School board candidates discuss redistricting Discipline, budget cuts, multiculturalism among topics at NAACP forum

January 23, 1996|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,SUN STAFF

The two men and three women who are vying for one seat on the Howard County school board publicly expressed their concerns for the school system last night.

The concerns that they discussed at the forum sponsored by the Howard County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People included equity in schools and computer resources, redistricting, student discipline, multiculturalism, budget cuts and academic success for black students.

Held at the civil rights group's headquarters in Guilford, the forum marked the first time that the candidates faced each other.

The candidates are:

* Virginia Charles of North Laurel, a former county PTA Council vice president.

* Vincent Pugliese, 66, of Columbia, who retired in 1985 after teaching social studies in Montgomery County high schools. He now is a substitute teacher.

* Dr. Jane Schuchardt, 58, of Columbia's Village of Hickory Ridge, who has a doctorate in education and retired in June after teaching in the Howard school system since 1959.

* Francine Wishnick, 43, of Columbia's Village of Oakland Mills, a member of the Oakland Mills Middle School PTA board.

* Arthur Neal Willoughby, 38, of Jessup, a civil engineer who teaches civil engineering part-time at Morgan State University.

After introducing themselves to the audience and presenting their qualifications, they responded to questions from the NAACP.

One of the questions focused on the candidates' views on the redrawing of school boundary lines.

"We're playing musical chairs with schools," responded Ms. Charles. "It's chaos."

She said she would like to see a system established under which students will "know where [they're] going to go" to school. The former teacher added that she'd like to see equity in redistricting -- in terms not of race but of academic achievement.

"This is a terrible problem," Dr. Schuchardt said about redistricting. "It upsets families. It does cause conflict. It will take time" to solve.

She and the other four candidates seek to take the place of Chairwoman Susan Cook, who decided last month not to seek re-election.

Ms. Cook, who will complete one term, said she didn't want a campaign to distract her from the difficult educational and budgetary decisions the board will face this spring.

The two candidates who receive the most votes in the March primary will advance to the November general election.

Mr. Willoughby, the only black candidate, said he was concerned about the teaching of math and science.

He said all students should be given high goals.

During a brief question-and-answer period, Edward Young, a retired Baltimore County teacher who lives in Columbia, asked how the candidates intended to include in the daily curriculum the contributions of blacks and other minorities to American society.

"It's not done," he said, telling how a student received a failing grade for doing a report on black writer and poet Langston Hughes, of whom the teacher knew nothing.

"It's truly amazing," responded Ms. Wishnick. "Board members are not going to write the textbooks" but they will be in a position to have text books ordered that cover all ethnic groups, she said.

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