School spending a major topic 6 board candidates also stress reading, achievement at forum

October 06, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Raising student achievement, teaching children to read and education spending were among the topics addressed last night by school board candidates at a forum sponsored by Carroll County Democratic Club.

The six contenders are vying for three seats on the Carroll County Board of Education.

"It's always difficult to know what a candidate will do once elected," said Laura O'Callaghan, president of the county Democratic club. "But the best you can do is meet them, ask questions about specific issues and find out what they say."

Board incumbents C. Scott Stone and Gary W. Bauer are running for re-election.

The four challengers are Susan Krebs, James E. Reter, Mary D. Oldewurtel and Thomas L. Shaffer.

Reter and Shaffer have criticized the board for wasteful spending and failure to demand accountability from school administrators.

Board President Stone has said Reter and Shaffer are proponents of "cheap education," and last night urged voters to support him, Bauer and Krebs in the Nov. 3 general election.

Oldewurtel called for the development of a more rigorous curriculum in county schools.

"Today's potential leaders are sitting in classrooms half-bored out of their minds," said Oldewurtel, who holds a doctorate in biochemistry and a law degree. "Motivated students must be given the chance, and low-achieving students must be given the opportunity to do better."

The candidates differed on the subject of reading instruction.

Reter and Shaffer said they supported a traditional phonics curriculum.

"I support traditional teaching methods, such as phonics and repetition drills for teaching math," said Reter, an accountant who retired in 1993 as comptroller of the county school system.

Krebs said that the whole language approach to reading instruction was not successful with her eldest daughter, a high school freshman. Krebs, a part-time financial analyst, said that phonics should be part of reading instruction.

Bauer, Stone and Oldewurtel supported a mix of instructional methods to teach children to read, including phonics and whole language.

"There is a place in our educational system for whatever tool teaches the student to read," said Stone, a software developer with Lucent Technologies, who was elected to the board in 1992.

Some candidates said that Carroll schools must do a better job of preparing students for the workplace of the 21st century.

"We must be more serious about math and science and expand history and geography," said Oldewurtel.

Krebs, the top vote-getter in the primary election, said the county needs to "incorporate more technology into the classroom."

The candidates also addressed the issue of a projected $16 million deficit in the school system's operating budget over the next five years. Much of the projected deficit is directly related to the school board's plan to build six schools in six years.

Bauer, an engineer with Baltimore City Fire Department, stressed that the school board is working with the County Commissioners to combine operations and cut costs.

Shaffer, owner of an Electrolux franchise in Westminster, claimed that the projected "budget deficit does not exist."

"I'll boldly tell you I know there's $10 million sitting out there, and I can find it for you tomorrow," Shaffer said.

Krebs defended the construction of schools.

"We have been playing games squeezing these kids into schools," she said. "When a new school opens it costs money."

Stone said that the projected shortfall could be eliminated by delaying construction of one of the schools for a year.

Pub Date: 10/06/98

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