The Education Political Action Committee, a 417-member bipartisan group of Montgomery County residents, last night endorsed four candidates they hope will oust four current members of the embattled county school board.
EDPAC, as it is called, was formed last July amid growing disenchantment with the conservative majority of the seven-member board, which has made several controversial school closing decisions and has been accused of having racial motivation for some of its actions. EDPAC counts board member Blair Ewing among its most vocal supporters and includes as members former school board member Harriet Bernstein and Norman Christeller, chairman of the Montgomery County Planning Board.
The group met at the Cedar Lane Unitarian Church in Bethesda to endorse four of nine announced school board candidates for a prospective slate to oppose Carol Wallace and Joseph Barse. Two other seats currently held by Board President Eleanor Zappone and Elizabeth Spencer are being vacated because of retirement. A nonpartisan primary will be held Sept. 14 and the general election on Nov. 2.
"We want these people the four endorsed candidates to work for better education," said EDPAC Spokesman Ronald Wohl. "We want more fairness in the educational process. . . . We want the board to stop their process of meddling in the running of schools and get back into the business of setting policy."
The group endorsed Dr. James E. Cronin, 41, vice-chairman of the county's human relations commission; Odessa Shannon, 53, a director of program planning for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Marilyn Praisner, 40, an intelligence analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency, and Robert Schoenberg, 46, a dean of undergraduate studies for the University of Maryland.
EDPAC Chairman John Gerson said the candidates will have 72 hours to decide whether to run as a slate with the group's endorsement. Although the four appeared to agree on many issues there was no decision on the slate last night.
"I'm running because of my continuing concern about the tone, manner and operation of the school board," said Praisner. Cronin charged, "This is an autocratic board and the parents and students of this county deserve quality education."
Shannon, who is black said, "The school board ought to represent all people . . .there is no equity in the allocation of resources among students. Schoenberg said what he didn't like about the school closings "was the process by which the closures took place. It was not a process that people could have confidence in."