School board race pits insiders vs. outsiders Incumbents support primary election's top vote-getter, Krebs

October 05, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

The six contenders in the Carroll County school board race can be divided into two categories: insiders and outsiders.

The insiders are board members C. Scott Stone and Gary W. Bauer -- who are seeking re-election -- and board hopeful Susan Krebs, a PTA leader from South Carroll, who has the support of the incumbents.

The outsiders are Thomas L. Shaffer and James E. Reter, who have criticized the current board for wasteful spending and failure to demand accountability from school administrators, and Mary D. Oldewurtel, a Sykesville parent concerned that children are not being academically challenged in county schools.

Krebs emerged as the top vote-getter in last month's primary election, which narrowed the field of school board candidates from nine to six. She garnered 24.5 percent of the vote.

Oldewurtel captured 7.1 percent of the primary vote -- the lowest of the six contenders.

The top three vote-getters in the Nov. 3 general election will fill the three available school board seats. Carolyn L. Scott, who has served on the board for 10 years, is not seeking another term.

Krebs is a veteran of school board meetings, as an involved parent and community activist, and has worked frequently with school system staff on school construction committees. She said her strong showing at the polls reflects her appeal to two groups of voters.

"I got the votes of people that are happy and people that are unhappy," said Krebs, 38, a part-time financial analyst who over the past five years has led community groups in pushing school officials and the County

Commissioners to build more schools in fast-growing South Carroll.

Oldewurtel said her main motivation for seeking a school board seat is to raise academic standards. She supports grouping students by their abilities.

"I think our children can do so much better and they're being sold short and not being given the opportunities," said Oldewurtel, 46, a lawyer with a 10-year-old son at Winfield Elementary.

For five years, Oldewurtel was an attorney with Legal Aid in Baltimore and private law firms.

The Carroll County Education Association, which represents teachers, and the Carroll Association of School Employees, which represents school support personnel, have endorsed Bauer, Krebs and Stone in the board race. The two groups represent about 1,900 school system employees.

Other agendas seen

"It is important to have school board members whose main focus is providing our children the best possible education," said Ralph Blevins, president of the CCEA.

"We don't need school board members with other agendas," said Blevins, who singled out Reter as a candidate who appeared to be more concerned with saving money than educating children.

Candidates Shaffer and Reter have expressed many of the same opinions about the current school board and the school system's administrative staff as William M. Bowen and Jerry Brunst, who two years ago ran unsuccessfully for two board seats.

Reter served as Bowen's campaign manager in the 1996 race.

Both Reter and Shaffer argue that the salaries of school system administrators are too high and that the county's instructional curriculum relies too heavily on educational "trends" and "fads."

"How about putting some academics back in the classroom and taking the trash out," said Shaffer, 49, a retired Baltimore County police officer.

He said that "trash" referred to "sex education, health education and multiculturalism."

Both men have also criticized Carroll students' performance on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests. Typically, Carroll schools rank among the top-scoring school systems in MSPAP results statewide.

"That means we don't fail as much as everybody else," Shaffer said. "We're on top of a pile of losers."

He characterized Krebs as someone who will bring nothing new to the school board.

"She will jump through the hoops, and whatever the superintendent says, she'll do, and say we have a wonderful system," said Shaffer, a Westminster resident and owner of an Electrolux franchise.

Support for Krebs

Incumbents Stone and Bauer have expressed their support for Krebs.

"I see Mr. Bauer and myself and Mrs. Krebs advocating for quality education," said Stone, who was elected to the board in 1992. "But with Mr. Reter and Mr. Shaffer, I see them advocating for cheap education. That's not to say one shouldn't be diligent and prudent, but anytime you pursue a quality objective there's going to be costs."

Krebs said that although she would like to work with Bauer and Stone, she has concerns about the school system.

"I think I have a unique perspective as a parent of three children with one at each level in the system," Krebs said. "I'm very willing to listen to input from citizens and teachers. That's what we need more of."

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