School officials, teachers hail Owens' win She is praised as someone who will 'understand'

Election 1998

November 05, 1998|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

The county teachers' union and school board members were looking forward yesterday to having a new county executive sitting behind the big mahogany desk on the fourth floor. Someone who is, well, just plain nice.

"It isn't so much about money," said Virginia Cresto, a Broadneck Senior High School teacher who worked to get Janet S. Owens elected to that office. "It's more about being able to talk to her. I think she will be able to listen and talk to us. She will understand."

Owens, though she lacked a fully articulated education policy, capitalized on County Executive John G. Gary's brash style and adversarial relationship with school officials to win the support of the county's 4,000-member teachers union. She promised to give the schools a bigger share of the budget and to work closely with the eight-member school board.

Gary, in conceding defeat, challenged Owens to try to do better than he has done on education.

Her supporters are less demanding.

Cresto, a 31-year teacher who invited Owens to her Pasadena home for coffee and a chat with family and friends, said, "We realize the county is under a tax cap, and Janet has never said she plans on working to change that. She has never told us that we would all get raises. It's not that we expect her to do all our bidding and dump money into schools. We are looking for a partnership."

Cresto's expectations are in line with those of her union, whose president, Suzy Jablinske, said she has no wish list for Owens but wants her to focus on making the school system more TC attractive to new teachers by offering contracts before the budget is made final in May and by fostering a more cooperative atmosphere during contract negotiations.

"Now what we expect is to sit down with her and the County Council and reach a consensus on how to meet our needs," she said. "I am sure we will have our differences, but I couldn't be more delighted about this. It gives us the opportunity to work with a reasonable person."

Owens, who studied for a doctorate in education administration at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, is a sharp contrast to Gary, who dropped out of college.

"It's very comforting to me; she understands the difficult job of a school superintendent," said school board member Janet Bury.

School board Vice President Mike McNelly said he is "extremely grateful" to county voters for supporting Owens.

"Janet Owens is a professional," he said. "She is well educated and has tremendous credentials. I expect that we will have a professional relationship with her."

The future of public schools is up for grabs, said Thomas Florestano, another board member.

"It's up to the school system and parents, not just the school board," he said, "to educate a new council and a new county executive about what we do."

Pub Date: 11/05/98

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