Board candidates cite lack of plan outlining schools' needs

April 22, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

How so many Anne Arundel County schools ended up in disrepair was the No. 1 question asked in various forms last night by delegates to the Anne Arundel School Board Nominating Convention.

The four candidates seeking the vacant seat on the eight-member school board agreed on the answer: There's no long-term written plan outlining the future needs of the school system.

More than 100 people sat in the auditorium at Central Middle School to hear the candidates make their pitches and answer questions.

On May 4 at Severna Park High School, the convention's 223 delegates from 80 registered community groups will select their No. 1 nominee for the school board seat. That person's name will be forwarded to County Executive Robert R. Neall and Gov. William Donald Schaefer as the people's recommendation as to who should sit on the school board.

Last night, the issue of school facilities, and their state of disrepair, came up repeatedly. Park Elementary School, in particular, was singled out as one of the schools most in need of repair.

"Leadership in facilities -- what a wonderful opportunity to have an architect on the board," said Mark R. McKechnie, an architect and one of the four candidates. "We need to have repair and maintenance strategies which we don't have now. We're shortchanging our children with the lack of maintenance."

The root of that problem, candidate John J. Loughlin II told one questioner, is that "we have a school board that doesn't care what your priorities are."

"We need input from the community," the Severn resident said. "We need to come to your location and listen to what you have to say. My priorities [as a board member] ought to be your priorities."

Candidate Nancy Schrum of Pasadena also said parents must have more influence when the priorities are established in the school system's capital budget, which determines when new schools are built and which older schools are repaired.

And R. Allen Honaker, the fourth candidate who is from Severn, bluntly told delegates to the convention, "No longer can a school be allowed to fall into disrepair."

A second theme that emerged from delegates' questions concerned the county school board's relations with the public. Joyce Baden of the county branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People wanted to know how the candidates would help improve the board's relationships with minorities, employees and the community.

Mr. Honaker, the first to respond, told her that openness would solve the school board's relationship problems.

"The board so far has not proven to me they're always willing to be open," he said. "They need to be willing to listen and no longer pontificate from on high."

Mr. Loughlin said the board should allow a representative from parents' groups to attend all meetings, including those traditionally closed to the public, such as executive sessions.

Increasing the community's involvement through business and other partnerships with minority business owners and others also would improve the board's working relations, said Mrs. Schrum.

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