Board candidate stresses involvement

April 25, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

Mark R. McKechnie can't explain his vision for the Anne Arundel County school system without doodling on a piece of scrap paper -- a habit for which many architects are notorious.

He started with a circle.

"We do a real good job of educating anybody who fits in the middle of the circle, the average students," the 45-year-old architect said. "But for people at the edge of the circle -- gifted and talented students, or minorities, or people with special needs -- we don't do a very good job."

An architect whose firm designs mostly college buildings, Mr. McKechnie is one of four candidates vying for the vacant seat on the Anne Arundel County school board.

"I like to do three-dimensional things," said Mr. McKechnie, who seeks out and develops projects for his company. "It involves construction, art, engineering financing and development skills. I think those skills would serve me well on the board."

Born in Medford, Ore., Mr. McKechnie was reared in Sacramento, Calif., and lived for a time in Minnesota before moving to Maryland, eventually settling in Arnold with his wife and two children.

"My children have been in schools in Minnesota and Montgomery County, and I can tell you those schools are doing more advanced things for their students," he said.

Another difference, he said, was the interest the schools had in getting parents involved.

"In Minnesota, it was assumed that parents would come and sit through a whole school day," Mr. McKechnie said.

"I got a call from my daughter's teacher after the first three weeks asking why I hadn't been there yet. When my daughter entered third grade here, my wife called the school and wanted to sit through a class, and it was unheard of."

To get parents more involved, he has suggested having parents and students sign a contract with the teacher.

"The kids would agree to come to school and be alert and study, the parents would agree to help them, and the teacher and principal would promise to help give them an education in return," he explained.

Another priority for Mr. McKe

chnie would be to improve the maintenance and construction process and schedules. "We have all kinds of facilities problems," he said, noting that many schools are in disrepair.

One of the first issues he would address is the bidding process for school construction projects. Anne Arundel is one of two jurisdictions in the region that award their architectural projects strictly to the lowest bidder. He wants the board to decide which firm has the best qualifications, then negotiate a price.

"If you make the selection solely on a fee basis, you don't get the kind of service you want," he said.

Mr. McKechnie said he also would work on restoring the school board's image and credibility with the public. Too often, he said, parents feel shut out of the decision-making process.

"This is the 90s and people expect to be consulted," he said.

This is the last in a series of articles on candidates for the Anne Arundel County School Board. The School Board Nominating Convention, where delegates will select the person they feel should serve on the school board, will begin at 7 p.m. May 7, at Severna Park High School. The top vote-getter's name will be forwarded to the governor, who makes the appointment.

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