No vote still matters to teens

Student government delegates sling questions at education board candidates

October 29, 2006|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun Reporter

The six candidates sat in a row on stage, facing perhaps their toughest audience of constituents.

Although they cannot vote, the delegates to the Carroll County Student Government Association had plenty of questions for the men and women vying for the three Board of Education seats up for grabs in the Nov. 7 election.

The event, a first for the association, included students from the district's high and middle schools.

"We decided that since the Board of Education makes decisions each day that affect our lives ... it would be a good idea to have all six of them here," said Kevin Tervala, 17, president of the county student government association. "All of you want to change things in your schools, and these are the people who are going to change them," Tervala told delegates gathered in Century High School's auditorium."

Tervala hadn't thought they'd get all six candidates to attend when he envisioned such a forum months ago. But Thursday morning, they were all at Century High:

Gary Bauer, 60, of Hampstead, an incumbent and retired Baltimore firefighter seeking a fourth term; Patricia Gadberry, 42, of Sykesville, an incumbent and former special education teacher running for her first full term after being appointed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.; George Maloney, 74, of New Windsor, an adjunct community college instructor and semi-retired engineer and master electrician; David Roush, 64, of Westminster, a retired engineer for Lehigh Cement Co.; Barbara Shreeve, 47, of Manchester, a substitute teacher, volunteer and former PTA president; and Eric Weber, 38, of Westminster, director of information systems at Mettler-Toledo AutoChem Inc.

After brief introductions from the candidates, the delegates took to the microphones. Among their questions: What would candidates do about overcrowded facilities? Where did they stand on the new financial literacy course requirement? How did they feel about advertising in schools?

"We need to find a way to get new, fresh funding into the school system," Weber said, including seeking commercial sponsors. "Every little penny will help us."

Laura Getty, 17, a senior at North Carroll High, wanted to know the individuals' plans "for communication, especially in regards to the faculty and students."

Shreeve said she hoped to visit schools before making decisions.

"I would like to first talk to the people that my decision is going to impact," she said.

Roush called for more regional meetings that informed people of what was going on with the board, while Bauer encouraged students to call or e-mail members.

"You can come to our board meetings and address us directly," he said.

The forum ventured into more challenging territory when South Carroll sophomore Laura Bartock, 15, asked: "How do you plan on dealing with the racial discrimination that is a problem at some schools?"

Gadberry said she had "absolutely no tolerance for either bullying or racial intolerance. We need to make sure that you, as students, feel safe enough to report" when such things occur.

Maloney agreed. "There is zero tolerance in the workplace today for making a mistake," he said. Schools should prepare students for that reality, he added.

Tervala easily swung the forum in a lighter direction with a final question to the candidates.

"If you were to be any color," he said, "what color would you be, and why?"

Amid the pinks (Gadberry and Shreeve), blues (Bauer and Roush) and green (Maloney), Weber's selection seemed to stand out. Being color blind, he said, his color choices were never easy.

"I would choose chrome, so that I'm a reflection of everything around me," he said.

The students said they were impressed with the candidates.

"I was kind of expecting the same answers," said Tim Young, 17, a North Carroll senior. But he said he was surprised to hear that the candidates disagree about the newly required financial literacy course, which Gadberry and Bauer supported, but Weber said he would have opposed.

"I felt they were very prepared," said South Carroll junior Arianna Franca, 16.

Franca had asked the candidates about giving a partial vote to the board's student representative for issues affecting students, such as calendar and curriculum.

Bauer, Gadberry and Shreeve said they supported the idea, while Weber said he favored it, with limitations. Maloney advocated votes on every issue, as long as the student would not "make or break a tie vote." But Roush said that although student input was important, "matters of the board need to be voted on by the elected members."

Franca said she hoped those opposed could be convinced otherwise.

"We need candidates that not only have opinions, but candidates who are willing to come in with an open mind," she said.

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

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