The teacher is Paul Duncan. He has been preparing since 1978 his bid for the District 1 school board seat representing the Laurel, Beltsville, Calverton and College Park area.
The parent is Doris A. Eugene, mother of five and vice chairman of the school board, who faces her first general election after being appointed to the board seat the teacher wants.
Eugene has spent almost 20 years organizing and leading parents in the PTA. She lkes to remember what her predecessor, Maureen Steinke, used to say about the schools:
"Education is too important to be left in the hands of educators."
Duncan, a 45-year-old former bricklayer turned teacher, thinks that the board members are in the hands of the educators because they have never been in the classroom.
"If you've never been there, you have to accept someone else's word about what is right, he said.
Duncan is a large man with ham-like hands who looks like a bricklayer. But he talks like a man who has been dreaming about what he wants to do with the Prince George's County schools.
Duncan came to teaching after rejecting the ministry and the construction site. He was born in Erie, Pa., left high school at 17, joined the Marines, returned to Erie after a brief stint in Korea and received his diploma in 1957.
He came to the Washington area in 1961 to study the ministry at Columbia Union College in Takoma Park because his hometown friends and fellow Seventh-Day Adventists thought he empathized well with people.
"They said, 'You should go into the ministry . . .Or work with kids.' Well, they were right about the second part. I have a very sympathetic ear. I'm interested in helping kids -- if they ask me," he said.
He supported himself laying bricks for about 10 years -- he is proud of his union card -- on Washington area construction jobs, then he heard about a job teaching bricklaying in a Prince George's County vocational program. All he'd need, he was told, was an 18-hour teaching course, which he took at the University of Maryland. But the job never materialized.
"My wife said, 'Since you've started, why don't you go ahead and finish the degree?" he recalled.
He took the suggestion of his wife, who teaches at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, and no sooner had he finished his B.S. degree than he got a job offer from the Baltimore school system.
Duncan has compiled a list of symptoms of teacher stress which includes alcoholism, absenteeism, failure to meet daily responsibilities and high turnover.
He blames teachers' problems on insensitive administrators such as principals who note how many students a teacher sends down for discipline problems, as if it were the teacher's fault.
"That's the pressure on a teacher that they really don't need," he said. "I don't buy the deal that teachers are incompetent."
Duncan would also like to see a little more merit introduced into what he feels is a watered-down grading system in county schools.
"I think we bought grades, made it easier for kids to get grades. We said, 'This kid is at thus and so capacity and he deserves this.'"
Duncan says the school board so far has bumbled the most important issue facing the schools: consolidation due to declining enrollment.
He wanted to see the board approve a consolidation plan advanced last Fegruary by board member Susan Bieniasz, but he says board politics got in the way.
"There were eight board members looking to see 'what's this going to do to my district?'" he said. "We're spending money keeping these schools open. If we could close them, we'd eliminate a lot of needless busing."
As to the thorny issue of busing itself:
"I'd like to work it out so that we can have the least amount of busing that would satisfy a judge in Baltimore," he said.
Duncan left his teaching job in Baltimore last year to be a full-time candidate.
Why suffer the cost of a year's lost wages for a part-time job paying $6,000 a year?
"I don't want anyone to be able to say, 'You didn't try hard enough and that's why you lost,'" he said.
Paul Duncan has two children by a previous marriage who don't live in the county. He says that helps his impartiality because any decisions he made as a board member would not affect his children. Doris Eugene has mothered five children through her Calverton neighborhood schools and she considers that a plus.
Originally from New Orleans, Eugene graduated from a Catholic high school there. Her husband's posts with the Public Health Service took her out of college in New Orleans to New York, Connecticut and California before bringing her to Calverton in 1969.
In San Francisco she discovered her chosen career, "volunteerism," even though she knew she'd be moving.
"You take a place in the community. It's my way of giving back to the community. If you just took, it would be a pretty lousy society," she said.
When the Eugenes came to the Washington area, the first thing she asked was, "the obvious question -- 'how are the schools?'"
They looked at identical houses in Calverton, which straddles the Montgomery County border, one on either side of the line.
"We bought in Prince George's instead of prestigious Montgomery County because of the schools," she said. "The people who had children in the schools were very enthusiastic and supportive."
She rose to PTA president at every school her children attended and was elected president of the County Council of PTAs in 1977. She is program chairman of the Maryland Council of Parents and Teachers, teaching parents how to organize and give direction to their local organizations.
She does it all with a smiling, mother-like dedication that sometimes seems close to evangelical.
"I came back (from California) gung-ho about PTA and I've been gung-ho ever since," said the red-haired woman with bright green eyes.
eugene says her Calverton neighborhood has not suffered the "white flight" phenomenon often blamed on school busing. The district schools are for the most prt too far from the concentrations of black population for busing and are among the whitest in the county.
Eugene, like her opponent, supports "neighborhood schools," which in their neighborhoods are mostly white.
"I feel we are offering the same education at all schools," she says. "What's on the end of that bus ride is what counts."
Nevertheless, local school population has plummeted in the last five years. "When I moved here, the school had 900 children. This year there were less than 400."
Eugene worries about the fact that under TRIM, the county law that holds property tax revenues to levels of fiscal 1979, she can only hope to hold the line on school services. She also knows that parents are now outnumbered by voters who have no children in the county schools.
She saw the conflict coming as far back as 1977, when some of her neighbors asked her to speak up against proposed tax increases before the County Council. She sat down and figured that the county had invested $59,000 in her kids and it was no time for selfishness.
"I told the council, 'Ladies and gentlemen, I just hope I live long enough to pay you back.'"
As vice chairman of the board, Eugene works closely with her good friend, chairman Jo Ann Bell, also the mother of a large family. She likes her role as a team player and conciliator, sounding out other members to put together a consensus, even if it makes her seem less dynamic."
Paul Duncan's campaign literature pointedly mentions that his opponent was never elected.
Eugene was placed on the board by former county executive Winfield Kelly, after passisng screening by 21st District legislators headed by Sen. Arthur Dorman. Dorman held a kick-off wine and cheese party for her last December at his home.
Asked if she could be called a political innocent, she laughed and said:
"Well I guess I'm more of a neophyte now than an innocent, at least as far as being a candidate is concerned."