Schuchardt apparently defeats Wishnick in school board race But absentee ballots remain to be counted for the final tally

November 06, 1996|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Jane Schuchardt appeared to narrowly defeat Francine Wishnick yesterday in the election for Howard County school board.

Schuchardt, 59, a retired Howard teacher, held almost a 3,800-vote lead over Wishnick, 44, a community activist,

according to the tally compiled last night -- which did not include 5,500 absentee ballots to be counted.

"I feel that the people of Howard County have spoken, and they've said they want an educator on the school board," Schuchardt said last night. "I'm overwhelmed."

Wishnick said she was disappointed with the results of the "very close race."

"I think that people voted in the school board race for all kinds of reasons," Wish-nick said. "The final analysis remains to be determined much later."

Many of the absentee ballots will be counted later this week, which means it remains mathematically possible for Wishnick to win.

But Wishnick said last night that she does not hold out much hope.

She said she does not plan to run for school board again if the absentee ballots don't change the result of yesterday's vote.

Assuming the results don't change, Schuchardt will be sworn in at the board's Dec. 12 meeting, beginning a six-year term that pays $9,000 a year. She replaces board member Susan Cook. Cook decided not to seek re-election.

During the campaign, Schuchardt attracted attention with her statement that Howard biology students should at least be exposed to the notion of creationism as an alternate explanation to evolution.

That's a position that differs from what Howard school officials say is the curriculum, but Schuchardt says it is in line with how evolution and creationism are taught in several Howard textbooks.

One of Schuchardt's strongest pledges during the campaign was to do all she could to find money to give teachers salary increases, including looking at cutting from the school system's central administration, if necessary.

She vowed to stress a back-to-basics approach in early elementary grades.

During Schuchardt's six-year term, the 39,000-student school system is projected to grow by 7,000 pupils. She will help oversee the school system's annual budget of about $230 million xTC -- a budget that accounts for more than half of the county's tax revenue.

The school board campaign -- which was of a far lower profile and less expensive than the county judges' race -- largely was defined by a difference in backgrounds between the two candidates.

Schuchardt portrayed herself as an educator who could offer the board first-hand knowledge of the schools. Wishnick said the board would benefit from her experience in leadership positions in such community groups as the Columbia Council, local PTAs and the Howard County Conservancy.

Voters apparently decided they preferred Schuchardt's educational background, which includes a doctorate, and her knowledge derived from 25 years of teaching in Howard elementary and middle schools.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Wishnick appeared to gain some benefit from the release of a long-awaited community evaluation of middle schools, an 18-month study she helped write.

The study tapped into concerns that many parents have expressed for years about middle schools -- largely that middle schools promoted self-esteem at the expense of academic achievement.

Howard County school board

Jane B. Schuchardt ... 36,023 ... 52%

Francine Wishnick ... 32,227 ... 47%

Pub Date: 11/06/96

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