Legislators teach kids the ABC's of politics

Schools: Members of the county's delegation are spending the week visiting with students to talk about government.

Carroll County

September 21, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Del. Nancy R. Stocksdale, a three-term legislator and retired teacher, will be at Manchester Elementary School early Friday, assuming the role of principal.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, leader of Carroll's all-Republican delegation, will address fifth-graders at Robert Moton Elementary Thursday to assure them that their opinions count.

Del. Tanya T. Shewell, appointed to the legislature last month, was gratified that Friendship Valley Elementary students found her "cool" after her visit yesterday.

Del. Susan W. Krebs detailed a day in the life of a legislator for Piney Ridge Elementary pupils yesterday.

"The most important message we want to get across to students is `your voice counts' and that it is important to get involved," said Krebs, a first-term legislator who represents South Carroll.

Like their counterparts across the country, Carroll lawmakers are participating in Legislators Back to School Week. In classrooms throughout the county, they will brief students on issues, teach government classes and, in Stocksdale's case, become principal for a day - a job she never wanted when she taught home economics for nearly 35 years.

"This gives students exposure to elected officials," said Stocksdale, whose District 5A includes Westminster, Hampstead and Manchester. "They can study about us, but this shows them we are real people."

The classroom visits also give officials "an appreciation for what is going on in the schools and what teachers are up against," she said.

For the most part, the officials are finding savvy students with well-prepared questions during the week sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislators. Although Haines, who has participated in the event for about a decade, can still recall the fourth-grader who asked him if the "R" after his name meant he was "rated" R, like a movie. He answered that he was rated Republican.

Haines usually speaks on topics of interest to students, such as year-round school, seat belts on buses, and age requirements for voting and driver's licenses.

"These children are very much interested in information about the legislative process, especially if it relates to them," Haines said.

His most frequently asked question is: "Do you enjoy your job?"

"I tell them my basic philosophy," he said. "I have ideas that I want to bring into the political process and my job gives me an opportunity to do that."

Commissioner Dean L. Minnich, who accompanied Krebs to Piney Ridge yesterday, said he found children "really interested in the topic, and that was a testament to the teachers who had prepared them." After queries to teachers, administrators and students, he called the visit a learning experience.

Shewell, who took over the seat Carmen Amedori vacated to accept an appointment to the Maryland Parole Commission, plans to visit every school in District 5A. She is off to a good start this week, with stops at Friendship Valley Elementary, Westminster High and the Gateway School for at-risk youth.

Several elementary students asked Shewell what was the first thing she did as a legislator.

"I told them that I put my hand on the Bible and swore that I would become a servant of the people," she said.

She scored several points with her "yes" answers to whether she had personally met the governor and the president. She reminded them that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was in Westminster for the Maryland Wine Festival on Sunday and that President Bush visited New Windsor nearly three years ago.

"When I heard that the kids said, `She's cool,' I figured I was home free," she said.

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