Unusual alliance formed

May 12, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

The search for a new school superintendent has created an unusual alliance between the religious right and a man who admits to being known for his liberal views.

They are joined in opposing the school board's proceeding with the search instead of waiting until after the November election, when two board seats are at stake.

But there also has been vocal support from teachers and other school staffers, business people and parents for the board to proceed, which is what the current board members are doing.

At the school board meeting yesterday, Wayne Cogswell of Taneytown said his petition to delay hiring a new superintendent has nothing to do with the conservative values that might motivate many who are signing a petition he drafted to block the search.

But he said he feels strongly that the current board would be asking for trouble if it hires a superintendent before the November election.

"If they go ahead and make no effort to talk to the opponents, they ought to consider they are not doing the next superintendent of schools any favors by appointing him or her before the next election," Mr. Cogswell said of the current board members.

"That man or woman is coming to bat with two strikes against them before they even walk up to the plate."

Leaders of two school employees unions urged the board to proceed.

Cynthia Cummings, president of the Carroll County Education Association, the teachers union, said a poll of 544 teachers showed that 457 of them, 84 percent, "would prefer the present school board to hire the superintendent."

Jerry Spratt, president of the Carroll chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers, said the current school board has the right and responsibility to hire a replacement for Superintendent R. Edward Shilling, who will retire June 30.

When Mr. Shilling announced his departure last month, he said part of his motivation was that he felt the current board would choose well in replacing him.

Two of the five school board seats are at stake in November. Incumbent Carolyn L. Scott is running for re-election. John D. Myers Jr., whose term expires Dec. 31, has not yet said whether he will run again.

Challengers so far are Gary V. Bauer of Hampstead, Laura C. Albers of Woodbine and Carole M. "Cyd" Pecoraro of Westminster.

Mr. Bauer and Ms. Albers and several other conservative Christians in the county have been vocal opponents of outcomes-based education, because they feel it deals more with values than academics. Mr. Bauer and Ms. Albers have said the board should wait until after the election to choose Mr. Shilling's successor.

Ms. Pecoraro has not taken a stand against outcomes-based education, but said she believes parents need more and better information about it. She said she doesn't think the board should wait until after the election to find a new superintendent.

"The same people who don't want a superintendent now would want to pick one before they were out of office," Ms. Pecoraro said.

"We elected the school board to do a job, and their job is to hire a superintendent. If we wait, that will be a long time for our school system to be without a leader."

Mr. Bauer, Mr. Cogswell and others have said Deputy Superintendent Brian Lockard could lead the system temporarily after Mr. Shilling leaves.

"They can go out and ask for resumes to be submitted and let that process start, but don't take it beyond that," Mr. Bauer said. If he is elected and able to choose a superintendent, he said, he would look for one who was opposed to outcomes-based education.

Mr. Cogswell has spoken out on school issues in the past, and has previously run for the board. He strongly criticized the way the school board kept secret most of the contract it negotiated with Mr. Shilling in 1990, who will earn $104,626 this year. He has also been a local peace activist.

Mr. Cogswell took out an advertisement in a local newspaper asking people to mail a coupon back to him if they supported waiting to choose a superintendent until after the election. He said he has received about 150 coupons in the mail, some with as many as six names on them, and received "12 to 15 phone calls."

"In conversing with these people, I would guess they are not of the same political philosophy as I am," he said.

Others who spoke at the board meeting yesterday were Melvin Mills of Mills Communication and Helen Utz of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce. Both urged the board to proceed with the search.

Ellen Wiser, a former school board member, said the board should conduct its search "ethically," and said the search seven years ago, when she was on the board, was a "sham" because some members of the board had intended to hire Mr. Shilling from the beginning.

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