A story in last week's Maryland Weekly about the Montgomery County school board campaign incorrectly stated the viewpoint of candidates Eleanor Zappone, Joseph Barse, Carol Wallace and Sylvia Wubnig. The story should have said: "They oppose the middle school shift, would sharply question any school closings and would redistribute school funds from experimental programs and computer assisted programs to traditional methods of teaching and traditional subjects."
Eleanor Zappone, candidate for the Montgomery County Board of Education and self-described "outsider," is blunt about the issue.
"I've stuck to the local level," she says. "Other candidates - those that have spent years on the County PTA and committees and so forth - are on far more familiar terms with the school establishment. Those of us that are anti-establishment could ask hard questions."
Nancy Wiecking, active County PTA member, participant in school study projects, also a candidate, is more diplomatic, but equally direct.
"The difference between the candidates is not so much in what they say," she explains. "The difference is in what people have been doing with their lives. Some of us have worked with school programs and participated in the process for years. The other group has not worked with the schools as much, and they are yelling about changing everything."
To a large extent, the politics of this year's race for four seats on the seven-member Montgomery school board are outlined by the feelings of Zappone and Wiecking. Eight of 13 candidates on the Sept. 12 primary ballot will qualify for the general election, and the four highest vote-getters in that race will be seated on the board.
Four of the 13 candidates in the primary race - Wiecking, incumbent Elizabeth Spencer, Sandra King-Shaw, and Fredrica Hodges - are typical of the kind of people who have been elected to the school board for years.
They have been active and visible in the Montogmery County Council of PTAs. They have worked on the school board's blue ribbon commission, or the Maryland Congress of Parents and Teachers, or in the League of Women Voters. They have been endorsed by the Montgomery County Education Association and the Committee for Public Schools.
Four other candidates - Zappone and the state of Joseph Barse, Carol Wallace, and Sylvia Wubnig - consider themselves outsiders. They have worked in local PTAs, or as teachers, or have run for the school board before, but they have not been intimately involved in what they consider the "educational establishment."
They raise many of the same questions their opponents do, but their proposals are sharper, direct, and uncompromising. Their philosophy of education is not reactionary, but it is more conservative than that of most of their opponents - and most of the current board members.
The race between the two groups - colored by aggressive campaigns by "independents," both moderate and conservative - seems to give voters an easy choice between the current school establishment and the rebellious outsiders.
However, all of the candidates but Spencer are critical of the teaching and administrative innovations introduced in the schools over the last two years by the current board. In particular, no candidate is willing to support the school's controversial superintendent, Charles M. Bernardo, or the board's decision to renew his contract last June.
Bernardo, under the direction of the board, has begun to make major changes in the way Montgomery County students are organized and taught. In the three years since he became superintendent, new computer-assisted teaching systems have been introduced in math and language arts classes.
A major adminstrative reorganization begun July 1 will abolish some 70 top- and middle-level administrative jobs and create 51 new positions, without a substantial reduction in central office expenses.
Under a new five-year plan on the use of school facilities, the board has also designated 11 schools to be studied for closing in the next year, and has begun a pilot program to replace junior high schools - 7th, 8th and 9th grades - with middle schools, covering grades 6, 7, and 8.
Many of the educational changes have frustrated teachers who believe computer programs and other innovations have only created more paper-work while helping students less. Many parents have been bewildered and angered by the shutdown of neighborhood schools - 22 have been closed in the last four years - and by what they see as the lack of emphasis on traditional, classroom-based "core subjects."
Much of the frustration and anger, justifiable or not, has focused on Bernardo, whose self-confident, assertive style and personal formality has offended even those who support his work.
Last June, the board, led by retiring member Roscoe Nix, attempted to prevent Bernardo from becoming an issue in the campaign by renewing his contract, which expires in September 1979, for four more years.
The tactic failed. An outraged Montgomery Educators' Association now plans to file suit challenging the legality of the contract renewal, and the state candidates for the board are promising to try to force Bernardo's departure if elected.
The slate candidates, who say they will probably team with Zappone if all four survive the primary, promise to change more than the superintendent. In effect, they are opposed to almost every program the current board and Bernardo has instituted.
Each of the conservative candidates thinks that Bernardo's, reorganization, although just begun, is a mistake. They oppose the middle school shift, would sharply question any school closings, and would redistribute school funds from the special education programs and computer-assisted programs to traditional methods of teaching and traditional subjects.
All three slate members and Zappone are closely aligned philosophically with Marian Greenblatt, who was elected two years ago after a close and tempestuous race and who has consistently spoken against the board's policies.
Greenblatt, whose educationally conservative proposals - such as mandatory homework assignments for students - have been voted down by the board majority, is hopeful that three of the four candidates supporting her views will be elected, giving the board a new, conservative majority that would be drastically different from the school leadership of the past five years.
Greenblatt's husband, Mickey, is Zappone's campaign manager, and Barse, considered the strongest of the slate members politically, ran on a ticket with Greenblatt in 1976.
The more moderate candidates are making many of the same criticisms as the slate-members of school programs, but they are more willing to give the innovations - and Bernardo - a chance to prove themselves.
Sandra King-Shaw, considered by many to be the frontrunner in the primary race, has a balanced view of the current board.
King-Shaw, 41, a former Council of PTAs president, does not approve of everything Bernardo has done, but insists that "discussion of his contract is not a productive issue, because the board has already renewed it." She believes that some schools may have to be closed because of declining enrollments, and thinks that "to scrap programs we have just begun would be foolish."
King-Shaw, a black, also feels that the needs of minorities have not always been adequately considered by the board. The board's only current black member, Roscoe Nix, is retiring.
Hodges and Weicking, two other candidates considered to be "establishment," share her views to varying degrees. Hodges believes that the question of middle schools and the facilities available in high schools should be re-examined and decided upon before the board votes to close more schools.
Like most of the moderate candidates, both Hodges and Weicking believe that consideration of Bernardo's contract should have been postponed until after a new board was seated. Both are critical of the superintendent, but say their support of him would depend on the degree to which a new board could work with him.
Spencer, as the sole incumbent, stands apart, though she voted against Bernardo's contract renewal. She says she believes that many of the innovative programs need work or revamping, but that most are succeeding.
"I've never heard of a school board campaign where the administration's policies weren't the issues," she says. "The reorganizations have not been without their rough spots, but they have gone well."
Despite the difference in vehemence - and background - between the two groups of candidates, voters may not favor the one position decisively over the other. In 1976, Greenblatt, an "outsider," was elected along with two moderate and traditional candidates. Barse and Wallance trailed her by more than 3,000 votes.
What may determine the success of the slate and PTA-based candidates are the campaign of several "independent" candidates who may draw votes from one camp or the other or win seats outright.
Three of these candidates - conservative Barbara Center and moderates Barbara Kay Smerko and Barry Klein - are particularly strong.
Smerko, 39, a former elementary school teacher running in her first campaign, has been endorsed by the Committee for Public Schools and by former school board president Harriet Bernstein.
Smerko emphasizes the need for budget priorities to be shifted in order to hire additional teachers, especially in English classes and in grades K-2. She has also criticized board contact with the community members to talk about issues.
Klein, 36, a supervisory physicist at the Naval Research Laboratory, would place upper limits on class sizes and re-evaluate school closings. once considered to have little hope of surviving the primary, Klein has waged an aggressive campaign and now believes he could finish third, behind King-Shaw and Hodges.
Klein is also closely aligned with Hodges, and campaign workers withKlein-Hodges or Klein-Hodges-Smerko slate will be a distinct possibility if all three survive the primary.
Center, 47, a former teacher and active PTA member, describes herself as a fiscal conservative, but stresses that she supports replacement of ineffective programs rather than deep budget cuts. She believes core subjects have been robbed to support experimental ventures in the schools and says school closings should be a "last resort."
Also competing in the primary race is Joseph F. Sagneri, 58, a retired Montgomery teacher who believes that computer-assisted learning programs should be closely monitored and that teacher-contact with students should be improved.
David Scott, 62, an investment attorney, believes that more emphasis should be placed on traditional values in schools, "such as patriotism, private enterprise, and common decency.