Stone's term to end, but his popularity stays

Carroll school board members say he was mentor to many after 14 years in office

November 05, 2006|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun reporter

His campaign began in a Chevrolet station wagon, with blue and white signs in the back that read "Elect Stone" and "Board of Education," a belief that he could do the job and a desire to serve.

When C. Scott Stone filed for his bid for the Carroll County school board seat in December 1991, neither he nor his family could have known what he was getting into, he said.

But more than 14 years later, Stone knows the board inside and out. Fellow members described an understanding and helpful colleague with an eye for details and an ear ready to listen.

"He has been my mentor on the board," said Patricia Gadberry, who joined the board last year after an appointment from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

On Wednesday, after his last regular board meeting, Stone, 55, will step from behind the lectern where he has debated financial literacy courses and full-day kindergarten, while also weathering school system scandals. His term ends this year.

For board members and administrators, Stone's departure means the loss of invaluable institutional memory, and of a colleague who understood board procedures and the complexity of policymaking better than many.

"I definitely think there's going to be a void," said Susan W. Krebs, a state delegate for District 9B and former board member.

Board member Cynthia Foley expressed a similar sentiment.

"He knows what we've tried before, what works, what problems arose," she said.

A graduate of North Carroll High School, Stone earned a bachelor's in engineering from the Johns Hopkins University and a master's in computer science from Loyola College. He works in the technology services office at Towson University.

Stone won a seat on the board in 1992, defeating board President Cheryl A. McFalls. He recalled reading a newspaper article in late 1991 that said there were no challengers for McFalls' seat.

"That's not right," he thought. "I could do that job."

In his 14 years on the board, he served as president four times, and twice as vice president.

He became a master of Robert's Rules of Order, the board's parliamentary procedure, which ensures that "the minority voice is heard," Stone said.

He and Krebs put together a handbook outlining the responsibilities of the board and its members, and describing its policies.

Now that he's leaving, colleagues said they will miss the analytical nature that fostered his mastery of such details.

"With Scott Stone gone," said Superintendent Charles I. Ecker, "I'm going to have to read Robert's Rules of Order."

Ecker said Stone's familiarity with the rules simply reflected the kind of person he was.

"He does his homework," Ecker said.

Board President Thomas Hiltz and other members said they were sorry to lose a mentor.

"He has, I think, performed an extremely valuable role for me and for other board members in being able to help us become better board members," Hiltz said.

Stone had some rough patches: a grand jury inquiry into the school system, criticism of the board for its handling of school construction projects, including a new elementary school more than $1 million over budget and the illegal building of a sewage-treatment plant at Francis Scott Key High School; and the abrupt departure of former Superintendent William H. Hyde.

But Stone said he wouldn't have skipped those "dark days," even as he wondered at times whether he'd see light again. "I've always said I'd rather be on the board in times of dramatic change than lesser change," he said.

He'll miss representing county students and residents, discussing the facilities master plan and operating budget and reading a three-ring binder filled with information for board meetings.

He was granted a spot as a citizen member on the calendar committee, Stone said. Other than that, his school board days are over.

But his desire to serve the public has not dissipated. This year, Stone ran for District 5A delegate, but didn't make it past the primary.

"I suspect I'll run again," Stone said. "I just don't know when and for what office."

Donald Pyles, director of middle schools, said he hopes Stone will do that.

"He's certainly the kind of public representative ... that would definitely benefit the people of Carroll County," Pyles said. "He's not owned by anybody. He's his own man."

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

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