Four for Howard school board Sun endorsements: French, Gill, Ashmore and Johnston would make best nominees for open seats.

September 10, 1998

THE LACK OF attention being paid to the primary election for seats on Howard County's Board of Education belies the importance of the race.

County schools are as much an attraction to families as all the new residential development between Baltimore and Washington found here. Howard schools consistently rank among the top in Maryland. The makeup of the school board is vital to the system's continued success.

The primary election is nonpartisan, with candidates running at large. Seven candidates are seeking four spots on the general election ballot. The four nominees will compete Nov. 3 for two seats on the five-member school board. One incumbent whose six-year term is ending, Linda L. Johnston, is not seeking re-election. That ensures there will be at least one new board member.

We heartily endorse for renomination the other incumbent, Sandra H. French, a 54-year-old teacher who has been a very effective board member. She asks hard questions about expenditures and curriculum. Her experienced input would be helpful when the board begins interviewing candidates to replace Superintendent Michael E. Hickey, who plans to retire in two years.

The common trait among the six other candidates is a desire to provide a quality education for Howard school children. The three we endorse are Lee S. Ashmore, Jerry D. Johnston and Alfreda Gill.

Ms. Gill, 51, of Clarksville is a Montessori school teacher whose three children attended Howard County public schools. She has been an active volunteer in the schools and in adult literacy programs. Born in Pakistan, Ms. Gill is interested in helping the county's growing population of immigrant students. She also believes reducing class size would improve student discipline.

Mr. Johnston, 54, of Ellicott City is a certified public accountant. His knowledge of finance would be an asset to the board. He is the father of eight children, three of them in Howard schools.

Mr. Ashmore, 38, of Hobbit's Glen has a law practice in Columbia. He isn't married and has no children, but his interest in raising the standards of public education in the county is genuine. Mr. Ashmore says not having children in Howard schools provides him an objective perspective. He wants to make sure the schools have the infrastructure they need to handle a growing population.

The Sun supports the nomination of Sandra H. French, Alfreda Gill, Jerry D. Johnston and Lee S. Ashmore for the Howard County Board of Education.

Howard County Board of Education

Candidates: Glenn Amato, Lee S. Ashmore, Sandra H. French, Alfreda Gill, Jerry D. Johnston, Laura Waters and Arthur Neal Willoughby (nonpartisan election).

Data: 1994 primary turnout: 72% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans. Salary: $9,900. Term: six years.

The system: Student population of more than 40,000 continues to be among the fastest-growing in Maryland. Planned residential development will continue that trend. The number of students from immigrant families also continues to rise.

The challenge: The boom in population will dictate hard decisions about redistricting and school construction. Discipline, poor reading and other problems associated with more urban systems cannot be allowed to get out of hand. Spending decisions need better explanation to an increasingly skeptical County Council.

Pub Date: 9/10/98

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