Board candidates detail qualifications

June 09, 1994|By Robert Erlandson | Robert Erlandson,Sun Staff Writer

Fourteen candidates for two new at-large seats on the Baltimore County school board tried hard last night to put their best foot forward in presenting their qualifications and expressing their concerns about the future of education in the county.

The 11 men and three women spoke at a forum of the School Board Nominating Convention, which will meet June 22 at the Ruxton Center to choose six of the applicants to recommend to Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

The candidates, with many years of school activism among them, offer a broad range of talents and interests.

Their remarks touched on such points as the need for improved communication from the school board and school administration to the public, particularly parents; more fiscal accountability; smaller class size; better preparation and training for the continuing inclusion of special educations in regular classes, and a campaign to convince the rapidly growing senior-citizen population that schools are important and must get their support.

The nominating convention, a coalition of 112 civic, community, church and school organizations, screens school board candidates and recommends choices to the governor.

However, the governor is not bound by the recommendations and Mr. Schaefer could -- as he has before, including last year -- ignore the convention's recommendations to appoint his own choices.

The General Assembly this year created the two new school board seats to expand the board from 10 to 12 members, including one student member, but declined to make the convention's choice binding on the governor.

Phyllis Ettinger of Timonium, a longtime education activist who is campaigning hard for the convention's recommendation, was the target of a number of inquiries.

Mrs. Ettinger criticized the school administration for its inability or unwillingness to provide adequate fiscal information to the public. She said she asked twice for information on particular spending and received inadequate replies from administrators at the Greenwood headquarters.

The school system receives nearly half of the county's total budget, she said, "and we need to know how the money is spent, and whether it is being well spent."

Mrs. Ettinger also criticized the implementation of the so-called "inclusion policy" under which children from special education schools were transferred into regular classrooms.

"It was done without adequate training and preparation," she said, warning that the school system should not simply keep rushing ahead because although the controversy has quieted, inclusion continues to present problems.

Inclusion was central to the controversy that has dogged Superintendent Stuart Berger and it resurfaced last night when a man asked "anyone who will answer" whether, as a board member, they would vote to extend Dr. Berger's contract.

The candidates hesitated, looking at one another. Then Shirley Giberson, one of the the superintendent's most implacable foes, declared, "I would not vote to extend it," and sat down to a burst of applause.

A 15th candidate, Louis Glick, a lawyer from Pikesville, did not attend. He said later that he had withdrawn because he could not devote the necessary time to the board if he were appointed.

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