School board candidates airing their views to voters

Five forums are offering opportunities to speak out

Carroll County

October 10, 2002|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

One candidate called for parents to receive report cards that would grade them on their efforts to help educate their children. Another said big companies should pay for new schools. A third complained that county teachers were using students as chess pieces in their work-to-rule job action.

With six candidates running for three open seats on the Carroll County school board, a variety of views emerged this week at the first of five scheduled forums in the race.

A similar exchange is expected tonight, when the Carroll County Council of PTAs holds its candidates forum.

"I do think that once you have all candidates in a row, you can see how they all have very strong opinions and how they align with yours," said Claire Kwiatkowski, president of the council. "Things are going to change in Carroll County, so we have to be very careful. I worry that for every informed voter, 50 are uninformed, so we encourage voters to come to these forums because it's the only way to get a good comparison."

The PTA forum, which also includes candidates for county commissioner, is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Winters Mill High School in Westminster.

The county chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is sponsoring a forum that includes school board candidates Wednesday at Westminster Senior Center. The League of Women Voters is sponsoring one Oct. 23 at Winters Mill High, and students at Century High School have scheduled a forum for Oct. 30.

Incumbents Gary W. Bauer and C. Scott Stone are running for re-election. Other board candidates in the Nov. 5 general election are: Laura K. Rhodes, a longtime school activist; James E. Reter, a former comptroller for county schools; William M. Bowen Jr., a former Harford County councilman; and John F. Murray Jr., a software compliance officer with the Food and Drug Administration.

Bauer, Stone, Rhodes and Reter took part in a forum sponsored by Carroll County Democratic Club on Monday night at Frisco Family Pub in Westminster. They sat in line of teal vinyl chairs behind a pair of long tables, taking turns to give five-minute presentations on why they are running and to answer questions from the two dozen in the audience.

Bauer, 56, started by saying that schools should have the money they need to educate children. Administrators and teachers should be held accountable for students' performance, he said.

Bauer also said schools need to keep test scores at the levels required by new federal legislation, and that administrators need to be particularly conscious of test results from low-income students in schools receiving Title 1 federal money.

Reter, 70, making his third try for a seat on the board, said standardized test scores show that Carroll students - and schools - have a lot of room for improvement.

He also suggested starting school an hour later so that students are more alert and making guidance counselors work one night a week to allow parents to meet with them. He stressed the importance of shifting more responsibility to parents for the education of their children -and said they should be given grades on report cards.

"It would put the onus on parents to work with the school," Reter told the audience. "After food and shelter, education is the most important need, and the responsibility of parents."

A self-described "professional volunteer" who has been a continual presence at school board and PTA meetings for a decade, Rhodes, 40, called for quarterly meetings to discuss and plan for the 500 new students who enter the system every year.

She said board members should approach corporations and encouraged them to absorb some of the costs of building schools. Rhodes said the federal government should contribute more to schools.

Stone, 51, is a 10-year veteran of the board. He said schools should offer more challenging classes, reduce class sizes and increase secretaries and other support staff at schools. He said parents should be encouraged to be more involved in policy discussions. He said school renovations should remain a priority.

The question-and-answer session included discussion of two contentious issues: the school budget and the work-to-rule action by teachers at several Carroll County schools.

Rhodes, Bauer and Stone said school budgets have climbed to $200 million in recent years because of the high cost of educating children.

But Reter said much money is wasted. "There is always increased costs," he said. "There are other things you can do to improve instructional programs without throwing money at the problem."

The recent work-to-rule action, in which teachers in at least 11 schools are refusing to perform extracurricular duties to protest their workload, brought out a variety of reactions.

Stone and Bauer said that the action was an affront, considering that teachers ratified a contract last month.

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