Jane Schuchardt's victory Howard County: Voters chose retired teacher for school board in spite of creationism flap.

November 11, 1996

THE INJECTION of creationism into the Howard County Board of Education race never seemed to faze the local electorate.

Jane Schuchardt responded in questionnaires during the campaign that she supported introducing the religious concept into the school curriculum. Though that alone might seem enough to disqualify her in the eyes of many suburban voters, the Columbia area resident emerged victorious last Tuesday over rival Francine Wishnick.

Why? For one, after initially giving clumsy replies to her stance on creationism, her later explanations apparently satisfied voters that she would not chip away at the constitutional wall between church and state.

Second, the issue did not seem to register at the polls. Ms. Schuchardt even battled Ms. Wishnick fiercely in her opponent's stronghold in the planned city of Columbia.

Running a grass-roots campaign, Ms. Schuchardt did not pick up any institutional endorsements -- not even from the Howard County Education Association, whose members have every reason to support her advocacy for teachers. She is not, fortunately, now beholden to the teachers' union or any other advocacy group for her win.

Her message was focused: The county needs her experience as a long-time educator. Indeed, she worked 25 years in the county school system before retiring last year. She could add an insider's insight to the board.

Ms. Schuchardt is committed to improving academic performance with a "back to basics" approach. She says she wants to stretch the system's budget dollar as enrollment continues to climb.

Creationism is not expected to emerge as an issue during her six-year term on the board. But teacher salaries are a point of contention in annual negotiations, and there is concern that the board's newest member could be overly sympathetic to teachers. Though salaries in Howard County are second-highest in the state, she fears losing ground to No. 1 Montgomery County.

To the extent Ms. Schuchardt can provide a teacher's perspective, that's a plus. But she is a school board member now. Her top priority must be to maintain high educational standards in these tight budgetary times.

Pub Date: 11/11/96

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