Stone assails Krebs' election

Head of school board casts sole vote against his successor

Carroll County

January 11, 2001|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

In a highly unusual move, outgoing Carroll school board President C. Scott Stone publicly objected yesterday to the nomination of Susan W. Krebs as his successor, criticizing his colleague and frequent adversary as "divisive" and unable "to foster compromise or consensus."

The few dozen administrators, school staff and parents who had gathered to hear Interim Superintendent Charles I. Ecker present his proposed budget fell silent as Stone quickly and evenly leveled his criticisms.

"The nominee, in my opinion, lacks the temperament necessary to successfully lead this board," he said, reading from a statement.

"Moreover, [she] has failed to demonstrate that she has the inclination or the capacity to foster compromise or consensus on the difficult matters facing the board. To the contrary, the nominee's behavior, while a member of this board, has had a divisive impact on the community," he said.

Stone's comments marked a turnabout from the many times Krebs publicly rebuked her colleagues and illustrated how her election has turned the board's power structure upside down.

Krebs was elected 4-1, with Stone voting no. New board member Thomas G. Hiltz was unanimously elected vice president.

The election of officers occurred at the beginning of yesterday's four-hour meeting, during which Ecker unveiled his proposed $187.7 million operating budget for the next school year.

Also at the meeting, new board member Susan Holt asked whether her colleagues were interested in re-evaluating the decision to build a high school under construction outside Westminster. The majority was not interested and the issue was dropped.

In an interview after the meeting, Stone said his comments were not meant as an attack on a fellow board member. Rather, Stone said, they were intended to justify a vote that he predicted he would be asked to explain.

"I reached my decision after considering how events may have unfolded if I didn't make any comments," he said.

"I suspected that the local newspaper reporters would ask for an explanation and the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was an appropriate thing to share my views - and share them with the person involved present - so she wouldn't have to read about it in the newspaper," Stone said.

During the meeting, Stone also expressed concern with what he termed Krebs' "disdain for rules and regulations."

Referring to a Sun article in which Krebs said she hopes for less preoccupation with parliamentary procedure during her tenure, Stone protested any attempt to disregard Robert's Rules of Order in board meetings. "Those rules are designed for the protection of the minority," he said.

Stone criticized

During the period for residents' comments, one person called Stone's term as board president "the biggest disaster to hit Carroll County."

Board member Gary W. Bauer cut off Westminster resident James Harris Sr. in midsentence, saying using the public comment portion of the meeting to attack Stone was inappropriate. Krebs agreed and asked Harris to take a seat, adding, "I'm going to be the big person here and stop this."

In an interview yesterday evening, Krebs said she was disappointed - but not surprised - by Stone's comments. She said she called him last week to ask for his vote for president.

"I told him I'd offer the olive branch and wanted to put the past behind us and move forward for sake of the board being able to move forward with a clean slate. I told him the board had a lot of baggage that I wanted to put behind us," she said.

"He told me he'd let me know and I guess today he did," she said. "It's obvious that he's unwilling to put the past behind us and he wanted to get one last lick in."

Proposed budget

In other business, the board got its first look at Ecker's proposed spending plan for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Ecker told the board that the $187.7 million proposal "is not made up of a list of needs or what some people call a wish list. It is a bare bones budget that reduces our existing budget to put in some things that are mandated."

Ecker said he hopes he will be able to add to the budget if more money becomes available. If the General Assembly adopts the recommendations of a state commission evaluating education funding, Carroll schools could receive an additional $2 million.

The spending plan includes modest increases for new expenses that Ecker described as required and non-negotiable, such as $2.5 million to open Century High in Eldersburg in August and $1.7 million for escalating health insurance premiums.

It also trims nearly $3 million from this year's budget by reducing the number of temporary employees and consultants, cutting staff travel and limiting the purchase of furniture and equipment.

"It's a more realistic approach to budgeting because it helps us separate needs from wants," said Walter Brilhart, the school system's budget supervisor. "And it helps us separate critical needs from wants early in the process."

The operating budget, which covers everything from salaries and wages to the purchase of textbooks and supplies, is funded by the county and by state and federal government sources.

It is distinct from the school system's capital improvement budget, which covers the construction and renovation of facilities.

The public can comment on Ecker's proposed spending plan Jan. 25 at Shiloh Middle School, Feb. 6 at Oklahoma Road Middle and Feb. 27 at Westminster High. The hearings begin at 7 p.m.

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