The four candidates running for two open seats on the five-member Carroll County school board have maintained a low-key race and seem to agree that building upon academic strides is a key objective. But each offers different priorities for the thriving district.
Voters will cast ballots Nov. 2 to select the two new school board members, who will serve four-year terms.
In recent interviews, the candidates -- Cynthia L. Foley, Thomas G. Hiltz, David Stysley and Gary G. Weishaar -- discussed a range of issues, including overcrowded schools, school safety, attracting and retaining high-quality teachers, and all-day kindergarten.
Cynthia L. Foley
Cynthia L. Foley, 47, lives in Westminster. She is a mother of four children -- three in Carroll schools and one who attends a Pennsylvania college.
The PTA member and school volunteer said she has used the "citizen participation" period at board meetings to air concerns, but wants a decision-making role.
"I have the time and the desire, and some experience with the school system," she said.
She supports the board's position that local jurisdictions should be allowed flexibility in implementing all-day kindergarten. She backs the board's plan to seek legislative relief during next year's General Assembly from a state mandate that requires full-day kindergarten for all pupils by 2007.
She said she worries that the federal No Child Left Behind Act has caused officials to put too much emphasis on test results. While she "agrees there should be some kind of testing so you know where your child stands on basic skills," she is not convinced that the increased reliance upon testing is the best way to gauge learning.
Thomas G. Hiltz
Thomas G. Hiltz, 45, is seeking a second four-year term on the board. An engineer for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a Woodbine resident, he has three children in Carroll schools.
He said that during the past four years, "the board has improved instructional innovations in math and reading that help children reach their potential" and has introduced a more rigorous academic program by offering more Advanced Placement classes.
He said he supports the board's position on all-day kindergarten because local jurisdictions, not the state, should determine pupil needs.
He said he wants to provide "intervention and support to students early on," particularly kindergarten through third grade. He said one of his other priorities would be to enhance opportunities for students in career and technology education.
"The central issue always has to be student achievement," he said. "Continuing to do that is going to be the biggest challenge we can face and is made more ... daunting given the financial issues we're likely to face over the next several years."
David Stysley, 25, chairman of the Carroll County Green Party, is a graduate student at McDaniel College and a Westminster resident.
He said he would focus on attracting and retaining high-quality teachers by improving classroom resources as well as teacher pay to make the county "more competitive with other counties around the state."
"The Board of Education must unify its efforts" to obtain adequate funding for initiatives such as full-day kindergarten, he said. "If we can't find the money for it, we would have to do it on our own time until Carroll County could raise the money itself," rather than try to meet the state's 2007 deadline.
"I respect [the current school board's] decision to oppose all-day kindergarten," he said. "I don't necessarily feel it has to be provided across the board."
While a local newspaper reported last month that he was withdrawing from the race, he said he later changed his mind. He said he considered leaving the race because he was concerned that "if I landed a job outside the county then I wouldn't be able to meet the demands of being on the board." But he later decided he could balance the responsibilities.
Gary G. Weishaar
Gary G. Weishaar, 44, is the father of three children -- one in a Carroll school, one in a pre-kindergarten program and the other is not yet school-age. The Sykesville resident works in the fraud detection and prevention field for an insurance company. He also owns a private detective agency.
He said the school board must work with county commissioners and state officials in efforts to relieve overcrowded schools "to ensure we have appropriate funding [to address] the type of growth we have in Carroll County."
Weishaar also said he would take "appropriate steps and measures to ensure all schools are safe in today's world climate" by addressing school security.
He agrees with the school board that parents, not the state, should decide whether to enroll their children in full-day kindergarten, but he proposes using county-regulated prekindergarten facilities to accommodate full-day kindergarten to avoid additional construction and renovation costs.