19-year-old candidate roils school board race

October 21, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

A 19-year-old contender has stirred up the normally quiet, nonpartisan Howard County school board race this election with his youth and outspoken views.

From the beginning, Elkridge Democrat Jamie Kendrick raised eyebrows among parents and critics who questioned his maturity and his stake in the public school system. He has roundly criticized the school board and administration for being unresponsive.

Most recently, he sent a letter to registered Democrats saying he was their best hope of defeating opponent Stephen Bounds, a Republican who attends a conservative church.

"I apologize if anyone is offended," said Mr. Kendrick, a University of Maryland student. "Perhaps I did shake things up, but I don't know if that's bad. I'm outspoken, and I think the board lacks that outspokenness."

Four candidates, none of them incumbents, are vying for two seats on the five-member board. Mr. Kendrick's three opponents say they didn't expect the race to be so political.

"I've been very surprised at the negative tone taken by Mr. Kendrick," Mr. Bounds said. "I didn't go into this anticipating this kind of thing. Anybody who would subject themselves to this process and care about the education of kids clearly has the best interest of kids at heart. That doesn't justify partisan politics and attacks."

"Yes, he stirred the pot," said candidate Karen Campbell. "I'm not sure that's positive, because I think in a heated partisan, personalized race where candidates run against opponents as opposed to running for the job, the issues frequently get lost."

Despite Mr. Kendrick's tactics, all of the candidates have focused for the most part on issues that have held parents' attention for several years: mainstreaming special educa- tion students, considering year-round schools and ending disparities between the county's new and old schools.

Candidates also have discussed the county's looming growth explosion, which could bring as many as 13,000 more students in the next 10 years and force the construction and expansion of 25 schools at a cost of $300 million. None has detailed plans on how to handle the growth, but all have emphasized the need for a well-managed budget.

Following is a breakdown of the candidates:

* The 39-year-old Mr. Bounds strongly opposes year-round schools as a way to reduce the school system's expensive construction plan.

He says having students attend school on a staggered schedule would disrupt family life and provide no demonstrative benefits. He also says the county needs an approach that emphasizes reading, writing and math.

The Lisbon resident graduated from Mount Hebron High School in 1973. He is a lawyer, has three children in the school system and has attended virtually every school board meeting since announcing his candidacy in the spring.

"I really believe the fact I have children in the system gives me perspective that several of the candidates don't have," he said. "My profession equips me to ask hard questions and hold the administration accountable.

Mr. Bounds would boost the budget to buy textbooks and enlarge the pool of teachers held in reserve at the start of each school year to be sent to schools with higher-than-expected enrollments.

* West Friendship resident Karen Campbell, who also attends almost every school board meeting, campaigns as the candidate with the most experience.

She served on the Howard County PTA council for 12 years and then as a school board member for six years until 1992, when she left with an eye to a County Council seat.

"I have the most insight and the best working knowledge of how to get things done on the Board of Education," she said.

Dr. Campbell, 51, runs a part-time veterinary practice from her home. She has four children who attended Howard County schools.

If elected again, the Republican said, she would work to lengthen the school year, maintain the county's older schools and slow down the inclusion of special education students until teachers and staff are adequately trained.

On the issue of year-round schools, she said, "In the case of a dire emergency, I might have to support it, but I don't think that's going to happen any time soon."

* This year's race marks Columbia Democrat Delroy Cornick's second bid for the school board. The retired Morgan State University business management professor garnered more than 29,000 votes when he lost in 1992.

Dr. Cornick touts his experience -- working for local, state and federal government and dealing with cost overruns and labor-management conflicts. He believes his professional background and his experience as a parent with children in the school system would serve him well on the board.

"I think I offer a fresh look," he said.

Dr. Cornick, 65, said he views the public school system as an educational organization as well as a business organization and that he would monitor the budget process and try to make the school board more responsive to parents.

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