Bounds top vote-getter for schools

Charles, Johnston, Gordon also eyeing the Nov. 7 election

1,000 absentee ballots

Equity, redistricting, teacher salaries among major issues

March 08, 2000|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Incumbent Stephen C. Bounds held a comfortable lead over a field of 17 other Howard County school board candidates last night, according to preliminary results in the nonpartisan primary election.

Bounds, who says the county should give residents more of a voice in redistricting, had 8,414 votes -- or 11 percent -- with 85 precincts reporting. Following him were Virginia Charles with 6,509 votes, Jerry D. Johnston with 6,426 votes and Patricia S. Gordon with 6,265 votes.

Glenn Amato had 6,049 votes, and Michele Williams had 6,010.

No other candidate had as many as 6,000 votes. But the results could change, because about 1,000 absentee ballots will be counted tomorrow, election officials said.

Four people will advance to the Nov. 7 general election to vie for two board seats.

Cheri J. Herschman, whose name remained on the ballot even though she dropped out of the race in January, received 1,285 votes.

The school board race drew an unprecedented number of candidates, according to the Howard County election board. Some of the school board hopefuls attributed the large field to dissatisfaction with the current membership.

Issues in the race have included equity among county schools, teacher salaries, redistricting and the impact of new housing development. Some candidates want the board to have more than five members, while others support four-year rather than six-year terms.

The recent revelation that Bounds is a semifinalist for superintendent of schools in Lansing, Mich., left some school activists wondering if that would cost him the election. Bounds said that if re-elected, he would be willing to leave midterm to take the right superintendent job.

But some voters said he deserved their support regardless. Kenneth Kummer, an Ellicott City resident whose two children graduated from Howard schools, said he's known Bounds for 20 years and wasn't about to change his vote.

Although he could have selected two candidates, Kummer voted only for Bounds, a Woodbine resident.

"He's the best candidate in Howard County," he said.

Among those who voted against Bounds was Kyle Langford, a Fulton resident with a son in fifth grade and a daughter in first grade. He wasn't happy to hear that Bounds is thinking about leaving Howard County, but Langford had already decided not to vote for Bounds, an incumbent.

"I wanted to see change," Langford said, mentioning concerns about redistricting, test scores and the board's ability to work well with county officials.

Voters used a variety of methods to decide whom to support.

At the polls, some said they relied on the recommendations of friends. Some chose candidates they knew or had heard of. Some looked for candidates who live east of U.S. 29 because all of the current board members reside in the western part of the county. And some pored over campaign literature and voters' guides to see where candidates stood on issues.

"We looked for people that had a program or commitment to promoting achievement and excellence -- not just throwing money at the school system," said Robert Downs, a Glenmont resident who researched candidates' statements with his wife. "We shied away from people whose emphasis was, `Let's build a new building.' "

Linda Hand, a Clarksville resident with two children, looked through the Howard County League of Women Voters' guide to see what the candidates said, especially on the two issues most important to her: low class sizes and higher teachers' salaries.

"I was impressed with Melody Higgins -- I thought she had a really good track record -- and Donald Dunn," she said. "He's one of the older candidates, but I was very impressed with his work in the schools."

Howard County Board of Education

Top four advance to Nov. election

* denotes candidates who dropped out of race but were on ballot

Stephen C. Bounds 8,414

Virginia Charles 6,509

Jerry D. Johnston 6,426

Patricia S. Gordon 6,285

Glenn Amato 6,049

Michele Williams 6,010

Kristine Lockwood 5,770

Arthur Neal Willoughby 5,044

Melody J. Higgins 4,279

Michael F. Katz 3,336

Kathleen Sinkinson 3,309

June D. Cofield 3,050

Daniel M. Dotson 2,763

Don Dunn 2,522

Allen Dyer 2,099

Stephen L. Swanhart 1,773

Marcelino M. Bedolla 1,684

Cheri J. Herschman 1,285

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