Following an article in the Maryland Weekly last week, Montgomery County school board candidate Marilyn Praisner said she received a number of telephone calls from persons questioning a remark she made about her ability to make decisions. Praiser said she wished to clarify her statement with the following: "I find myself at somewhat of a disadvantage because I understand the nitty-gritty of the school system and I cannot give simplistic answers to some of the complex issues facing the board. As an individual who has had policy-making experience on a hospital board of directors, I certainly understand that ultimately positions must be taken and a yes or no vote required. I would not shrink from that responsibility. I welcome it."
As the school year moves toward mid-semester, Marilyn Praisner, a candidate for the Montgomery County Board A Education, says she watches in frustration.
"The board's just starting to discuss the core of courses for high schools. They adopted the policy last year and they've just had preliminary discussions this month. If they don't get moving, it's going to be another year," she said.
The school board policy on high schools, adopted last February, calls for a basic core of courses to be taught in all schools regardless of course enrollment. Other courses are put in a second category, to be offered only if 15 or more students take them, or if budget and staffing permit. At its Tuesday meting, the board could not agree on the courses to be placed in the two categories, and postponed action.
Praisner, who is a homemaker, community activist and Central Intelligence Agency analyst, is running for one of three seats on the seven-member board that will be filled Nov. 4.
She is campaigning on a slate with Blair G. Ewing and Sandra M. King-Shaw, which is offering what the candidates call a moderate approach to education in the 1980s. "Directions '80" is one of their campaign slogans, and those directions are to be toward an emphasis on reading, writing and speaking in the classroom, and also toward meeting the special needs of the gifted students and the handicapped.
They promise "fair play" and decisions about both up-county and down-county schools, and say both would get a fair share of county, state and federal funds.
Their opponents in the nonpartisan, at-large election are incumbent Marian L. Greenblatt, Suzanne K. Peyser and Michael F. Goodman, who call themselves educational conservatives. Peyser and Greenblatt are running together on a slate.
Greenblatt has seen many of her pet policies passed by the board since 1978, when Joseph R. Barse, Carol F. Wallace and Eleanor D. Zappone were elected and voted with Greenblatt to support the controversial Senior High Policy with its departmental final exams tightened attendance requirements and a trial run of countywide final exams in math and English.
Praisner said she decided to run for the school board after board president Daryl W. shaw announced he would not seek re-election. It was a Friday back in February, she recalls, and the 500-name petition deadline was the following Monday. By Monday afternoon she had collected 1,700 signatures.
"I'm used to being involved with the community," said Praisner, 38, a Sivler Spring resident since 1967. "I like it and I'm comfortable with it."
Involvement with the community is where she believes the current board has failed.
"There are numerous task forces, numerous recommendations, but they keep trying to reinvent the wheel. The reports are filed on book shelves and library shelves, and it's frustrating community members," she said.
Praisner said she is one of those community members who spent every Monday night for 18 months, in 1975 and 1976, working on a secondary-schools reports for the school board.
One of the report's recommendations, that the up-county area needed another secondary school, is seeing fruition with the construction of Martin Luther King Junior High School in Germantown.
They recommended that all high schools include ninth grade, that the seven-period day be evaluated and that the school system draw up a comprehensive plan for meeting future building needs.
Work began this year on a master facilities plan that will make 15-year projections for the school system.
"We could have been where we are now four years ago," said Praisner.
Praisner, a native of New Jersey and a graduate of Rutgers University's Douglass College, said she would have the school board meet more often, and in places other than the Educational Services Center in Rockville.
She said the board should have town meetings in different parts of the county, and should meet more frequently in the summer to set budget priorities for the coming year.
The school board receives Superintendent Edward Andrews' budget recommendations in mid-December and has until mid-February to approve an operating budget for the fiscal year that will begin July 1.
"I recognize that the board shouldn't be a fulltime occupation, but it's not a hobby either. It's serious business," she said.
She opposes the countywide final examinations being tried in a few high schools this year.
"This route is expensive, it penalizes students, and is a simplistic approach. Individual principals and teachers should work out tests," she said.
"Let me add that I never had a child who needed a poster as a culminating activity," she said, referring to criticisms from some parents who said their children were allowed to make posters in lieu of taking final exams. s
Praisner's eldest two children graduated from Paint Branch High School, and her youngest is a sixth grader at Galway Elementary School.
"I know how to do my research and move deliberately through the process," said Praisner. "But once you've made the decision, you are not functioning in a vacuum. You have to explain the decision to the community.
There shall be and therefore there is, is not necessarily true," said Praisner, who joined the CIA after college and whose husband, Don, also is with the agency.
"I think that I'm at a disadvantage because I know the nitty-gritty of what's going on in the schools, and I cannot make a yes-no decision," said Praisner, who is on the boards of directors of the Maryland Congress of Parents and Teachers and the Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital.