School board hopefuls varied

Twenty-four vying for two seats offer ideas for change

January 03, 2000|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Both the first-timers who never ran for an office before and those who are making a second bid for seats on the Carroll County Board of Education say they want to restore credibility and focus to the panel after a year of turmoil.

Other than that, the field of 24 candidates for two seats is as varied as a community potluck. Voters will narrow the field to four in the March 7 primary, and then select two in the Nov. 7 election.

The candidates bring something to the table for everyone. There are mothers and fathers, a college senior, a senior citizen and several candidates with teaching backgrounds.

"Discontent is the biggest motivator of change," said Gregory Dorsey, running for office for the first time. "Given the present climate, the residents of Carroll County probably need a change on the school board. It's good to disagree, but you don't disagree to the point of not getting things done."

Candidate Susan Holt points to low morale among school staff. Candidates such as Mary Oldewurtel and Stephen M. Nevin say the distractions of lawsuits, construction imbroglios and a grand jury investigation are overshadowing what happens in the classroom.

"The focus of the education is lost. I want to refocus education on the teachers and the students," said Nevin, who ran unsuccessfully for county commissioner in 1998.

The sentiment is echoed by Oldewurtel, who is making her second bid for the school board. She ran in 1998.

"I care a lot about education, and I just don't think we're going in the right direction," Oldewurtel said.

"I don't think kids are getting the background they need."

Oldewurtel said she was dismayed when statewide test scores released last month showed Carroll -- like all of Maryland -- losing ground. She said she would like to see more concern expressed by school officials about the drop in scores.

Communication a goal

Candidates Thomas Hiltz -- making his second bid -- and Lisa Breslin -- making her first -- say they would help improve the relationship with the county commissioners, who set the school system's operating budget and specific construction projects.

Candidate Thomas Stone said the school board's credibility with the public has been so compromised that it probably can't be repaired without a change of members.

The candidates include many in their 30s and 40s who have school-age children. In addition to concern about the schools their children attend, they talk of a desire to contribute more to their communities as they settle into careers or their children grow older.

"You have a job you're doing OK in, and you want to make sure your kids grow up in a good community and have at least the things you had, if not better," Stone said.

Factoring in private schools

Many parents running are aware of the competition from private schools -- and in some cases have chosen them.

Dorsey's children attend Faith Christian School in Westminster. Stone's oldest daughter is kindergarten age but is being home-schooled. Lawrence Prodoehl's daughter went to private schools.

"I didn't send my daughter to Carroll County public schools," said Prodoehl, running for the school board for the first time. "I didn't think a whole lot of them. There's no reason that we should have to seek out private schools for our children's education. I want to improve our schools for the future."

Some whose children do attend public schools have specific criticisms.

Oldewurtel, whose son attends Mount Airy Middle School, said she wants a more rigorous curriculum, a science magnet school that could better prepare students for the best jobs, and more attention to literacy and giving all students a chance to succeed.

Angela Lee, whose daughter is a sophomore at Liberty High School, bemoaned the shortage of textbooks. She said the board is not ensuring that the school system gets what it pays for in services, contracts and goods.

An eye on finances

Thomas Shaffer, who is making a second bid for a seat on the board, also expressed concern that the administration is spending money without being made fully accountable to the board.

James E. Reter was a longtime finance director for Carroll schools, and has been a harsh fiscal critic of the board and administration since leaving in 1994.

Several candidates have teaching experience, including Thelma Smith, James Earl Kraft, John P. Buchheister and Breslin.

Some have talked of adding diversity to the board in a growing county. Two of the candidates, Dorsey and Smith, who is making her second bid for the school board, are African-Americans. Oldewurtel also made sensitivity to minorities an issue.

Many of those running have been active in schools as volunteers or watchdogs, or in parent-teacher groups.

One candidate, Henry George Griese IV, said he was prompted to run because he could contribute the perspective of someone who has been a student in Carroll County schools in the last decade. Griese graduated from South Carroll High School in 1996, and the signatures of several current board members are on his diploma.

Other candidates running for the board are Ellen Haddock, Ralph Grubb-Wheeler, Charles R. Inman, Cynthia Parr, Sheila S. Redding, John A. Ferrara, Charles P. Stanley, Phillip Brand and Robert Spring.

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