School board race has high profile Bowen and Brunst seeking to unseat Ballard and Mish

Spending is hot issue

'Motor voter' helps push registration up by 10,000 since 1992

Campaign 1996

November 05, 1996|By Anne Haddad and Sheridan Lyons | Anne Haddad and Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The race that has Carroll County on the edge of its seat today is the one for two spots on the Board of Education.

The outcome will speak volumes about what residents think of their public schools.

Carroll schools have a reputation statewide for high performance and low spending, but they are under attack in this election by two candidates who say the system is a bloated bureaucracy wasting a generous budget.

Incumbents Ann M. Ballard and Joseph D. Mish Jr. are running for second terms.

Challengers William M. Bowen Jr. and Jerry L. Brunst, who have been relentless critics of the board for three years, are using a team approach in an attempt to unseat the incumbents.

Carroll County voters have a reputation for high turnout in presidential elections -- 85.5 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in 1992, said Rosemary L. McCloskey, election director for the Board of Elections Supervisors of Carroll County.

For this election, the county has 74,905 registered voters, almost 10,000 more than in 1992, McCloskey said. At least some of the increase results from the National Voter Registration Act, known as the "motor-voter law."

Whatever the turnout, the school board race has been the most contentious in recent memory. Mish and Ballard would have been considered conservatives in any other year, but Bowen and Brunst have changed the standards. They have won support from local members of the John Birch Society and the Carroll County Taxpayers Association for their attack on administrative salaries.

Bowen and Brunst have fashioned identical platforms, and prefer to grant interviews or answer questionnaires as a team. They have pooled their sizable campaign funds to blanket the county with red-and-white signs, far outdoing Ballard and Mish in

visibility.

Mish, 56, is a retired Carroll teacher who now teaches English and Bible classes at Littlestown Christian Academy. He is married to Lisa Mish, who has children and grandchildren from a previous marriage.

He has been a voice for the county's conservative Christians in book selection and sex education. He is one of the board's more fiscally conservative members, leaning away from federally funded programs because they usually lead to the local schools' picking up the tab when the federal money runs out.

Mish distinguishes himself from the conservatism of Brunst and Bowen by saying he is still an advocate for public education and that good public education doesn't come cheap.

Ballard, 52, is a Mount Airy homemaker who has been a PTA and school volunteer for 15 years. She is married to John Ballard, an aviation lawyer. Before their two sons were born, she was an adjuster for USF&G. She now volunteers as manager of the South Carroll High School student store.

Among her most recent initiatives, she is working with parents who are promoting a commemorative license plate available through the Motor Vehicle Administration that will raise money for computers in county schools.

Well known throughout southern Carroll County, Ballard probably will make a strong showing in that populous and fast-growing region.

Bowen, 66, is a retired Baltimore social studies teacher and one-term Harford County Council member. He is divorced and has no children. Often called ultraconservative by the Harford County officials who worked with him, he has long criticized public schools in both counties for having any kind of sex education and for for what he calls socially engineering students to be liberals.

He has written a book about globalism that warns of a conspiracy to create a one-world government.

Bowen became politically active in Carroll three years ago as part of a group opposing outcomes-based education, a philosophy that sets clear goals for what students should know by the end of a unit, course or year.

In an early meeting of that group in August 1993, Bowen distributed a handout with a script titled "Meeting the Enemy" for parents to use when questioning school officials.

Brunst, 40, is a self-employed landscaper. He and his wife, Patricia, have three children who are home-schooled. Brunst said he chose home-schooling because he opposed outcomes-based education.

Like Bowen, Brunst has focused on attacking the school system's spending and administrative salaries. He said he supports strong traditional academics, and vocational and fine arts, and a phonics approach to reading.

Brunst has advocated annual independent performance audits, paid for from the school budget instead of the county budget, as happened two years ago.

McCloskey said yesterday that the elections office had received numerous calls from people who wanted to know whether they were registered to vote or asking where they were supposed to vote.

"It's hectic," she said. "But it's better for all these people to ask all these questions today, rather than to have them come on Election Day and be confused or disappointed."

The county has 41 precincts in 30 locations, primarily schools, fire halls and church parish houses, which will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today.

There are also 2,238 absentee ballots, about the same number as in 1992, she said. Those ballots were required to be postmarked by yesterday and received by 4 p.m. tomorrow, except for ballots from foreign countries, which must be received by Nov. 15.

Pub Date: 11/05/96

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