Eight Arlington residents, most of them Democrats, have applied for a vacancy on the currently all-Republican county School Board.
Since the Arlington County Board, which will fill the post in May, has a Democratic majority most politicians expect that, for the first time in five years, a Democrat will named to the School Board.
Dorothy H. Stambaugh, John Tuccillo, Gail Nuckols, Thomas Ricks, Julio Zavaleta, Patricia Landi and Joan McDermott are seeking the position held by board member Michael E. Brunner, a Republican appointee whose term expires June 30.
"Political considerations should not be paramount. They should nevertheless not be ignored," explained Democrat Stambaugh, 39, echoing the sentiments of other candidates. "I would offer a different political viewpoint from that which prevails on the present board."
However, Brunner, an administrator with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is seeking reappointment to the board based on his belief that politics and education don't mix.
"Education ought to be more nonpartisan. I have tried to be nonpartisan. I represent all the people," he said last week. "The question ought to be, 'Is Brunner doing his job?' "
For most of the applicants, one of the significant issues involves employe relations. The current board's relationship with school employe groups, particularly the Arlington Education Association, which represents most of the system's 900 teachers, has been stormy during the past few years.
Earlier this year, board members angered employe groups when they agreed to continue their opposition to collective bargaining for school employes, keep proposed wage increases at 3 percent, consider limiting organizational leave for teachers, and reject requests for more overtime pay and instructional planning time.
Stambaugh, wife of Virginia state Del. Warren G. Stambaugh, advocates improving employe relations and supports collective bargaining.
"We should grant more nonmonetary concessions so that the bitter pill of low wage increases would be easier to swallow," she said.
Stambaugh, an attorney and parent of two Drew Alternative School students, said she sees the need for closing some neighborhood elementary schools, despite strong public sentiment for keeping as many open as possible.
Landi, McDermott, Nuckols and Ricks all said they would work toward improving employe relations. They said they approved of collective bargaining, but only when voluntary talks between employe and management groups fail.
Tucillo, president of the Barcroft Elementary Parent Teacher Association and an economist with the Urban Institute in the District, was out of the county last week and unavailable for comment. Zavaleta, a professor of mathematics before he came to the United States from Bolivia in 1981, could not be reached for comment.
McDermott, a Democrat who is applying for the board seat for a fifth time, is a Fairfax County public school teacher who has two children in Yorktown High School. She said she is concerned with strengthening the general curriculum in Arlington schools, and is particularly interested in establishing for average students a variety of special interest programs similar to those available to gifted and talented students, slow achievers and foreign-speaking students.
In her application to the County Board, McDermott, 47 and an Arlington resident since 1964, listed involvement in more than 27 civic boards and activities.
Landi, 55, an Arlington resident since 1949, has been a member of the Woodmont Parent Teacher Association and Cherrydale Citizens Association. The founder of a nonprofit "creative self-improvement" group, Landi claims no party affiliation and is seeking the board seat because, she said, she is "really concerned about quality education."
She supports the neighborhood schools concept and says alternative schools offer "a very poor learning situation."
Nuckols, who has no party affiliation, is president of the Yorktown PTA and has served on School Board Summer School and Fine Arts Advisory committees since coming to the county in 1963. She says she is concerned about the ongoing school consolidation process and supports school closings only if they benefit the instructional program. "It's got to make education better," Nuckols, 41, said, suggesting that financial savings and improved management should not be major criteria.
Thomas Ricks, a Georgetown University social studies professor from North Arlington, said he is concerned with expanding and updating the curriculum. The parent of two Oakridge Elementary School students, Ricks, 44, said the curriculum should include more world and global studies and give more emphasis to languages and literature. He has served on a School Board Social Studies Advisory Committee. A Democrat, he says political perspectives may be a factor in the School Board appointment process but emphasizes that the new perspective he'd bring to the board is that of an educator.
Chairman Evelyn Reid Syphax, a former county public school instructor, is the only current board member with a background in education.