Candidates for Montgomery County Board of Education were asked the following questions by The Washington Post:
Direction: School board critics say the present board majority has changed the county schools' traditionally liberal philosophy. Should the present direction be changed?
Closings: On the issue of school closings, how much weight should be given to existing guidelines for integration in deciding which schools are affected?
Sex Education: At what grade level should sex education be taught and should the present format be changed?
Direction: No. I'm proud of the record of our school board since 1978. Let's continue the present direction. I will vote for traditional education, namely: 1) stress the basics; 2) raise academic standards; 3) improve discipline; and 4) put tax dollars into the classroom. I support the present board majority. In the past four years we cut back on administrative costs and diverted funds to the classroom. Used funds to relieve overcrowding of classes by reducing class size. Cut back on class cutting. Doubled textbook funds. Required final exams. Converted many "open" classrooms to traditional classes. Appointed a new superintendent. Saved $6 million annually by school closings. Built the county's first vo-tech center. And built a new junior high up-county in the growth area. I'm proud of this. The slate of Barse-Grossman-Witzall will continue to progress.
Closings: School closings were necessary to save $6 million annually and avoid costly, multimillion dollar renovations of the oldest school buildings. The county could not afford so many empty rooms and seats in down-county area. But, as board closed schools for above reasons, we knew that closing and consolidating schools could improve integration of minorities, and we did so. Integration had important weight. A major, detailed, statistical study showed clearly that the board's actions improved integration. For example, board's original decision to close Rosemary Hills school significantly improved integration in all the nearby, consolidated schools.
Sex Education: Along with the school board majority, I voted against a proposal to teach contraception to eigth-graders, and therefore that proposal did not pass. Then, I voted with the board majority again to approve a complete program of sex education, as follows: Sex education begins in 5th grade with basic, biological information about human reproduction. More biological information added as students advance. As to behavior, refusing to engage in premarital sex is both morally right, and is the best way to prevent teen-age pregnancy. Such an attitude, well understood by most teen-agers, should also be reinforced by the schools. Our schools now give instruction in the best ways to say no to temptations to engage in premarital sex. A contraception unit is offered in senior high only, as part of preparation for family life.
Barrie S. Ciliberti, 46, 13415 Grenoble Dr., Rockville, currently is on leave from his job as an education professor at Bowie State College. He is executive director of the National Republican Heritage Council. He owns a private preschool in Virginia, and his three children have attended parochial schools.
Direction: The present school board has not changed traditional liberal philosophy. Rather, today's self-styled liberal has abandoned the principles of traditional liberalism. The meaning and essence of liberalism have been corrupted. Basically, today's direction is, in general, sound educational direction. The emphasis on more funds for the classroom is positive, tighter attendance requirements, emphasis on smaller classroom size, providing of individual textbooks, emphasis on homework, the program to institute final exams, tighter school enforcement to rid the schools of drugs -- all are positives. I support this direction and if elected will continue this student-oriented, academic achievement-oriented, cost-conscious approach.
Closings: The principle of integration is a sound one in both theory and practice. To that end, the integrated school system should be nurtured and supported. In addition, any governing body must be aware of how sensitive this issue is especially to black Americans. Let us not forget that it was not too long ago that the absence of integrated schools in some areas meant: school buildings left to deteriorate, textbooks for black schools were usually the discarded ones from white schools, school and lab equipment usually arriving too late for proper use and in numbers far inferior to what was needed. Thus, given this historical perspective, it is not difficult to understand the anxiety produced in the minds of some black Americans. On the issue of school closings there are board guidelines which include the utilization factor, the alternative use factor and the enrollment trend. I am not convinced that if a school minority population rises from 40 percent to 46 percent that this is cause for alarm. Nor do I believe that if the closing of school A means a percentage increase in minority enrollment in other schools, that this is cause for concern. As long as the curriculum is sound, the teachers conpetent, the teaching-learning process will previal -- whether the school be 40 percent or 50 percent minority.
Sex Education: Sex education is a rational part of any sound curriculum. However, sex education as a subject should be keyed to the maturity level of the students. Specifically, the contraception unit should be taught on the high-school level. In general, the approach taken by the present board seems reasonable and prudent. We must be careful that the curriculum on sex education is medically sound and value-oriented. The permissive approach toward sex education with title emphasis on traditional values, I categorically reject.
James E. Cronin, 40, of 2103 Linden Ln., Silver Spring, has been an associate professor at Montgomery College for 11 years. He also taught for five years in New York City schools, and he is incoming president of the state teachers' Higher Education Council. He has two children in Montgomery county schools.
Direction: Montgomery County has enjoyed a reputation for high academic standards and equal opportunities for all students. Public confidence and staff moral have been seriously eroded by the rancor and division caused by the arrogance of the present board majority, not by the philosophy of its members. Feeling free to cover the curriculum and enrich their classes, teachers need encouragement to raise sutdent achievement levels. I strongly support the "conservative" values of discipline, homework assignments and comprehensive final examinations. However, I believe a board intrudes into the areas of principal-teacher judgment by setting specific requirements. This is authoritarian, not conservative. I would urge teachers to see each child as an individual, with strengths to develop and weaknesses to correct. The school board must lead in this effort. To date, the present board has demeaned the teacher's role and continually ignored staff and community involvement. This direction must be reversed.
Closings: In the recent closing decisions the board ignored two important criteria which are linked: impact upon the community and quality integrated education. Successful community programs were destroyed needlessly by a board acting more on revenge than on educational soundness. It is a scaldal that the board not only directed the quality integration criteria be withdrawn as a major factor in closing decisions but also created the outrageous floor of 60 percent minority student population. Obviously, first priority should be on school condition and cost of renovation. Underutilization is a second factor, particularly where two schools can be reasonably combined. At this point, quality integrated education and community impact become the critical factors. Maximum efforts should be made to involve the affected school communities at the first stages of closure consideration and only under extremely unusual circumstances should a school board substitute its judgment for staff recommendations developed with broad community input.
Sex Education: As a part of the state requirement, sex education should be continued in the eighth grade curriculum, as proposed by Superintendent Andrews and supported by the advisory committee. Family privacy and religious values should be protected by the requirement of parental consent to student participation in the contraception unit. Because of the sensitivity of adolescents to their sexual development, teachers need an array of in-service supports. Particular emphasis should be placed upon the balanced treatment of the different value structures in today's world and the emotional reactions of teen-agers to the changes in their lives. Montgomery County Public Schools should work closely with teachers, parents and students to ensure that texts and classroom experiences are positive, balanced and reflect mature, adult treatment of the topics. While some areas, particularly reading lists, have needed more careful guidelines and procedural limprovement. I have every confidence that staff can provide the necessary corrections.
Nancy H. Dacek, 48, of 9913 Conestoga Way, Potomac, has been vice president of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs. She is a Girl Scout Leader, vice chairman of the Potomac Teen Center board and has served on school advisory boards for budget, discipline and foreign language studey. Two of her children attend county schools.
Direction: Whether it is called "liberal" or "conservative," every board of education has the same responsibility: to provide a useful and beneficial education for each student. I want to help students acquire the skills which will qualify them for advanced training and study and I want to point the way for preparing youth in multiple ways for long and productive lives in a high-tech society. Traditional educational values for the future mean effective, well-motivated teachers encouraging all students to master the "basics" including computer literacy in a disciplined atmosphere. I want to see each student reaching for his/her highest level of achievement. Educational philosophy swings back and forth; my position is balanced.
Closings: I believe that the criteria for school closure should be applied consistently and equitably to all schools. The 15-year Comprehensive Master Plan for Educational Facilities clearly articulates goals, purpose and the "opportunities for quality integrated education shall be provided in accord with the Board of Education policies on Quality Integrated Education/Racial Balance." This same statement is one of the eight solution criteria to be applied in those situations where changes are called for. Although this criterion is a serious consideration in all school closing decisions and deserves thoughtful review, we must not lose sight of the fact that our primary concern is improving the educational atmosphere for all students.
Sex Education: An adolescent needs reliable sexual education from a trustworthy source. Ideally such information should come from the home. Since it often does not, I support a sex education program in the public schools. We should keep the brief fifth grade unit on puberty. I also advocate a mandatory ninth grade health-physical education course taught by a public health nurse or a specially trained teacher. This unit should contain sections on nutrition, reproduction and prenatal care, venereal disease, contraception (including abstinence), aging and substance abuse. I agree that the established citizens advisory committee should review materials used in the curriculum on sex. I also agree that students should have parental permission to take the unit on c contraception and that it should include, as it now does, the various moral views of different religions. In addition, I advocate a yearly review of the curriculum by the board of education.
Sharon L. DiFonzo, 39, of 13407 Bartlett St., Rockville, has been active for 13 years in county school organizations. She has been president and a trustee of Rock Creek Valley Elementary School, has served on task forces for alchohol and drug abuse and students' rights and is active in PTA. Her three sons attended county schools.
Direction: Changed? Yes. Reversed? Not necessarily. It would be counterproductive and educationally unsound to try to compensate for the present board's positions and past actions at the right end of the spectrum by instituting an equally extreme movement to the left. Such reversals are not the answer to providing quality education for all children, improving staff morale and returning stability to children and communities. What is not needed is a board that functions in a vacuum and does not want to be confused by the facts and professional advice. What is needed as a rational movement to a moderate approach, and not another over-corrective swing to the opposite extreme. Montgomery County deserves a board whose members will not only listen with an open mind but will hear what is being said, who will act with sensitivity and objectivity, and who will think.
Closings: I would favor including minority balance as a criterion in the school closings plan. Additionally, I would support reducing the minority percentage req-ired in any given school before action is taken as spelled out in the newly amended racial balance policy. The minority balance criterion in the master plan should have equal weight with the existing four.
Sex Education: Montgomery County provides a comprehensive program in Family Life and Human Development for all its students beginning in kindergarten. I am in support of this program (which is in compliance with the Maryland State public school bylaws) as it is and has been presented, developed and revised by staff. State law further provides that human reproduction is to be taught no earlier than age 10 nor later than age 12. With regard to the recent controversy over the newly revised health education curriculum in eighth grade: I would have supported the superintendent's recommendation.
Herbert Grossman, of 1404 Arbor View Rd., Silver Spring, is an administrative judge with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He has been a board member of Montgomery Citizens for Education and is on the Board of Education's Advisory Committee on a Comprehensive Plan. He has three children in county schools.
Direction: I agree with the current school board in reversing the permissive policies of the past 15 years. Those policies were disapproved by liberals and conservatives alike. Under the prior board there had been deteriorated discipline, widespread class cutting, lax academic standards and no requirement for final exams. I approve of the current board's tougher academic and disciplinary standards, allowing fewer unexcused absences, removing disruptive children from the regular classroom, requiring homework on a regular basis, requiring ability and achievement groupings, instituting uniform countywide final exams; ending "social promotions," supporting remedial instruction and gifted and talented programs and requiring a full day's attendance at school or related work. I would continue in that direction by instituting more stringent course requirements for academic diplomas, such as three years of math, science and foreign language. I would also require at least three solid academic courses per semester.
Closings: The board should follow existing guidelines where feasible. However, the guidelines should never be imposed at the expense of sound educational policies. The most important factor in maintaining integrated education is to provide as high a quality education in the high-minority schools as in the rest of the county. This can only be done by insisting on ability and achievement groupings of students, by maintaining high academic and disciplinary standards and by organizing the schools on sound grade structures. Unless parents in the high-minority schools are assured that the educational needs of their children are being met, those who can afford it will move or place their children in private schools. This will lead to greater racial and economic imbalance.
Sex Education: Sex education is currently begun at Grade 5 in Family Life and Human Development. I agree with beginning at that grade level and with the format. The course explains the human reproductive systems and identifies changes that take place at puberty. I agree also with the present policy of offering a unit on contraception (with parents' concent) at the beginning of high school, when pupils are mature enough to handle the information (and perhaps need it).
Barry M. Klein, 40, of 8209 Killean Way, Potomac, is a research physicist who has teaching experience. He has been president of the Cabin John Junior High School PTA, the Inverness Forest Citizens' Association and Concerned Parents for the Arts in Public Schools. His four children wttend Montgomery County schools.
Direction: Too many candidates and organizations are emphasizing their liberal or conservative credentials, rather than dealing with the individual educational issues that face us. We must ensure that our children are getting a good basic education in reading, writing, mathematics, critical thinking and analysis skills. Our schools must provide appropriate programs to meet the needs of all children, at all levels of ability and with any type of educational disadvantage. We must have sound programs available countywide in the arts, languages and sports. As a PhD physicist, I am the most qualified candidate to be a leader in upgrading the programs in science, mathematics and computers. In past years, school boards have managed to avoid the current liberal-conservative polarization, and instead have dealt with educational issues. I will be a strong force for returning to this concept.
Closings: The guidelines were constructed to avoid creating segregated schools, and to foster good education for all children. They have been whimsically followed and inconsistently applied in a game of down-county "musical schools," a game in which our children are the losers. If a more consistent and rational approach is not taken soon, we are likely to see the courts step in with a solution which will be unsatisfactory for all concerned. One of my basic goals has always been quality education for all children. As long as the current board is not following fair and consistent guidelines for integration, this goal is not being met. Their "eleventh hour" responses seem guaranteed to perpetuate the educational instabilities that they have created.
Sex Education: The sex education units in Grade 5 or Grade 6 and Grade 8 stress moral values and responsible behavior. REgulations require that parents must be notified that this instruction will take place, and they have the opiton of denying permission for their children to participate in these units. I support continuing this approach. Largely due to the negligence and election-year politics of several of the current board members, the general public was not aware that the controversial pregnancy-prevention aspect of the proposed eighth grade curriculum was voluntary and required written parental permission for participation. The polot programs at three intermediate schools were overwhelmingly approved by parents, students and staff. I would have supported expanding the availability of these programs. In characteristic fashion, the present board never held public hearings on this subject. Such hearings would have removed many of the myths surrounding these board-rejected units.
Zoe P. Lefkowitz, 49, of 11508 Colt Ter., Silver Spring, is a teacher assistant who has served on a number of state and county advisory committees on education issues. She also served two terms as president of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs. Her five children are graduates of the county public schools.
Direction: The Board of Education during the '70's' acted after broad, informed debate, seeking full community input. Contrary to current accusations, they began the basics thrust; two '70's' board members secured laws improving reading instruction. They were concerned with all children -- disadvantaged, handicapped, average. The present board has narrowed the focus: it compaigned to control board action, forming a clique, and succeeded, favoring or alienating communities, ignoring community testimony, violating their own ethics code. It has pushed policies promising much but delivering little. The direction of the school system must be changed, not to fit a liberal or conservative label, but moving forward, utilizing the best of the past. I support fundamentals, firmness in areas of discipline, drugs, but want more emphasis on composition-writing, math problem-solving, science and skills for the future world of high technology. I place high priority on fiar play for all students, communities.
Closings: The Board of Education should emphasize its commitment to integrated education and its opposition to social isolation by reaffirming the goals found in the Policy of Quality Education/Racial Balance. This policy states " . . . that integrated education is one of the important goals of the Montgomery County Public Schools. This belief is predicated upon the assumption that all students and staff need to have experiences and develop skills that will enable them to function well as members of our democratic society. Pluralism should be a hallmark of our society." To meet these objective, minority enrollment must be an important consideration during the facilities planning process. A school's population should ideally approximate the countywide minority average, permitting all students to interact with other children of diverse backgrounds. A 50 percent minority enrollment should be established as the maximum. Promoting racially stable communities benefits children, schools, communities and local businesses.
Sex Education: The State Board of Education mandates the teaching of family life, with certain elements specified at each level. Sex education should be presented as part of the total kindergarten-through-12th-grade health curriculum. The K-3 health curriculum should be taught as part of science-social studies. The units on changes related to maturation should be presented before the onset of puberty with human reproduction presented not earlier than age 10 nor later than age 12. Provisions for younger maturing students should be made. With parental permission, a unit on reproduction, pregnancy-birth, sexually transmitted diseases and teen-age pregnancy- pregnancy prevention should be presented in 8th grade before students become sexually active. Students need accurate information to dispel myths and develop resistance to peer pressure. Older students (grades 10 to 12) need information concerning the biological, emotional and physical aspects of pregnancy and childbirth and identifying and evaluating methods of contraception.
Timothy J. O'Shea, 47, of 9768 Whetstone Dr., Gaithersburg, is director of International Trade Support for Westinghouse Electric Corp. He has held office in PTA, has been a member of education advisory committees and led a campaign to build Martin Luther King High School. His two children attend public schools.
Direction: The present direction should be changed, but not consistently toward traditional liberal policies or any other "traditional" ideology. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." We need not be slaves to any particular ideology. Our tradition henceforth should reflect excellence, equity, efficiency, stability and realism, and incorporate those educational techniques and philosophies which best prepare our heterogeneous student body for today's challenges and opportunities. We are not New York or California, nor are we in the '30s or '60s. If keypunch or keyboard capability is the entry-level skill most needed in many growth industries, let's make sure nobody completes high school without it. If colleges want more math, science or language capability, let's strengthen and promote those subjects from junior high on. Courtesy and consideration are other traditions this school board has abandoned. County voters should restore them on Sept. 14.
Closings: Many school closing decisions will not be affected by integration guidelines. At present, providing quality integrated education is a principle of the facilities planning policy but not a screening criterion or standard. The recent reversal of the Rosemary Hills Elementary School closure demonstrates the state Board of Education's belief that more weight should be given to integration. The state board did not criticize the relevant guidelines but rather our board's inconsistent application of both facilities planning criteria and integrated education policy to a school with a high minority enrollment. If a school is and will be after consolidation less than 20 percent over the countywide minority average of about 23.8 percent, I would not weigh integration more heavily than now compared to the four screening criteria of minimum enrollment, utilization, condition and attendance patterns. As the enrollment differential begins to exceed 20 percent I would give integration more weight, in fairness to both the school's minority students and its dwindling majority enrollment. I would also reduce the weight of "school condition" and add "community impact."
Sex Education: Sex education is and should be taught at several grade levels in a comprehensive health education program. Human reproduction, puberty, menstruation and adolescence are first studied briefly (and voluntarily) in Grade 5. That's fine. Most agree that a sex education course be presented in Grade 8. Montgomery County Public Schools' Program of Studies properly "stresses saying no as a means of avoiding situations which might be dangerous or prove overwhelming" and states that "moral values are stressed." A version including two (voluntary) periods covering contraception was tested this year with significant parental involvement. Subsequently, both students and parents endorsed it and indicated Grade 8 was appropriate. Some would even teach it sooner. I wouldnot, nor would I defer the contraceptive instruction to senior high elective courses, as the board majority did. As a concerned, religious parent I support a voluntary eighth grade program using this year's format, revised per student-parent questionnaire responses and teacher observations. Before it's too late: It is not Montgomery County Public Schools but rather movies, television, magazines and friends that thrust sexuality at eighth graders daily, while some parents and well-intentioned organizations ignore or deny its existence.
Marilyn J. Praisner, 40, of 2620 Shanandale Dr., Silver Spring, is an analyst with the CIA and has been a board member of the Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital and a member of the Maryland Congress of Parents and Teachers. Her three children have attended schools in the county. She is active in PTA and civic groups.
Direction: Everyone wants a quality educational pro-ram with firm, fair, consistent discipline policies and strong classroom teachers. What has changed is Montgomery County's traditional school board commitment to fair play, due process and a representation for all citizens. A change of leadership is needed. Board rancor, rigidity and rudeness are hurting government and citizen support for public education as well as efforts to deal with educational issues. I want strong math and science programs to prepare students for our high-technology world. We should be strengthening students' critical thinking and writing skills and developing their knowledge and use of computers. Staff, whileheld accountable for performance, needs the flexibility to give attention to individual students. Board members must examine long-range financial and educational implications before making decisions, and develop positive working relationships with business, communities and other government officials -- for a renewed commitment to education as a Montgomery County priority.
Closings: Montgomery County Public Schools has a school facilities planning policy and a quality Education/Racial Balance (QIE) policy. In adopting its school closure policy, this board refused to include consideration of racial balance as a screening criteria for identifying schools for further study. As a result, although one policy (QIE) directs the board to study and remedy high-minority school situations, this board did not allow for that study. Also, in 1981 the board raised the QIE school minority percentage threshold, without public hearing and over the objections of the superintendent. The state Board of Education requires that student body racial composition be a factor considered in the closure process. Our board must include and treat equitably all relevant criteria, including racial balance. Solutions must be fair and must not contradict or ignore existing policies (including QIE), if the board is to regain community trust and state Board of Education support.
Sex Education: Maryland bylaw requires sex education. Curriculum must include human reproduction (taught at ages 10 to 12) and contraception, premarital intercourse, venereal disease, etc. at "junior and/or senior high level." Parental consent is required for student participation. The superintendent developed a six-week unit for eighth graders. The pilot curriculum included pregnancy prevention (saying no, contraception), the medical dangers of adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. It was received positively by students, staff, parents; however, the school board moved the contraception portion of the program to "high school buildings." Youth today are maturing and are socially active at a younger age. Also, because sex education high school programs are limited to elective courses, they are not always available for students. It is reasonable to offer a unit, developed for eighth graders, for those parents who want it. I would also demand careful, continuous staff, community and board monitoring of programs and strict adherence to state/Montgomery County School Board regulations.
Vicki P. Rafel, 43, of 3400 Coquelin Ter., Chevy Chase, has a background in economic and legislative analysis. Active for 12 years in school programs and local and countywide PTA groups, she cochaired the county Coalition for Excellence and Equality in Education. Her two sons attend Montgomery County public schools.
Direction: It is not so much a "traditionally liberal philosophy" which the present board has changed (since that "liberalism" has never been defined) but rather the fundamental focus on excellence of education to be delivered for each individual child. Montgomery's schools have a long-standing reputation for excellence, comprehensiveness and fairness which has been damaged by actions of the present board. The focus of a new board must be to restore excellence, comprehensiveness, fairness and stability. The philosophy of the present board evidenced in their campaign literature claimed concern for budget and "basics." In four years, their budget request has risen from $271 million to $356 million, not all of it related to inflation. Their "basics" seem to include only reading and arithmetic, de-emphasizing writing and research, science, languages, social studies, art, music and physical education -- all of which are "basics" in my view. Those are the directions needing change.
Closings: It is not so much a question of weighting existing guidelines for integration in school closings and boundary changes as it is a matter of renewed commitment to integration and adhering fairly and consistently to policies which already exist. Presently those "guidelines" are followed when convenient. The school closings were supposed to provide a stable, countywide facilities plan. Instead, the closing/boundary change process has been tainted because the present board did not follow their own policies. The State Board of Education would not have had to reverse local board decisions if those decisions had been consistent with policy relating to integration. (They have upheld lozens of local board decisions which they have deemed to be consistent with local policy.) In order to stabilize the schools, future decisions must adhere to policy.
Sex Education: The present sex education curriculum is part of a state-mandated health education curriculum which spans kindergarten through 12th grade. The revisions which were proposed this winter were straightforwared, responsible, voluntary units in the fifth or sixth grade, eighth grade and 10th grade. After receiving several hundred form letters, the board decided to move the voluntary eighth grade contraception unit to 10th grade biology courses (which not all students take). After reviewing materials and responses from parents of students who participated as well as staff input, it would seem to me that the voluntary unit should have been kept in the eighth grade curriculum. The present format seems reasonable and responsible. I was disappointed that the board allowed itself to be distracted from another aspect of the health education curriculum which should have been strengthened -- the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse -- an enormous problem facing our children.
Odessa M. Shannon, 53, of 13320 Bea Kay Dr., Silver Spring, a program planner with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has chaired the schools' Minority Relations Monitoring Committee. She is active in PTA, the NAACP and other civic groups. Her two children attended county schools.
Direction: The Montgomery County School system has historically been viewed and lauded for its progressive stance on educational issues, and for its enlightened response to a growing diverse cultural population. The belief in equal and equitable educational opportunities was reflected, in the past, in actions taken by the Board of Education in policy dev elopment. Community input was welcomed and seriously considered. Recent board actions have exacerbated community distrust and shown a complete insensitivity to and misunderstanding of the educational needs of a diverse cultural population. Ensuring that our schools provide a quality educational program for all our students and that we have committed support of our community requires that we reexamine our educational philosophy and make the necessary changes immediately.
Closings: This school system, as well as others across the nation, faces issues of segregation within an integrated school system. In certain areas of Montgomery County, the growing numbers of "minorities" creates a real and immediate concern about resegration some of our schools. In a society that continues to view race as a major determinant of acceptability, it is impossible to provide "separate but equal" educational opportunities. Consequently this school system must seek viable ways to avoid resegration. Declining enrollment has mandated the closing of county schools. It is an extremely sensitive issue and becomes doubly so when racial balance must be considered. A total disregard for established policy guidelines for desegration/racial balance inevitably leads to unequal education for some, primarily minority, students. Therefore, it is imperative that existing guidelines for desegration/racial balance be given no less than equal weight with other criteria used to determine school closure.
Sex Education: Since 1970, the state-mandated Montgomery County Public Schools' unit on human development has been reviewed continuously for effectiveness, appropriateness and currentness. Young people are maturing mentally and physically at an earlier stage. Simultaneously, they are exposed through the media to myriad social and moral conflicts. To assist the parents in developing with their young people their value systems, I support providing as much factual information as is appropriate for their maturation and grade level, beginning at Grade 8. Topics identified by a significant population as being sensitive can comprise a separate segment requiring additional parental consent. Materials, books and films must be carefully screened by both staff and parents.
Robert E. Shoenberg, 47, of 1808 Briggs Rd., Wheaton, is dean for undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland-College Park. He has 24 years of experience in education, in both teaching and policy making, and is active in community task forces on education, as well as in PTA. His two daughters attend county schools.
Direction: Yes. Several reversals of direction are necessary. The board majority has made many unfortunate departures from past affirmative policies in dealing with minority group issues. Mistakes include violation of policies on minority integration, poor communications with, then disbanding of, its Minority Relations Monitoring Committee and insufficient attention to equal opportunity matters for women as well as minorities. Also requiring reversal is the board's habit of addressing problems through their imposition of rigid regulations that improperly interfere with school operations and reduce opportunities for applying the most educationally suitable solution in individual cases. Loss of course credit need not be the only possible penalty for excessive unexcused absences; assignment of homework can be encouraged without the board specifying how much and how often. High school final examinations are desirable, but the board's attempted countywide uniform finals are unnecessarily expensive, rigidify curriculum and place too much stress on learning facts rather than developing thinking processes.
Closings: The board's policy on Quality Integrated Education requires that minority balance be considered in school closings whether or not the closing guidelines specify it. I believe that minority balance should be part of school closing criteria. Racial/ethnic isolation is not educationally valid for either the majority or the minority group. The level of minority enrollment that defines a school as racially inbalanced should be returned to the lower percentage that was employed prior to the past year. Individual schools should not be allowed to reach that ''tipping point" of minority enrollment which experience suggests can lead to a decline in services and resources relative to need. Schools should not be closed for the sole purpose of achieving minority balance, but for the purpose of achieving a more rational and educationally sound system within the limits of available resources.
Sex Education: Sex education, taught in ways in keeping with the understanding of children in each age group, is required by state law. This is as it should be. It is important for students, especially young adolescents, to come to terms with their sexuality through an accurate presentation of facts and an opportunity to discuss the complex ethical and social issues involved. Many children and parents have found that beginning this process in school leads to fuller, more open discussions at home. As in any circumstance, having more information can only be helpful, especially in matters where the personal and societal consequences of ignorance can be so devastating. As regards the recent controversy over the placement of a brief unit on contraception in Grade 8, I believe the board should have followed the strong recommendation of the superintendent for full implementation of the pilot program. Students, parents and staff who had participated in the pilot study strongly supported it. The board should respect this broad, informed support.
Carol F. Wallace (Incumbent), 46, of 913 Winhall Way, Silver Springs, was President of the school board in 1980-81 and has 10 years of teaching experience. She is a founding member of Montgomery Citizens for Education, has served on local PTA executive boards and is active in education groups. Two sons attend county schools.
Direction: The present trends established since I have been a member of the Board of Education must continue. Results are: rising test scores, lower administrative costs, lower class sizes, improved discipline, increased funding for textbooks, improved programs for gifted/talented and handicapped and expanded computer literacy programs. Necessary school closings are projected to save Montgomery County taxpayers approximately $6 million annually. Final examinations in academic subjects have been mandated. Meaningful homework is now the rule rather than the exception to the rule. Students must attend for a full day. In-school suspension programs have been initiated. The Phoenix School for students with drug/alcohol-abuse problems has been established. Montgomery County's first and only vocational-technical center is finally being built. Management and Operations Review and Evaluation (MORE) studies have been finally initiated resulting in more efficient and economical management procedures. These are positive actions starting to yeild positive results.
Closings: Montgomery County Public Schools have been desegrated since 1954. In 1975 and 1981 the U.S. Office of Civil Rights found Montgomery County Schools in compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Existing Board of Education guidelines for the integration of the Montgomery County Public Schools are realistic. Consideration must be given to the demography of the county where, due to housing patterns, there is a high concentration of minorities in the down-county area. The State Department of Education has proposed a new integration formula. If implemented, no school in Montgomery County could be more than approximately 39 percent minority. This is obviously impossible within the Blain Cluster which, in order to be in compliance with proposed state regulations, would have to reach out for a white student population beyond the Bethesda/Chevy Chase, Northwood/Einstein and Srpingbrook Clusters for permanent relief. The purpose of public education is education -- not social change.
Sex Education: State bylaw requires the teaching of sex education, including contraception. Specifically, reproduction and menstrual cycle must be taught between the ages of 10 and 12 to both sexes at the same time. Montgomery County Public Schools has chosen to teach this unit primarily in fifth grade to 10 and 11-year-olds. Because of differing rates of maturation consideration must be given to changing the bylaw so that girls and boys can be taught the same materials at different grade levels. Girls, therefore, could be taught facts about the menstrual cycle in fifth grade and boys in sixth. Other facets of sex education, including venereal diseases, are taught at the middle/intermediate/junior high school levels. A unit on contraception should properly be taught at the high school level in the ninth and 10th grades. Written parental consent should be required for all students at all levels to avoid conflicts between family values and information being disseminated.
Elizabeth B. Witzgall, 44, of 20 Walker Ave., Gaithersburg, an attorney, teaches business Law at Montgomery College. She has chaired the Local Elementary Home-School Organization, has served on the county board of the YWCA and is active in scouting, PTA and civic affairs. She has three children in county schools.
Direction: The board's legal duty is to provide "quality education and equal educational opportunity." I pledge to continue the traditional concern for quality education by stressing basic skills; strengthened instruction in English and math, textbooks for each student in each subject and smaller classes, by raising academic standards; clearachievement standards for each grade, final examinations in high school and no social promotions and by improving discipline. I oppose policies supported by previous boards such as open-space schools, social promotions and permissive classroom atmosphere. I consider "equal educational opportunity" to include geographic equity, seven-period day in all high schools, classroom equity, backing up teachers so undisciplined youngsters don't paralyze the learning process for all and individual equity, teaching children at their individual ability levels. I seek these goals with full knowledge that the economy is not providing funds for the school system as "libera-ly" as in the past.
Closings: Present guidelines for school closures use four primary screening criteria: under enrollment, underutilization, poor facility or split attendance patterns. Integration is one of seven secondary criteria which also include costs, transportation and desirable enrollment. Integration should be given considerable weight in closure decisions. But to say integration alone should determine school closings slights other needs of the school system. The current guidelines are correct in giving greater weight in determining closures to underenrollment, underutilization, poor facility or attendance patterns. We cannot afford inefficient utilization of our limited resources. The guidelines are also correct in not assigning mandatory weights to the secondary criteria. This allows needed flexibility. For example, integration should have greater weight when minority enrollment is high than when it is near the county average. The weight given integration under the present guidelines has led to a selection of school closures which improved integration.
Sex Education: Topics in sex education are taught as part of other subjects from elementary through high school. The fifth grade unit on physical maturation of the sexes comes appropriately just before most children enter puberty. It helps them learn what to expect and how to cope with those changes. In junior high school an elective "health" course expands this type of information. Instruction in learning how to manage feelings, your own and others', is appropriate at this stage. Class instruction in contraceptive techniques is not needed by the majority of junior high students and tends to legitimize early sexual relations. The few who might need such information can get it on an indivudual basis elsewhere. As a part of 10th grade biology there is presently a unit on contraceptive instruction. At this point societal needs in preventing teen-age pregnancies may require some contraceptive education. Responsibility must also be taught.