An article in yesterday's Virginia Weekly incorrectly identified the number of candidates seeking appointment ot the Alexandria School Board. There are seven candidates: Cecil Draper, William Euille, Judy Feaver, Lauree Nicholson, John Peterson, William Smith and James Snyder.
When the Alexandria City Council sits down next week to appoint three school board members, it probably will have to depend more on nuances and areas of focus rather than on major ideological differences in deciding among the four candidates.
All three incumbents whose seats are open have requested reappointment to the 10-member board: Judy Feavor, John O. Peterson and William Euille. In addition, a local resident, Cecil Draper, has put his name in contention.
During interviews this week, the four candidates expressed an unusual degree of uniformity about topics as diverse as sex education and school closings. All thought sex education should be included in the school curriculum and that school closings were an inevitable, if not unfortunate, task they would face in the next two years. Only the open campus at T. C. Williams, the city's only public high school, drew opposing opinions.
Sex Education: Long a controversial topic in Northern Virginia, all four candidates said they support a recent PTA council recommendation that sex education be part of the public school curriculum. Peterson, however, would defer discussion of contraception to the high school years. The other three candidates thought birth control should be included at the junior high levels.
William Euille, a local contractor who was appointed to the board in 1974 and is seeking a third term:
"I'd like to see us start at fourth or fifth grade . . . Contraception, abortion and homosexuality should be discussed in the classes. I think we are cheating the students and ourselves if we hold back this information, and it is better for them to find out about them now, rather than before it's too late."
Cecil Draper, treasurer of the Virginia Congress of Parents and Teachers, a school administration volunteer, a retired NASA administrator and a part-time real estate agent who sought appointment to the board last year:
"The general topic of sex must be discussed some way or the other . . . You would have to be selective about what you taught at the younger levels, but when you get kids at the high school age, they're going to hear about these things anyway. Contraception and abortion should be discussed with care."
Judy Feaver, seeking a second term, board representative to state legislature and an assistant in a law office:
"I don't have in mind the exact specifics that I'd like to see in the program, but if we don't include information about contraception we'd just be doing a disservice to the program."
John O. Peterson, seeking a second term, pastor of the Alfred Street Baptist Church:
"I am not in favor of concentrating the course at the seventh or eighth grade level, I'm not sure children at 12 or 13 years of age are ready to be preparing for family life . . . but I do think sexual functions need to be discussed at the time the child enters adolescence . . . I would talk about intercourse and its purpose along with its responsibilities . . . discussion of methods of family planning should wait until students are 15 years or older."
Open Campus. Open campus became a topic of major concern this year when Euille asked the board to consider restricting students from leaving the T. C. Williams campus during their free periods. Euille claimed the open campus policy encourages students to cut classes. Euille's suggestion was sent to a board committee for study, and next week the board is expected to approve changes that would include more required classes, enrollment in courses that are scheduled consecutively, thus eliminating blocks of free time between classes, and a requirement that students must leave campus after their last class is over. The campus, however, would not be closed.
Euille and Peterson both support a completely closed campus, but talks with other board members indicate the majority agree with incumbent Feaver and candidate Draper that completely closing the 2,500-student campus would be nearly impossible and, instead, an emphasis should be placed on encouraging students to use their free time responsibly.
"I think at this level, kids have got to have some sense of responsibility," said Draper. "They need to start preparing to get into the outside world and learn some concept of what it means to plan time."
Budget cuts and school closings: All four candidates say they believe budget cutbacks will be the major problem facing the school in the next several years, and the move toward limited spending will force more school closings.
While most recognized that favorite programs probably would suffer some reduction in expenditures, certain areas also were pinpointed for protection or improvement:
"We will probably lose some of our Title I (federal) funding for the reading program," said Feaver, "but I hope we can keep it as strong as it is now, even if that means taking money from other areas . . . I don't want to see our art and music programs cut just because of budgetary reasons."
For Euille, streamlining and more efficient management of resources were areas he thought schools should direct their focus.
"I think we need to put more money into our music and arts program," Euille said. "They are the areas which need the most work in the school system . . . Instead of curtailing academic programs, I think we shoud concentrate on achieving better management and becoming more energy efficient in our buildings."
Among programs Peterson cited as needing more emphasis were the guidance and counseling services.
"We have got to improve our guidance services in the schools," he said. "It has degenerated into a paper-shuffling profession with a lot of testing. Our children need better guidance."
Draper, a school volunteer who assisted in preparing next year's school budget, said instead of focusing on the preservation of particular programs, he would first consider how much the taxpayers can afford to maintain the school system and correlate that figure with how much the city is willing to fund. Last year, Draper, a member of the tax-cutting advocate Alexandria Taxpayer's Alliance, was the group's representative to the school board.