Frederick Karl Schoenbrodt, 86, school board chief

August 09, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Frederick Karl Schoenbrodt, a retired accountant and financial consultant who formerly headed the Maryland State Board of Education and served for 16 years on the Howard County school board, died Tuesday of a heart attack at his Ellicott City home. He was 86.

Mr. Schoenbrodt was elected president of the state board in 1984. He also helped establish Howard Community College and served on Howard's school board from 1962 to 1978, much of the time as its chairman.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Ashburton Street, he was a 1933 graduate of City College. He earned his degree in economics from Gettysburg College, where he was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honors society.

During World War II, he served in the Army and participated in campaigns in Normandy, Northern France, the Ardennes and the Rhineland. He was called back to active duty during the Korean War, and remained in the Army Reserves until retiring as a colonel in 1975.

He worked independently as a financial consultant in an office in Ellicott City.

In a 1984 Sun interview, when he became the state board's chairman, Mr. Schoenbrodt explained why he became involved with Howard County's schools: "I felt all my life that education was the best way I could spend my free time. It is my hobby." He estimated that he gave 12 to 13 hours a week to his school service.

He said he had moved to Howard County from Baltimore in 1954 and entered his three children in the public school system. At that time, he said, the Howard County system seemed backward in comparison to the city's.

"When we first moved out here, the school system was very rural," he said, noting that in the 1950s, the PTA helped pay the salaries of principals and their secretaries.

He joined the Howard board in 1962. He later said his major contributions were standing for racial integration of the schools in 1964, campaigning for the creation of kindergartens, and supporting open-space schools.

"Fred came to the county early, and he and I became friends and political allies. We served on the school board for a long time and he gave a lot of service," said James Clark Jr., a Clarksville farmer and retired state senator. "Fred was an outstanding citizen. Howard County is a better place because he came out this way."

"He was a dynamic leader who always had the children in the educational system as his priority," said Joseph L. Williams, retired director of business affairs for Howard's schools. "He was highly thought of, a down-to-earth practical person who was always approachable. And he was good with figures. He kept me on my toes."

In 1978, Mr. Schoenbrodt stepped down from the county board but lamented the decision, telling The Sun, "It has been so much a part of my life. I have no other avocations. I don't bowl or golf. I school board."

His tenure on the state board from 1980 to 1990 included a pair of two-year terms as president, ending in 1988. He was also board chairman of Howard Community College from 1969 to 1977. A 1980 resolution from the college's board recognized him as the "father" of the community college "because of his role in establishing the institution."

"I'm proud of the fact we were able to cope with the rapid growth and yet not lose any of the quality of education," he said in 1984. "The Howard County schools rate in the upper 10 percent of the country and the upper 3 percent of the state."

Services will be held at noon today at First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ellicott City, 3604 Chatham Road.

Mr. Schoenbrodt is survived by his wife of 62 years, the former Margaret Meyer; a son, Dr. Fred A. Schoenbrodt of Ellicott City; two daughters, Dr. Lisa Schoenbrodt-Myers of Ellicott City and Peggy Sheer of Columbia; a sister, Olga Volkman of Catonsville; nine grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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