I'm Sandra King-Shaw. I'm a mother. I'm black," she said. "But it's important that I am not black only. I don't begin and end with minority concerns."
She is also an employee of the National Opinion Research Center, a member of the Montgomery County Human Relations Commission, a chairman in the Maryland Congress of Parents and Teachers, the wife of an architect and a candidate for the Montgomery Board of Education.
King-Shaw seeks one of the seven-member board's three seats that will be filled Nov. 4.
In the nonpartisan, at-large election, she is campaigning on a slate with incumbent Blair G. Ewing and Marilyn J. Praisner. The other candidates are incumbent Marian L. Greenblatt, Suzanne K. Peyser and Michael F. Goodman.
They have been appearing at forums and coffees almost nightly, trying not only to get some of the county's 345,000 registered voters to turn out at the polls, but to differentiate themselves from one another in the minds of voters.
Since the last school board election in 1978, when John R. Barse, Elizabeth W. Spencer, Carol F. Wallace and Eleanor D. Zappone were elected to four-year terms, the board has been calling for the county schools to go "back to basics" with required homework, standardized tests, final exams in all major subjects and stringent attendance rules.
The board tended to split 4-3 on decisions with Greenblatt, Barse, Wallace and Zappone voting against Spencer, Ewing and current board president Daryl W. Shaw, who is not running for reelection.
Greenblatt and Peyser are campaigning with the slogan "Stand up for Traditional Education." Ewing, King-Shaw and Praisner said they are also for traditional education but disagree on how to achieve it.
"This board has become very simplistic," said King-Shaw, who ran for the board unsuccessfully two years ago. "Communities feel they have been mistreated. People are angry at the way the board came to decisions on school closures. There was no process.
"People say that it seems like the board picked us off one by one. There is a crying need for equity and fair play."
King-Shaw, who was born and raised in Washington and has lived in Rockville since 1971, said the school board should hold meetings in different parts of the county to encourage people to come. She said town hearings would be another way people could come and talk to board members.
While King-Shaw said she would resign from the Human Relations Commission if she were elected to the school board, she wants to stay in the Maryland Congress of Parents and Teachers, of which she is chairman for state legislation.
"It's not a conflict of interest. In terms of demands on my time, I don't know. I would like to do both. These two complement each other beautifully," she said.
"I know my ways around in Annapolis. I know the process and how to plug into it. I would like to share that with the school board."
The Maryland Congress of Parents and Teachers is the state coordinating group for county PTA councils.
The first task for the new board that takes over Dec. 1 will be the operating budget of the school system. Superintendent Edward Andrews will give the board his recommendations around mid-December.The board must present the school budget to the County Council on March 1.
For a new board member, the intricacies and dilemmas of working out the budget will be the first order. This year the board faces state and federal belt-tightening, declining enrollment that isn't matched by declining costs, and the second year of a school employees contract requiring a cost-of-living increase that could mean an additional $20 million in the budget. The operating budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 is $309.1 million.
"We need to look at the central office administration and see if there are some positions that need to be eliminated," said King-Shaw. "We need to look at all positions outside of the school building and see where we need to make reductions."
King-Shaw, 43, has four children. The eldest works in Washington, one son is a sophomore at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, another is a senior at Richard Montgomery High School and the youngest is in the sixth grade at Julius West Middle School.
She railed against the countywide examinations being tried out this year in a few schools for possible inclusion in the Senior High Policy and said, "My kids don't have to work hard to pass an exam like that. It's foolish. Kids ought to be stretched. This is a test for minimum competence."
King-Shaw, whose name is her husband Ruben's hyphenated Panamanian name, said that minority children in Montgomery County do not receive equitable treatment. "The statistics have indicated that there are black children identified as gifted who are not in the gifted program," she said. "There are severe problems and they have to be corrected."
But she said minority concerns were not her only concerns. "I am responsible to the entire county. Yes, I am concerned about minority children and if black parents can't come and talk to me about their problems, then something is really wrong. But I am not the black candidate, not the black board member."
King-Shaw works out of her home as associate field manager for the National Opinion Research Center, a nonprofit, Chicago-based firm that does social research. One project she's starting work on, for example, is a national survey on what today's high school students expect to be doing in 10 years.
She met her husband when they were both students at Howard University.
"I am not running for the board out of a feeling of frustration or anger," she said. "I am not running on one issue. I'm concerned about people who come to public life on one issue. A board member has to be able to address and resolve all the issues all the time."