr. Bowen wouldn't say which board member he felt was not part of the rubber stamp, but he said that, based on their past actions, he didn't bother calling at least three members to lobby for a delay in hiring a new superintendent. He had hoped to sway members C. Scott Stone and Joseph D. Mish.

Mr. Stone said he had received calls from a few people with a "singular mission" for the schools: to undo outcomes-based education.

"I'm just appalled that people are calling and demanding this issue [of hiring a superintendent] be put on hold," he said. "I think that's a disservice to the citizens of Carroll County and a disservice to the students."

Said member Ann M. Ballard, "We're going to wait until January to start looking for a superintendent? It's a long and tedious process."

Mr. Myers, the only member of the current board who was on the panel that chose Mr. Shilling, said that search took about four months.

Mr. Mish said the search would have to be started by the current board, although it could last until after the election.

But Ms. Ballard said the best way to choose a superintendent is to do it before the election.

"I think that will eliminate a lot of politics over who's going to get the job," she said. "Since they're so anti-exit outcomes, that's what they would be looking for and focusing in on one point, and not what is best for all the students in Carroll County."

Coincidentally, Ms. Ballard said, she just took a course on how to hire and evaluate a superintendent, through the Maryland Association of Boards of Education.

Mr. Myers, who is board president, disputed Mr. Bowen's characterization of the board as a rubber stamp.

"We act and react as five individuals," Mr. Myers said.

"We'll make this decision based on who is the right person to be superintendent. It sounds as if he thinks we would use personality instead of criteria."

Mr. Bowen said the current board negotiated an "outrageous" contract with Mr. Shilling for a salary that would have been $106,000 by next year had he stayed.

"The thing of it is, there's a good possibility they won't be the ones who have to work with [the new superintendent]," Mr. Bowen said.

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