Most years, it is all but impossible to find major policy divisions between candidates for the Calvert County Board of Education.
Not this election cycle. The two candidates running for the District 1 seat differ sharply on hot-button issues such as sex education, creationism, school prayer and banning books.
Jeffrey D. Borgholthaus, 47, of Lusby said the removal of God from public schools has led to a decline in civility and respect in the classroom. He said the school system should ban books such as "The Catcher in the Rye" and "Lord of the Flies" because they are obscene or profane.
"I don't allow that crap in my house. Why do I want my kids reading it in school?" said Borgholthaus, a Mormon with eight children, three of whom attend Calvert schools.
His opponent, Frank T. Parish, called the proposal "censorship." Parish said Borgholthaus was trying to impose his religious views on the school system.
"My esteemed opponent wants to be in a position to influence the textbooks that are selected so that he can bring God back into the classroom," said Parish, 75, of Dowell. The separation of church and state "should not be subverted by some deceitful method by some candidate for school board who has a private agenda."
The two candidates also disagree on sex education. Parish said the schools should teach birth control and contraception in any classes on the topic.
"Emotional and social issues involved in sex should be taught," said Parish, a retired Sarasota, Fla., public school employee who works as a tractor-trailer driver. "They should be addressed right upfront and honestly."
Borgholthaus, whose campaign platform says he would "require a modern curriculum that promotes traditional values," said he supports the school system's abstinence-only sex education program. He said the schools should teach the mechanics of reproduction but not discuss condoms or other birth control methods.
"Those are moral decisions," Borgholthaus said. "I don't think the government has any place telling people about contraceptives."
He also supports organized prayer at school ceremonies and moments of silence for prayer in the classroom, both of which are against school system policy. Parish opposes any prayer in school.
Creationism is another source of disagreement between the two candidates. Parish, who declined to share his religious beliefs, said the subject is not appropriate for discussion in public schools.
"I think that if people want their kids to learn about creationism, they should take them to church," he said. "Public schools should teach science, and creationism is not science by any stretch of the imagination."
Borgholthaus said the school system should teach evolution in a way that leaves open the possibility for creationism.
"I don't think that evolution needs to be taught as fact," he said. "They teach it as if it is a much more proven theory than it really is. I think it should be taught as a theory with other possibilities left open."
The two candidates are running to replace board President Gail M. Hoerauf-Bennett, who chose not to seek reelection. Borgholthaus, a senior cryptologic engineer at the Defense Department, is a former chairman of the school system's citizen advisory committee.
Hoerauf-Bennett said last month that she backed Borgholthaus. "I can see his leadership abilities," she said at the time. "He takes time to become knowledgeable on the issues."
But she withdrew her endorsement last week, after a reporter asked school board members for their reaction to Borgholthaus's positions on social issues. Hoerauf-Bennett declined to elaborate on her decision.
The other contested school board race is in District 3, where James L. Parent is seeking to unseat two-term incumbent Mary Garvey.
Garvey, 51, of Owings, said the school system will need increased funding from the county commissioners. In most recent budgets, the commissioners have increased local funding by about $3 million a year.
"Three million dollars of new money is no longer sufficient," said Garvey, a medical technologist at Calvert Memorial Hospital. She declined to offer an exact figure for the amount needed.
Both candidates in the District 1 race agreed that the commissioners need to devote more local money to education. Borgholthaus said the Board of Education should develop a five-year budget that calls for about $6 million in new money each year from the county. Parent said even more funding might be needed.
But Parent, 64, of Chesapeake Beach, said he is not convinced that more money is the only answer to challenges facing the school system.
"How come you don't have success in school systems like Washington that spend more and more money?" said Parent, who retired last year as the Calvert Career Center principal. "Money doesn't solve the problem. People solve the problem."
He criticized the school system's bureaucracy and said professional administrative support staff members who work at the school board's headquarters should be placed back in the classroom. Parent also said the Board of Education should have the right to impose taxes to raise more revenue for schools.