Michael F. Goodman, the only candidate campaigning alone in the Montgomery County school board race, faces two teams of candidates operating well-organized, well-financed and staffed campaigns.
In an effort to match his stronger opponents, Goodman has looked for ingenious ways to reach voters. For instance, in August, he rented for $200 a small space at the Montgomery County Fair in Gaithersburg, where he set up a booth and handed out bookmarkers with his views on education printed on one side and the Washington Redskins' schedule on the other.
Those bookmarkers are the bulk of his literature in a low-budget campaign that relies more on the telephone work of his supporters than on expensive advertising. Goodman expects to spend between $1,500 and $2,000, his campaign manager says.
The other candidates in the race for three of the board's seven seats are running on slates, allowing them to pool campaign workers and share printing bills.
Incumbent Marian L. Greenblatt and Suzanne K. Peyser, running together, expect to spend $7,000 to $8,000 on their campaign. The slate of incumbent Blair G. Ewing, Sandra M. King-Shaw an Marilyn J. Praisner will run up a bill of around $20,000, their campaign manager said.
In the conservative-liberal struggle that has characterized Montgomery County school board elections almost since board members were first elected in 1952, Goodman calls himself an educational conservative. His views parallel many of Greenblatt's and Peyser's, particularly his support of countywide final exams. The exams will be pilot-tested in a few schools this year, in 9th and 10th grade math and English.
Proof that schools need countywide uniform testing, Goodman said, is that "parents believe that there are good schools in this county and bad. We need consistency, so that it doesn't matter if the student goes to Sherwood or Whitman."
Goodman said some schools are more demanding than others, that some require final exams and others allow students to substitute various projects. "Some kids," he said, "are bounced up and out the door and end up taking remedial courses at Montgomery College."
He says the exams would also help students get into college. "If the countywide exams develop a certain level of competency and continuity, any college will be able to look at them. More and more, colleges are looking just at SATs [Scholastic Aptitude Tests]. The reason is grade inflation. Kids are taking junk courses."
Goodman, 43, a civilian engineer for the Navy and a county resident since 1969, is making his first try for public office. He wants to be on the school board, he said, "to help make the system a little more responsive to the people, so they become a little more confident in investing their money and time in it."
"My son is going to graduate this year, and my daughter is a self-starter and there is no question she will do well. But I care about the public schools," he said.
While he's "not overly happy" with the eduction of his children, he said the schools have improved in the last few years. "Certain schools have held constantly. Wood has held its head up," he said.
Goodman's son attends Kennedy High School and his daughter is at Earle B. Wood Junior High School.
The school board campaign is quieter this year than two years ago, when it was heated with candidates' promises to fire then superintendent Charles M. Bernardo. But the certainty of future school closings still brings voters to school board meetings and candidates' forums.
"I would maintain as many elementary schools as practical and put pressure on closing junior high schools," said Goodman. "The high school is clearly more important to the community. There is not as strong an attachment to junior highs."
Goodman said as a school board member, he would take a close look at administrative staff: "There are only six hours of school a day. Only a certain number of people can interact with students.
"We need to find out where people are and what they're doing, and start phasing out [people].
"The big question is, do you need all those people, and can they be effectively used?" he said.
Community groups have charged that the board has been closing schools at random, irrationally. During the past summer, the Montgomery County Council of PTAs convened a group of 70 persons draw up a list of factors it believes the school board should consider in making a school-closing decision. The group sent the list to hundreds of community leaders, and asked them to rank the factors in order of priority.
"All the factors have existed for the past six years, but there has been no weighting. All we hear about are square footage, heating requirements and numbers of bodies. What significance, for example, do you put on the cost of transporting students versus the age and condition of the building?" said Goodman.
The survey, which the PTA group will present to the board Monday, lists the criteria and the priority that should be attached to each of them in all decisions about school reorganization.
The main categories are physical assesment of the building, costs of operating the building or closing it, the transportation situation, educational programs and social considerations. Each category has subdivisions that also are ranked in importance.
The board has postponed discussing further school closings until a 15-year master facilities plan is completed early next year. That plan, a joint effort of the school system, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the Maryland state Department of Planning, will evaluate the school buildings, decide on staffing ratios, busing guidelines, and occupancy levels. It will forecast student populations in 1985 and 1990 and, based on those criteria, determine where schools will have to be closed or reorganized.