School candidates debate educational basics and 'fluff' No disagreement on reading, phonics

October 27, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

School board candidates were quizzed last night about curriculum changes, preparing students for the workplace and reading instruction at a sparsely attended forum sponsored by the Carroll County Council of PTAs.

The forum drew 15 people, including two candidates for other offices.

School board incumbents C. Scott Stone and Gary W. Bauer are running for re-election. The four challengers are Susan Krebs, Mary D. Oldewurtel, James F. Reter and Thomas L. Shaffer.

All candidates supported a greater emphasis on reading instruction and praised a return to a greater use of phonics in county schools.

Board president Stone, a software developer with Lucent Technologies, proposed improving reading skills in the primary grades by devoting 120 to 140 minutes a day to reading and language arts instruction.

Bauer said he is committed to including more money in the schools budget for improving reading instruction.

"We need to emphasize reading, writing and critical thinking," said Bauer, an engineer with the Baltimore City Fire Department. "Those are the skills students need to carry them through college or trade school."

Reter and Shaffer called for a return to basic methods of instruction.

"Students need to diagram sentences and learn multiplication tables," said Reter, an accountant and former comptroller with the county school system.

Shaffer, a retired policeman and Westminster business owner, called for more "rote memorization" and said that a student not reading on grade level by the end of third grade should be retained.

Oldewurtel said her main reason for entering the school board race was to push for a more rigorous curriculum, particularly for elementary students.

"Right now in the elementary schools there's no history, science or geography in the curriculum and that's an embarrassment," said Oldewurtel, a lawyer and scientist. "I think we need to get back to basic subjects and skip all the fluff and feel-good type stuff."

Oldewurtel and Krebs supported grouping children by abilities. "There's no way these teachers can teach five different levels of reading to students," said Krebs, a PTA leader for 10 years in South Carroll schools and a part-time financial analyst.

Stone strongly disagreed with some candidates' statements about eliminating "fluff" from the curriculum.

"Where's the fluff?" he asked. "Is it the music student, the art student? We're here to create intelligent, thinking adults, not here just to train people to work for employers."

Pub Date: 10/27/98

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