Ballard and Mish receive endorsement Nine ex-members of school board give pair support

Race is hotly contested

Group buys full-page ads in newspapers

November 03, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,STAFF

Nine former school board members, from the most liberal to the most conservative and those in between, have joined to do one thing: endorse Ann M. Ballard and Joseph D. Mish Jr. for re-election to the Carroll County Board of Education.

They were prompted by concerns about William M. Bowen Jr. and Jerry L. Brunst, the two men challenging Ballard and Mish in the most heated school board race anyone can remember here.

"We have differed in the past," said Cheryl A. McFalls, who served on the board from 1987 to 1992. "But on this issue, on what's best for the children in Carroll County, we felt it was so important to come together."

John D. Myers Jr., a Carroll farmer and businessman who left the board in 1994, came up with the idea and contacted the other eight: McFalls, Dr. Philip S. Benzil, Richard N. Dixon (who is state treasurer), T. Edward Lippy, Jeff Griffith, Bette Gehr, Virginia Minnick and Arnold "Skip" Amass.

They contributed toward full-page advertisements that will run in The Sun and Carroll County Times today, an expense of more than $2,000.

"My presence here is a classic case of politics making strange bedfellows," Griffith said Friday at a news conference the group called to announce the endorsement.

Benzil, who was appointed to the state Board of Education this summer, and Griffith represent the liberal side, while McFalls, Lippy and Gehr represent the more conservative side, fiscally and socially.

Griffith recalled that Mish -- when he was a teacher -- characterized Griffith's campaign as "dead in the water." Benzil recalled Mish saying something similar when his wife, Naomi Benzil, ran for school board.

But both men said they thought Mish and Ballard were the best candidates, the ones who would support public education.

"I think we're doing something that's being done for the first time," said Benzil, a Westminster dentist who served on the school board from 1968 to 1982.

As far as any of them can remember, no coalition of former board members has formed before. The nine organized their group, Former Board Members for Education, to endorse Ballard and Mish and pay for ads in the race.

It is a school board race full of firsts, and this is just the latest.

This is the first instance anyone can remember of candidates running on a slate, as Bowen and Brunst are doing. They have insisted on doing most interviews and questionnaires together.

Also, several public officials have endorsed school board candidates, which officials almost never did before. Most have endorsed Ballard and Mish.

Bowen and Brunst are running on two basic messages -- that the schools are a bloated bureaucracy wasting a generous budget on high administrative salaries and unnecessary programs, and that the schools are falling victim to fads that are academically weak.

The nine former board members don't buy either message.

"I take issue with the statement our school system is too costly," said Lippy, a Carroll farmer. "We get one good buy in Carroll County when we stack it up [statewide and nationally]."

McFalls said her main concern was that Bowen and Brunst have been "working" the conservative Christian community. As an evangelical Christian, she found people were associating Bowen and Brunst with her, or telling her she should support them because they are Christians.

But she said Bowen and Brunst have "twisted information to sound like truth," and shown anger rather than love.

"It is also a personal faith issue for me," McFalls said.

"All we're doing is stating the figures [administrators] supply to us," Bowen said yesterday.

"In Carroll County, everything is little cliques," he said. "They may disagree with each other politically, but they all hang together socially."

Referring to McFalls, Bowen said, "She seems to have some special connection to God, I guess he's telling her things."

Pub Date: 11/03/96

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