School board hopefuls talk pay

16 candidates outline positions during forum

Two seats are open

January 12, 2000|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Pay raises for Howard County teachers and other incentives were promised last night by Howard County school board candidates to a group of educators attending a meeting at Burleigh Manor Middle School.

The candidates outlined their plans at the first forum of the election season, sponsored by the Howard County Education Association, which represents teachers, administrators, secretaries and instructional assistants.

Sixteen of the 18 people running for two board seats attended the forum at the Ellicott City school.

Stephen C. Bounds, the sole incumbent among the candidates, and Cheri J. Herschman did not attend.

Terms on the five-member board are six years. The terms are staggered.

The four candidates who earn the most votes in the March 7 primary will face off in the general election Nov. 7.

The candidates were given three minutes last night to sketch their backgrounds, priorities and positions on two issues the association considers important:

What steps would you take to make Howard more competitive in attracting and retaining good teachers?

What is your position on the "fair share representation" bill introduced in the General Assembly, a bill that would permit the union to negotiate a fee to be paid by teachers who aren't union members?

More than half of the candidates present said they support the bill, while most of the others failed to address the question.

Many of the candidates called for higher salaries for teachers, including entry-level positions, along with such benefits as bonuses.

Among the ideas to recruit or retain teachers expressed by the candidates:

Engineer Arthur Neal Willoughby promised to increase signing bonuses, increase salaries across the board and put teachers' aides in all classes with more than 21 students.

Baltimore teacher Marcelino Bedolla suggested incentive bonuses and sabbaticals.

Howard County teacher Kristine Lockwood recommended more resources for teachers, including extra telephones and planning time.

Don Dunn, a substitute teacher in Howard County schools, said the county needs a network of principals and teachers to identify good candidates for teaching positions, allowing the system to make early job offers.

Board hopefuls also sketched their experience -- ranging from parent-teacher association work to numbers-crunching.

"I've been trained to understand numbers very well, and numbers seem to be creeping into everything," said Michael F. Katz, an accountant.

Beyond pledges to support teachers, campaign promises ranged widely.

Allen Dyer, a computer consultant, said he would increase information getting out to citizens through the Internet.

All registered voters in Howard County could then cast electronic ballots on policy issues, Dyer said.

Virginia Charles, who ran for school board in 1996, said she wants all central-office staff members to substitute in classrooms once a month -- garnering the only mid-speech applause from the audience.

Afterward, Geri Willis, a media specialist and union representative in the audience, said that beyond salary increases she was especially interested in school equity.

Centennial High School in Ellicott City, where Willis works, is behind in resources and technology, she said.

Also, she said, teachers are overwhelmed by work.

"There's far more to it [than salary increases]," said Willis. "Giving me a bonus isn't going to keep me."

The other board candidates are June D. Cofield, Daniel M. Dotson, and Michele Williams, all of Columbia; Patricia S. Gordon, Melody J. Higgins, Jerry D. Johnston and Kathleen Sinkinson, all of Ellicott City; Glenn Amato of Hanover; and Stephen Swanhart of Mount Airy.

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