The hours are long. The pay is poor and the abuse, if the job is well done, is regular. Despite that unflattering job description, 26 people have applied for two seats on the Arlington school board.
Successors to school board members Mary Margaret Whipple and Richard Barton will be named by the Arlington County Board on May 12. Neither Whipple nor Barton is seeking reappointment to the five-member board. Both know it would be futile to try.
Whipple and Barton were appointed by a Democratic-backed county board. Republican-backed county board members, who are now in the majority, have made it clear that the school board of the future will be more to their political taste.
"If I endorsed anyone it would be the kiss of death," said Whipple.
Walter Frankland, county board chairman, has been a critic of the school board majority and Superintendent Larry Cuban since Frankland was elected in 1975. Frankland feels he was elected by citizens unhappy with Arlington schools and has an obligation to change the system.
"The school system is in need of a shock treatment . . . they (administration) have their heads in the sand," said Frankland last year. "What is so frustrating is we were denied an opportunity to appoint anyone to the school board for three years."
It wasn't until last year that Frankland and fellow Republicans Dorothy Grotos and Stephen Detwiler made an appointment to the school board. They chose O. U. Johansen, a former principal at Washington Lee High School and the central figure in a bitter dispute with Cuban.
Johansen's involuntary transfer to the central administration in 1975 by Cuban provoked Frankland to enter the political arena. Leading a group of parents, Frankland fought Cuban over the transfer issue. The cause eventually went to court, where Johansen won a compromise allowing him to remain at Washington Lee an extra year. Frankland stayed in the political limelight, running successfully for the county board.
Relations between the school administration and the Republican-backed county board members remained strained. But a nadir was reached in January when Frankland characterized Arlington schools as deteriorating and said the educational system lacked leadership. He also called for Whipple and Barton to resign five months early so that new, more Republican-minded board members could be in place while next year's budget was being hammered out.
Frankland's statements provoked a howl of opposition from the teachers' association, the PTA and, not unexpectedly, the school administration. Chairman Ann Broder said Cuban's remarks were "self-serving" and "stupid." Cuban accused Frankland of a "reckless" attack based on a "personal vendetta."
While the debate was raging, Stephen Detwiler, the county board's vice-chairman, joined Frankland in his resignation call and added the name of Cuban to the list. Dorothy Grotos, the third Republican-backed county board member, refused to join Frankland and Detwiler saying, "I've waited this long, I can wait a little longer."
Given that background, it would appear that the two appointees to the school board will be picked from a conservative, Republican-oriented flock. But that has not kept Democratic candidates from applying.
"Granted this is probably not the most propitious year for me to get the appointment," says Dorothy Stambaugh, wife of State Delegate Warren G. Stambuagh (D-Arlington). "But I really feel it's important people shouldn't be put off because their chances are slim."
Among the candidates who appear to have a good chance of being appointed are Claude M. Hilton, an attorney who was Arlington County's prosecutor in 1974, and Evelyn R. Syphax, the administator of an Arlington daycare center.
Syphax is one of four black candidates for the school board, which currently does not have a black member. When Johansen was picked to replace the board's only black, Dr. Thomas Penn, Frankland told concerned blacks in the community that in making any future appointments black candidates would be given serious consideration.