School board field culled

With four candidates left in race, issues may play larger role

Two seats open

March 08, 2000|By David L. Greene | David L. Greene,SUN STAFF

The dizzying Carroll County school board race became simpler yesterday when primary voters whittled the field of 22 candidates to four.

With 43 of 44 precincts reporting last night, South Carroll parent Susan Holt led with 7,294 votes, and was certain to be one of four candidates who will advance to the general election this fall.

The race for the remaining three spots was close, but Thomas G. Hiltz of Woodbine was second with 4,342 votes; Stephen M. Nevin of Finksburg was third with 4,337 votes; and Lisa Breslin of Westminster finished fourth with 4,055 votes. Other close finishers were James Earl Kraft of Finksburg, who stood fifth with 3,495 votes; Cynthia M. Parr of Finksburg, with 2,987 votes; and James E. Reter of Westminster, with 2,629 votes.

Voters chose from among an unusually large field of candidates, and the four winners of yesterday's nonpartisan primary will vie for two seats on the five-member board.

Any change in the composition of the school boardcould be pivotal in determining how the school system handles several thorny issues.

A county grand jury is investigating the system and its handling of several construction projects. School officials are grappling with whether to approve a redistricting plan that has angered many parents. And the school board is in the midst of negotiations with the Board of County Commissioners over whether to build a second high school in Westminster.

The current board has been largely supportive of Superintendent William H. Hyde and his administration. Reform-minded member Susan W. Krebs, who has questioned many staff decisions, has been the exception.

But if the open seats are filled by members who share Krebs' skepticism -- and Holt and Nevin are regarded as allies of Krebs -- the relationship between the school board and Hyde's staff could change. The terms of two school board veterans, Joseph D. Mish Jr. and Ann M. Ballard, are up, and neither ran for re-election.

Across the county yesterday, voters seemed as interested in the school board race as they were in selecting presidential candidates.

Beth Fulton, a registered Republican in Westminster, ignored presidential politics altogether -- complaining about too much negative campaigning -- and cast a single vote for Lisa Breslin, her choice for school board.

"That was the sole reason I came out," Fulton said.

Lori Douglas, a Westminster High School music teacher voting in New Windsor, said she hopes that winners of the school board race will be team players. She said that, especially with so many candidates running, county voters would have a bigger impact on the school board race than on the nomination of presidential candidates.

"Every vote is going to make a difference," Douglas said.

Fewer candidates will likely mean more sharply focused messages in the school board race in the weeks ahead. The 22 candidates have stuck mostly to generalities and safe positions, such as wanting to improve the image of the school system or to hire more qualified teachers.

Scores of candidates also spoke during debates about working more effectively as a team than the current board has. Fractious relationships among board members have not been hidden from the public.

At a meeting in October, Krebs pointedly attacked her colleagues, saying she had testified in front of the grand jury about the school system's problems and that she disagreed with how the board was reacting to the inquiry.

"It is hard to be a team player when you don't believe the team is playing by the rules," Krebs said at the time.

Of the 24 candidates on the ballot yesterday, Gregory A. Dorsey and Charles R. Inman, had dropped out of the race. Most others campaigned hard, attending debates in droves and making it a challenge for voters to recall who stood for what issues.

In 1998, nine candidates ran in the school board primary. In 1996, no primary was held because only four candidates filed and all ran in the general election.

Sun staff writers Ellie Baublitz, Mary Gail Hare and Anne Haddad contributed to this article.

Carroll County Board of Education

Top four advance to Nov. election

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

Susan Holt 7,294

Thomas G. Hiltz 4,342

Stephen M. Nevin 4,337

Lisa Breslin 4,055

James Earl Kraft 3,495

Cynthia M. Parr 2,987

James Reter 2,629

Thomas E. Stone 2,533

Mary D. Oldewurtel 1,868

Thomas L. Shaffer 1,706

John P. Buchheister 1,363

Robert Spring 1,341

John A. Ferrara 1,092

Gregory A. Dorsey 871

Sheila S. Redding 841

Ellen Haddock 832

Philip G. Brand 812

Thelma Patricia-Smith 590

Angela M. Lee 550

Henry George Griese IV 545

Charles P. Stanley 495

Ralph Grubb-Wheeler 486

Charles R. Inman* 177

Lawrence P. Prodoehl 152

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