Candidates for the Montgomery County School Board were asked: What do you feel are the three most urgent problems facing the Montgomery County Board of Education? And how would you deal with them?
Vote for Three Blair G. Ewing, 46, 4 Park Valley Road, Silver Spring, is an assistant director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. He is a Montgomery county school board member and a former member of the county Human Relations Commission. Three Most Urgent Problems:
1.) Strengthening and reinforcing the basics, 2.) Assuring that students learn how to analyze through much more intensive writing assignments, and 3.) Developing on the board an approach to decisions which is systematic, analytic and involves active participation of the public. The basics must be reinforced through the efforts of the board to review and revise the curriculum. This includes a major emphasis on development of a coherent and organized approach to early childhood education. Research now shows real gains for students who have had good early childhood educational programs. The social studies curriculum needs substantial reconsidertion, as does the science curriculum. We must keep class sizes small, especially in kindergarten trhough third grade and in English classes. It requires a major emphasis on the selection and retention of teachers of the highest quality. Students must spend more time writing and speaking, so that they learn how to organize ideas, express them clearly and communicate with others effectively. Teachers must insist not only on good grammar, spelling and punctuation, but also on logic, coherence, substantive quality and good style. Teachers must be able to assign more written work, and that means smaller English classes. They must work individually with students on their written work. We do not need and should not have standardized countywide finals for every course, since they will not help students master analytic skills. It is these skils more than note learning that students will need if they are to live and work successfully in the 21st century. The present board majority does not set priorities, explore options, cost out alternatives and make careful choices among its possible program and decision choices. We must move away from the current "lurch and surge" method of making decisions, and from simplistic solutions and one-time slogans to a systematic approach to problem solving. Michael F. Goodman, 43, of 3236 Birchtree Lane, Wheaton, is a senior engineer with the U.S. Navy Strategic Systems Project Office. He was president of Montgomery citizens for Education from 1978 to 1980. Three Most Urgent Problems: The need to re-establish high academic standards, tighten discipline, (including drug and alcohol abuse) and to control spending. 1.) Academic standards: I support the concept of countywide final exams in major academic subjects in the high schools. They will stimulate learning, aid in spotting weaknesses, and provide a consistency of quality throughout the system. As The Washington Post stated in their editorial of Jan. 7, 1980, "the purpose of a uniform countywide final examiniation is to set a countywide standard for students, and perhaps more important for their teachers." The basics must be stressed and given top dollar priority. Each student has a right to current textbooks, in sufficient numbers, and class sizes in academic subjects must be maintained below a predetermined limit. 2.) Tighten discipline: Adequate discipline is essential to an optimum learning environment. The rules concerning students behavior in the schools must be tightened, clarified, and made consistent and fair in all the schools. The authority of the teachers to enforce the rules must be restored. Strong regulations must be enforced to prevent drug and alcohol abuse, and parents must be informed and involved immediately when offenses occur. Antidrug and alcohol education must be improved. Control spending: The school budget currently comprises 48 per cent of the total county budget. During the period from fiscal 1973 to fiscal 1980, the cost of living rose 73 per cent, Montgomery County taxes jumped by 85 per cent, and the cost per pupil skyrocketed by 100 per cent. In order to control spending, education priorities and spending limits must be established before the superintendent prepares his proposed budget. The school system must institute "follow-up" systems to ensure that funds are used effectively and efficiently for their designated purposes, and programs must be properly evaluated so as to avoid wasting the student's time and public's money. Marian Greenbiatt, 38, of 10125 Brock Dr., Silver Spring, is a college instructor and high school teacher. She has been a member of the Board of Education since 1976 and was board president in 1979. Three Most Urgent Problems: The three most urgent problems facing the school board are: improving the quality of education, restoring discipline and keeping our limited resources focused on the classroom. I will deal with these problems by restoring traditional education, emphasizing the basics, raising standards countywide, tightening discipline, eliminating drugs and alcohol from the schools, removing disruptive students from class and streamline the budget and bureaucracy. Many candidates try to echo these views, but a review of my voting record shows that I do not flip-flop on the important issues. I am proud of my record. I have sponsored or supported as a board member and its past president these specific measures to improve academic performance: setting a regular homework policy; limiting class size; establishing countywide final exams to reinforce the curriculum's effectiveness; supporting parental concern to retain neighborhood schools; resisting federal interference for bilingual programs; instituting a "Year of Emphasis on Reading." I have sponsored or supported these funding measures to restore academic excellence: doubling textbook allocations; raising salaries to attract and keep effective teachers; rebuilding walls in open classrooms; reducing non-classroom costs; accommodating the special needs of gifted handicapped, and non-English speaking students; and creating a vocational-technical center for students not bound for college -- all within the budget limits imposed by the County Council. I have sponsored or supported these disciplinary measures: estabishing a seperate program for students with severe drug-alcohol problems, cracking down on hooky and backing principals and teachers in maintaining firm, consistent standards of behavior. With my running mate, Suzanne Peyser, I intend to continue to reverse the permissive policies of the boards of the '60s and '70s. We will continue the policies which have begun to show the results in improved school morale and higher test scores. Montgomery County deserves the best; I will keep working toward that goal. Sandra M. King-Shaw, 43, of 244 New Mark Esplanade, Rockville, is associate field manager for the National Opinion Research Center. She is human relations commissioner in Montgomery County. Three Most Urgent Problems: 1. Curriculum review, economy and equity are problems which require immediate board attention and action. The board must make a thorough assessment of the social studies curriculum, the math and science curriculum and the entire elementary curriculum. We need to provide quality instruction for all of our diverse student population. What students do in class is even more important than how they get to class. The many early childhood programs need to be corrdinated with our primary grade curriculum, especially in light of the changing nursery school experience. We should begin the development of writing skills early in elementary school. The American and Maryland history components of the social studies curriculum need improvement. Secondary English classes should have a maximum of 20 students. We should expect students and staff to perform in an excellent manner. 2.) Economy and efficiency are essential parts of a well-run school system. We must evaluate programs before changing or eliminating them. We should examine all positions which are not school-based and eliminate the unnecessary and unjustifiable ones. We should be agressive in seeking our fair share of federal, state and county funds. We should coordinate our planning functions with those in Park and Planning. We must continue to close drastically underutilized schools. It is essential, however, that any closure decision is part of the comprehensive master plan for school facilities. 3.) Restoration of equity has been a major concern voiced in every forum and in every community in the county. Communities believe that the board has been arbitrary and capricious in its decisions on school closure/consolidation/construction, on the seven-period day in high schools, on countywide final exams. The board should hold more meetings in various parts of the county and should listen to staff and community. The board should meet with the mayors and city councils of city governments. Unless there is a dialogue between the board and city officials, we will continue to see board policies adopted which totally ignore city traditions and boundaries. Citizens want to feel that the public schools belong to them, not to a small group of elected officials. Marilyn J. Praisner, 38, of 2620 Shanandale Dr., Silver Spring, is a Central Intelligence Agency analyst. She is active in such groups as the Maryland Congress of Parents and Teachers, Calverton Citizens Association and county PTA council. Three Most Urgent Problems: 1.) Classroom: Improve the quality of education for a student population decreasing in total numbers but increasing in diversity. Strengthen basic skills, especially the ability to write and speak effectively. I will: Reduce class size, particularly in the early elementary grades, where basic skills are introduced, and in high school English classes, where written assignments require individual attention; develop meaningful gifted programs, not merely enrichment, including appropriate materials and staff training; provide support to staff involved in mainstreaming handicapped children; strengthen the staff evaluation process; and reconsider the seven-period day in high school. 2.) Sound planning and fiscal management: Examine the long-range financial and educational implications before making decisions. Evaluate need for administrative positions; improve distribution of textbooks, materials and equipment with an inventory control system. To receive our fair share of funds from the state and county, the board must stop politicizing the school building utilization issue and develop a consistent, fair policy to deal with underutilized schools down county and overcrowding up county. All future facility decisions -- whether it is what schools to close or how to spend construction funds -- must be made with uniform criteria in the context of a long-range master plan. 3.) Restore trust and confidence in the Board of Education: Improve the board's relationship with the community and with state and county officials. There must be a board-led, countywide approach to drug and alcohol abuse and discipline problems. With all future school closure decisions, the board must explain to the community the rationale for each decision. I will: Initiate dialogue with community groups to increase understanding of educational issues; improve access to the board by introducing the "town meeting" concept and scheduling regular board meetings around the county; stop ignoring recommendations of board's own appointed task forces. Suzanne Peyser, 40, of 7 Arrowood Terrace, Bethesda, an English teacher, has taught since 1962. She has served on the State Senatorial Scholarship Committee and as a delegate to the Allied Civic Group. Three Most Urgent Problems: 1.) My first-hand experience as an English teacher puts me in day-to-day contact with the number one problem in our schools -- our students' deteriorating reading and writing skills. What we need is a return to traditional education. Basic skills -- reading, writing, math -- must be emphasized and mastered, beginning at the elementary level. High academic standards must be maintained at all schools, so that all of our children -- gifted, average, handicapped -- are challenged to learn as much as they can. Sufficient textbooks must be provided to all students in all academic subjects so children do not have to share them. Homework must be done on a regular basis. Class sizes should be small enough for teachers to give adequate individual attention. 2.) The school board also needs to focus on the critical problems of discipline, drugs and alcohol. No one, particularly a child, can concentrate or learn in a noisy, disorderly classroom. Disruptive students must be removed from the classroom so that the teacher can teach and the children can learn. Students must develop self-discipline and learn to accept the consequences of their behavior. Teachers and principals need more support from the board in ridding the schools of drugs and alcohol. Parents should be informed immediately when a student has a drug, alcohol or discipline problem. 3.) In times of fiscal austerity coupled with declining enrollment, we must streamline the budget and bureaucracy and focus funds on teachers and textbooks. Administrative and non-classroom costs can be reduced. Board must resist federal interference with local control of education (e.g. Department of Education push for bilingual programs in 83 languages.) Board must develop long-range plans for declining enrollment down county and growth up county. Marian Greenblatt and Suzanne Peyser believe that these traditional approaches work. The permissive policies of the past must be reversed so that we can provide the very best education for our children.