School board candidates debate skills as former teacher, community activist Candidates' views similar on issues

September 25, 1996|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

Should the next Howard County school board member be a former teacher or a community activist?

Candidates Francine Wishnick and Jane B. Schuchardt -- who placed first and second respectively in the primary and will face off in the Nov. 5 general election -- exchanged volleys on the topic last night during their first debate of the fall campaign season before the Oakland Mills Middle School PTA.

"We do not have an educator on the school board. We don't have anyone who knows what goes on in the school day-to-day," said Schuchardt, who taught in the county school system under three superintendents for 25 years before retiring in 1995. "I've spent a lifetime with children." She lives in Columbia's Hickory Ridge village.

But Wishnick, who lives in Columbia's Oakland Mills village, said the board needs a member who has "broad-based involvement in the community and budgetary experience."

She said the school budget is approaching $250 million annually and makes up about 60 percent of the county's overall annual budget.

"Somebody needs to be minding the store," said Wishnick, a community activist who has worked with several groups, including the Columbia Council and Oakland Mills Middle School PTA. "We need an independent person on the school board. I think I bring that perspective."

On other issues, the candidates had similar views.

Both urged improving discipline in the schools, addressing the needs of students who have difficulty learning, working within the set school budget and eliminating programs that don't work and reallocating those funds to programs that do.

"If we can't prove something is working for a large percentage of our kids, we have to get rid of it," Schuchardt said. "We've got to get the best value for our dollar for our children."

Added Wishnick: "As long as we're going to have limited funding, we have to balance all of the needs of our children. We have to make choices."

The candidates are running for the school board seat of Chairwoman Susan Cook, who decided not to seek a second term. The winner will serve a six-year term with a $9,000 annual salary.

Pub Date: 9/25/96

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