French far ahead in field of seven 3 other top vote-getters likely to advance: Waters, Amato and Willoughby

School board

Primary 1998

September 16, 1998|By Erika D. Peterman | Erika D. Peterman,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Jill Hudson Neal contributed to this article.

Sandra H. French was leading a field of seven Howard County school board candidates by a wide margin last night, according to early returns from the nonpartisan primary race. The top four vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 3 general election.

With 84 of 88 precincts reporting, incumbent French held 32.84 percent of the vote. After French were former substitute teacher Laura Waters with 15.33 percent, transportation manager Glenn Amato with 13.63 percent, and engineer Arthur Neal Willoughby with 11.94 percent.

The three other candidates were accountant Jerry D. Johnston (9.24 percent), lawyer Lee S. Ashmore (9.01 percent) and private school teacher Alfreda Gill (8.03 percent.)

The four top vote-getters will compete in November for two available seats.

At the polls, several voters said they thought French deserved another term.

Greg Morris, a 41-year-old Anne Arundel County elementary school teacher and Ellicott City resident, said he voted for French because he felt she was strong on "education and teachers."

"I'm really concerned about teachers' pay scales and the workload they place on elementary school teachers," said Morris, a registered independent. "Elementary school teachers are saddled with more paperwork and less planning time. Hopefully, French will tackle that in her next term."

Candidates were preparing yesterday and Monday, rallying friends to man polling sites with campaign signs and to greet voters. Willoughby said he planned to attend some back-to-school nights to spread his message.

Johnston -- an Ellicott City resident who also ran unsuccessfully six years ago -- had thousands of fliers inserted into local newspapers and stood outdoors Monday with a campaign sign, waving at drivers. He is not related to board member Linda Johnston, who is not running for re-election.

The candidates expressed concerns ranging from the responsiveness of school officials, class sizes, equity among the county's schools and the need for more science and technology education.

Most agreed that the selection of the next superintendent is a major issue. Superintendent Michael E. Hickey plans to retire in two years, and whoever is elected to the school board in November will be part of the group charged with hiring his successor.

Though schools are a focal point in Howard County, the complex issues and long hours associated with a school board seat may be one reason more people didn't enter the race, French said.

Pub Date: 9/16/98


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