Candidates for school board were asked the following questions by The Washington Post:
Philosophies: What qualifications and educational philosophies should a new schools' superintendent possess? Should the search be limited to present employes of the Montgomery County schools?
Direction: In what way, if any, should the direction of the present board be changed?
Minorities: Should integration guidelines, school closings and curriculum be changed because of the increasing number of minority (black, Hispanic and Asian) students?
Joseph R. Barse, incumbent, 51, of 4815 Cumberland Ave., Chevy Chase, is an economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He served as vice president of the school board in 1978-79 and is a former PTA officer. He has four children in Montgomery County public schools.
Philosophies: Qualifications and philosophies should be much like those of our current superintendent, Dr. Edward Andrews. A new superintendent should be strong in motivating, managing, selecting and evaluating principals of our 150 schools. Also, strong in organizing courses of study for students and following up to make sure teaching is effective. The superintendent needs to know business management and to listen well -- especially to concerns of the public. Experience in collective bargaining with employees and in dealing with local government officials is also vital. Let's try to persuade Dr. Andrews to change his mind and remain. But, if not, Barse and Wallace are best able to locate a superintendent of this type because they helped to select Dr. Andrews in the first place. Search for a new superintendent should be nationwide, including current employes of the school system.
Direction: Our school board has made excellent progress. We have stressed the basics and seen test scores start to rise again. We required homework three to five times a week; reduced class sizes by adding more teachers, slashing overhead; overcame serious lack of textbooks; required final exams instead of none, as required before; cut back on class cutting; added hall monitors to help improve discipline; appointed a new superintendent; saved $6 million annually with school consolidations; constructed our first vocational technical center, built a new junior high upcounty. The recent improvement is already so remarkable that a national news magazine article said about a Montgomery County school: "High School '82 -- You Know You Have to Work Hard" -- "A very different place these days from what it was when permissiveness held sway." Let's continue this direction.
Minorities: Integration guidelines have already been liberalized to be able to improve school integration by magnet schools and voluntary programs, rather than by cross-busing, as would have been needed if previous rigid guidelines remained. As a result, school integration has, in fact, improved, while cross-busing adopted by a previous board has been reduced. This was done with the approval of the state Board of Education on August 20, 1982. I oppose further cross-busing. In the next four years, the school board should stop closing schools. We now need stability. Looking at all the consolidations, racial balance was actually improved. Curriculum should be modified to reflect respect for minorities and their cultures and to help enrich the diversity of social studies courses. In addition, we must accelerate the teaching of English to speakers of other languages.
James E. Cronin, 41, of 2103 Linden La., 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.
Philosophies: The next superintendent must subscribe to excellence in education and high academic standards. As academic leader, the superintendent must develop programs to evaluate our employes and our schools, based on excellence in the classroom. Teacher training must be a priority commitment of the superintendent. He or she must possess effective management skills, as well as the ability to prudently manage scarce fiscal resources. The new superintendent must be comfortable in the public world, a good communicator of our objectives to the county and municipal governments and a bridge to the community. I will not comment upon present administrators and their qualifications to become superintendent. I favor a nationwide search, with extensive citizen input, for the best available talent. Should we then choose a present employe, we could feel confident in his or her selection as the best superintendent for Montgomery County.
Direction: The major change of the school board must be one of tone, not direction. We cannot compromise on fundamental academic skills and strong vocational education, nor can we allow campaign rhetoric to obscure basic issues: that a school board is to be committed to provide a climate of educational excellence for all our children. The present board has acted in extremely arrogant fashion in pursuit of its goals. Citizen input and professional advice has been ignored. Scarce educational revenues have been wasted on court litigation. Accent has been put on superficial standards and there has been very little discussion about educational quality: principal training, teacher excellence and effective learning. The board majority must change in order to restore public confidence in the integrity and open-mindedness of our elected officials. A board change also means a greater voice for the community in the education of our children and a spirit of compromise and cooperation among board members.
Minorities: I do not believe that school closings or curriculum are necessarily tied to the numbers of minority students in our schools. The minority percentage used to determine quality, integrated education should be a flexible figure, approximately 20 percent above actual minority percentage in the school system. School closings should be predicated upon quantitative and qualitative data, most of which are developed regardless of minority percentage. Some curriculum adjustments are necessary. While academic standards are to be maintained, many of our recent minority students have been immigrants and are in need of special services such as English for Speakers of Other Languages courses. Social studies courses should also be designed for these students to include background information that we take for granted with native-born students. Otherwise, I see little need to adjust our basic standards because of the growth of these minority groups.
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 attend Montgomery County schools.
Philosophies: The present superintendent, Edward Andrews, has served our county well during a time of difficult decisions involving very emotional issues. His replacement must be prepared to continue the pursuit of high academic standards that meet the needs of all students in a diverse school system such as ours.This successor should be a senior administrator with experience in dealing with communities active in their schools. The search for a superintendent should begin within Montgomery County, since our local administrators are familiar with our schools, communities, educational problems and assets. This, there would be a smooth continuity of leadership with someone from our own ranks. Most successful companies have a policy of promoting from within, if possible. Montgomery County should try to follow this proven advice. However, if qualified in-house candidates cannot be found, I would not hesitate to look outside our county for the best superintendent we can find; and when we find one, let's let that person to the job!
Direction: It is time to get away from school boards with rigid liberal or conservative voting blocs controlled by political action committees or other special-interest groups. Independent, moderate candidates offer the best opportunity for creating a no-majority school board. Only then will we have a situation where issues are discussed and community input evaluated before opinions are set and votes are taken. The Klein and O'Shea slate is committed to these goals. The board must be free of the bitterness and personal conflicts that have wasted our time and taxes long enough, so that it can finally give its undivided attention to the educational challenges that face us -- ensuring small classes that meet the diverse needs of all children; treating communities fairly and equally; freeing schools of alcohol and drugs; and, in general, upgrading academic standards, including the mandating of teacher-prepared final exams in each course, the regular assignment of homework and the development of good study habits. Of special importance is the upgrading of our programs in science, mathematics and computers, an area in which my special skills as a PhD physicist will be valuable
Minorities: The racial and ethnic makeup of our county has changed considerably in recent years. We must integrate increasing numbers of minority students with many different needs. Some have language problems, and others, as in any school population, may have learning disabilities, be average students or be educationally gifted. In addition to extra resources, such as specialists and special programs, a most effective way to deal with the situation is to reduce class size to about 15 to 20 per class. This allows teachers to give more individual attention to the students and be sure that children are not "slipping through the cracks" in the system. The resulting increased satisfaction with academic performance would lead to increased stability in these neighborhood schools. It would also mean fewer school closings in high-minority areas. These results would benefit all children! Now is the time to get away from all the "guideline rhetoric" and instead, come up with practical solutions that work. I believe mine will!
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.
Philosophies: The new superintendent should not advocate any particular educational philosophy. She or he will have to deal with situations new to most superintendents. These situations include a school population simultaneously declining (in the lower county and in majority students) and increasing (in the upper county and in minority/ethnic students), preparing our graduates for a predictably more competitive and technological society, tighter budgets, a public with decreasing involvement in the school system and veteran teachers and administrators who need and deserve new approaches in compensation, motivation and evaluation. I seek someone who hasn't made up her or his mind on every issue, someone who can grow in and stay on the job for a number of years, knows other county officials and will pay special attention to program evaluation and equitable resource allocation. We owe our appointee a close look at the system's senior management structure to see if the superintendent is properly supported. We have had two short-term superintendents. The first didn't work out; the second essentially "burned out." That must not happen again. Experience with our last two superintendents validates my preference for selecting Edward Andrews' replacement from within, if possible. The internal search should be conducted rapidly, with his help, so that if successful, the appointee can work with Andrews before he leaves on June 30, 1983. I am very concerned about some of the liberal EDPAC candidates' eagerness to begin a costly nationwide search. I do not want to see our system turned upside down again. Our children, parents, community and staff want and deserve stability for the rest of this decade.
Direction: In educational terms, the general direction of the present board is correct. It was the direction of the liberal board preceding it that needed changing. This has been largely accomplished, although those former members and their supporters are attempting to regain influence by forming the EDPAC political action committee and supporting the EDPAC slate of Cronin, Praisner, Shannon and Shoenberg. My concerns about the present board center on attitude, procedures, bloc voting and future plans. Attitude involves questions of leadership, public personality, demonstrated sensitivity to community, minority and ethnic concerns and relationships with other government officials and agencies. The board has been its own worst enemy and, thus, has probably impeded its worthwhile academic initiatives. Procedures include excessive and inflexible rules and regulations to accomplish their educational objectives. These "straitjacket" students and teachers freeze out parents and increase administrative costs. Closed executive sessions should not be scheduled in the middle of public board meetings. The board should periodically meet in each of the three school areas. The two last boards (pre-'78 liberal; post-'78 conservative) demonstrate the dangers of bloc voting by ideological majorities. Discussion, compromise and respect for others are minimized. The election of fellow moderate Barry Klein and myself would create a no-majority board. I do not see much beyond "more of the same" in the present board's vision of the future, despite the obvious impact of a rapidly changing economy and technology on students' career opportunities and college plans. As the only businessman and scientist running or on the board, I believe Barry Klein and I can provide valuable guidance in these important areas.
Minorities: Our integration guidelines regarding minority/majority enrollment ratios have recently been changed to take into account the increasing minority enrollment in the school system. The maximum permissible minority percentage before desegregation measures must be taken was raised. A lower percentage, at which desegregation planning should begin, has not been raised. I agree with both figures, as they provide a wider band within which to listen to communities and examine educational alternatives. Some day, hopefully, we will agree that at least all elementary school students can be fairly and effectively educated by our system close to their parents, homes and neighborhood. Only a school board that is trusted will make that possible. School closings are painful experiences. When they must occur, improved racial balances can be one of the positive results. I would review attendance patterns and minority enrollment at all involved schools with that objective in mind. Minority and ethnic history, culture and language courses that meet the tests of academic soundness, timeliness and student interest should be offered as electives. The curriculum's current mandatory courses are as important to minority as majority students. We shortchange anyone for whom we lower our standards and requirements; I would rather commit additional resources than do that.
Marilyn J. Praisner, 40, of 2620 Shanandale Dr., Silver Spring, an analyst with the CIA, has served on the Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital board, is on the county Drug Abuse Advisory Council and is a member of the Maryland Congress of Parents and Teachers. She is active in PTA and civic groups. Her three children have attended county schools.
Philosophies: For an era of achievement, stability and harmony, it's imperative that the new superintendent be a good match for the county in background, experience and style. He/she must be a strong educator committed to providing a positive, disciplined learning environment in which students are motivated, and teachers/staff are supported and encouraged to develop professionally. The superintendent must be keenly attuned to the needs of a diverse student population. He/she needs strong communication skills, budget and management expertise, tact and a willingness to work with an activist community.
Direction: We all want a quality educational program with firm, fair, consistent discipline policies, strong teachers, reasonable class sizes and adequate textbooks. These efforts must continue. A change in board leadership/direction is needed, however, to return to Montgomery County's traditional commitment to fair play, due process and representation for all citizens. Board rancor, rigidity and rudeness have alienated communities, hurt government support for public education and diluted efforts to deal with educational issues (including developing a strong high school program). Board members must: 1) encourage community/staff input; 2) develop positive working relationships with communities, businesses, other government officials, and 3) examine long-range financial and educational implications before making decisions. Some decisions -- amounts of homework, student groupings, test design -- are best left to educators who are then held accountable for performance. Staff needs the flexibility and resources to provide for individual student needs and meet demands of an increasingly diverse student population.
Minorities: These issues should be examined not only because of our diversity but because improvements are needed: 1) Integration guidelines: The board altered this major Montgomery County Public Schools policy without citizen input and over the superintendent's objections. 2) School closings: The master plan must include consideration of impact on community and school programs. Every effort must be made to insure fairness, neighborhood viability and long-term stability. 3) Curriculum: Our present curriculum is broad, but many programs/courses are not available equitably to students countywide. Because not all children learn the same way, at the same rate, have the same needs -- handicapped, gifted and talented, slow learner, average child -- we must encourage a variety of teaching strategies and programs. Diversity doesn't mean a lowering of standards or expectations. All students need strong reading, writing, critical thinking skills and a math/science program that prepares them for our high-technology world.
Odessa M. Shannon, 53, of 13320 Bea Kay Dr., Silver Spring, is a program planner with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Director of research for the county NAACP, she was vice chair of the county's Employment Commission and a member of the county Human Relations Commission. Her two children attended county schools.
Philosophies: The most critical decision a board of education makes is that of selecting a superintendent. The administrative and leadership needs of the system must be defined and communicated broadly. Then and only then is it appropriate to determine whether an internal or external candidate best meets the criteria. The price of making a bad selection is high. I would seek first a person committed to the educational well-being of all students, transcending all other priorities. Next, the candidate must demonstrate expertise in: managing a complex system, including personnel administration, fiscal control, employe relations; planning for the future; good board and staff community relations; and as the instructional leader, implementing the educational philosophy and direction of our community -- a commitment to a quality educational program for students with special needs, without short-changing the average student. The ideal candidate performs these functions with spirit, courage, sensitivity and dedication to professionalism.
Direction: The present board policy emphasis on basic education (although the definition should be broadened to include art and music, physical education, computer literacy and foreign languages), discipline, homework and class size has been good. However, policies are guidelines to chart a course of action. Regulations are developed by the administration to put policy into practice. The current board regards these fundamental principles as a "distinction without a difference" by acting as both policy maker and policy implementer. In addition, policies should be monitored constantly for effectiveness and staff should be properly trained to implement them. The board needs to adhere to its policies and inform the community of the basis for its decisions, especially in the sensitive area of school closings. Threats of closure and last-minute board reversals are disruptive to the community and to the goals of education, cause exodus from the school system and damage the reputation of the county. A stabilized procedure would restore trust and confidence in the system.
Minorities: The diversity of the population in the Montgomery County public schools offers a perfect opportunity to provide cross-cultural experiences for its students, staff and communities. In 1975, the board adopted a statement on "quality education/racial balance," which addressed important goals, objectives and issues within the school system. I believe that those goals, objectives and issues continue to be important today. We must continue to be concerned about providing quality educational opportunities for all of our students. Minority group disproportion in some county schools and the approaches used to address that disproportion are issues that impact quality integrated education as much in 1982 as they did in 1975. Decisions that exacerbate racial/socio-economic isolation militate against providing an equitable and quality educational experience for all students. The same sound, quality curriculum must be provided all students, regardless of the location of the school or the composition of the student body.
Robert E. Shoenberg, 47, of 1808 Briggs Rd., Wheaton, is dean for undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland at College Park. He has 24 years of experience in teaching and policy planning, and is reponsible for programs of concern to women, minorities and senior citizens. His two daughters attend county schools, and he is active in PTA.
Philosophies: A new superintendent should have successful experience as a high-level administrator in a large system comparable in scope and level of community involvement to the Montgomery County public schools. He or she should be both an educational and administrative leader and should have strong skills in budgeting, planning and human relations. The superintendent ought to set a high level of expectation for staff and students in producing quality work, but should be willing to defend teachers and administrators against demands for excessive quantity. A record of working to minimize the bureaucratic tendencies of large systems would be valuable. The search should be conducted with due regard for matters of equity, be nationwide and include consideration of current staff candidates in Montgomery County Public Schools. The person selected should not bring with him or her an agenda for change that will create disruption. The school system needs a period of calm and careful planning before undertaking major new educational initiatives.
Direction: 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 the 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 the 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.
Minorities: The percentage of minority enrollment that requires adjustment of balance should be returned to the lower level at which it stood prior to last fall. Otherwise, the balance (and curricular) guidelines for quality integrated education should stand and be observed when school closings are considered. In some cases where a high minority enrollment consists of a balanced and harmonious mixture of several different racial and ethnic groups, it may be sensible to allow a somewhat higher minority enrollment. We must be careful, however, not to exceed the "tipping point" beyond which, experience elsewhere indicates, schools tend to get less than their share of resources and services. While some areas of instruction may need more support as populations change (e.g., English for Speakers of Other Languages), there is no reason to suppose that any racial or ethnic group cannot achieve present curricular objectives. The experience of all will, however, be enriched by making children and staff aware of the traditions and achievements of the many cultures represented in Montgomery County public schools.
Carol F. Wallace, incumbent, 46, of 913 Winhall Way, Silver Spring, 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.
Philosophies: A nationwide search for superintendent should be conducted. A knowledgeable, sensitive educational leader with excellent human relations skills and an extensive background in curriculum is necessary. Montgomery County Public Schools, with a budget of over $354 million, is larger than many national and international corporations. Thus, a new superintendent must have exceptional administrative/managerial and organizational ability. An applicant from within Montgomery County Public Schools should be given priority only if he or she is equally or better qualified than any other candidate. I am a member of the board that hired Edward Andrews as superintendent of schools. The EDPAC candidates are supported by two former board members, Harriet Berstein and Roscoe Nix, who hired Charles Bernardo, and present board member Blair Ewing, who along with them voted illegally to renew Dr. Bernardo's contract. There is an old adage -- the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
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, smaller 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 school 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 finally been initiated, resulting in more efficient and economical management procedures. These are positive actions starting to yield positive results.
Minorities: No.Montgomery County public schools have been desegregated since 1954. In 1975 and 1981 the U.S. Office of Civil Rights found Montgomery County Public Schools in compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Existing Board of Education guidelines for the integration of Montgomery County public schools are realistic. Consideration must be given to demography of the county, where, because of housing patterns, there is a high concentration of minorities in the downcounty 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 Blair 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 Springbrook clusters for permanent relief. The purpose of public schools is education -- not social change.