Western grads make their mark in politics

September 04, 2002|By GREGORY KANE

QUICK, WHAT do state Del. Lisa Gladden, 3rd District City Councilwoman Lisa Stancil and Jill Carter, a candidate for the House of Delegates, have in common?

No, not that they're all women. That's too obvious, as is the fact that they're all African-American. No, not protoplasm, you meshuganas! Boy, what a bunch of wisenheimers! If you guessed that they're all running for office in this election year, then you're warming up.

Actually, Gladden, Stancil and Carter are all running for election and are alumnae of Baltimore's Western High School. Gladden and Stancil graduated from the all-girls' school in 1981. Carter was a year behind them, graduating in the class of 1982.

Gladden is locked in a close race for the state Senate with Sen. Barbara Hoffman in the 41st District. Stancil is running against incumbent State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy and challenger Anton Keating for Baltimore's lead prosecutor's office. Carter is running in the 41st District. By the morning of Sept. 11, there may be a new state senator and delegate from the 41st District, both of whom graduated from Western, as well as a Baltimore's state's attorney-elect.

Fifth District City Councilwoman Stephanie Rawlings Blake is a Western alumna, as is Penny McCrimmon, who is running for a Baltimore County Council seat in the 4th District.

Are we approaching the day when all four major citywide elected offices - mayor, City Council president, comptroller and state's attorney - are filled by Western alumnae? The idea made Alison Velez Lane - who put together an e-mail news release about Gladden, Stancil, Carter, Rawlings Blake and McCrimmon - almost leap through the telephone as she talked about what she saw at the corner of Reisterstown Road and Rogers Avenue.

"All three of their signs are there," Lane said of the campaign posters for Gladden, Stancil and Carter, all of whom went to school with her. "You don't know how excited I am. I'm just so excited seeing so many of them run for office. It reminds me of when I was back at Western, seeing all the [school election] posters up."

Lane graduated from Western in 1980. She was a student senator at the school, where she worked with Stancil in the student government. Lane met Carter when they attended a journalism camp. All four women - Lane, Gladden, Stancil and Carter - are now lawyers. Lane said the other three probably would have thought she would be the one running for public office 20 years later. Hold that thought, Ms. Lane. There's enough room for ya.

"I'm excited to see women in politics," Lane continued. "Years ago, it was the guys from City [College] who ran for everything."

Lane was talking about those days of yesteryear when City College and Polytechnic Institute were still all-boys' schools and the phrase "single-sex education" hadn't become a political obscenity. Those were the days before folks became enraptured by the current Zeitgeist, which says that co-ed education is the only valid type of public education. Western, the last bastion of single-sex public education in these parts, has to fight that notion.

"We do what we do best - prepare women for leadership positions," said Western Principal Landa McLaurin when asked if she was surprised that so many of the school's graduates are running for public office. "That's what single-sex education is all about. We have been very effective in producing outstanding young women."

Among those young women are Anna Deavere Smith, an actress and a filmmaker and actress, playwright and Tony award winner Trazana Beverly.

Western, one of the top 20 schools in Maryland, is so good, McLaurin said, that some parents who send their children to private school for grades kindergarten through eight send their girls to the public all-female institution for the last four years.

"They save that money they would have spent on private school for college," McLaurin, a 1968 Western grad, said of those parents whose children are part of the 20 percent of Western's student body that comes from private schools, parochial schools or public schools outside the city.

Ninety-two percent of Western's grads head to college. Members of the Class of 2001 earned more than $3 million in scholarships. More than 1,000 young women apply to Western annually. Only 250 to 275 are accepted to eagerly carry on the Western tradition, part of which is to, in McLaurin's words, "continually turning out illustrious graduates."

Four of those illustrious grads are running for election Tuesday. Win or lose, don't think you've heard the last from them.

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