The Charles County Board of Education is preparing to fill the vacancy created last week by Kathy Levanduski's resignation, a decision that critics from the teachers union worry will further shift the balance of power on the board.
But the board chairwoman who typically leads the majority drew mostly positive reviews from Washington-area residents who sent e-mails to board members after a profile of the panel appeared in The Washington Post last month.
Montgomery County resident Stephen M. Kitsoulis commended Chairwoman Margaret Young for sticking to her beliefs and goals.
"The problem with society today is a lack of morality and character," Kitsoulis wrote. "Helping to teach and reinforce this should be a goal of our education system."
Jaye Hungar, a Virginia parent who home-schools her children as Young and board member Collins A. Bailey have done, wrote to thank Young for "doing the right thing."
"It is shocking to me how politically incorrect it is to wish for decency and morality in the materials provided to children in public schools," Hungar wrote.
Another parent, whose child attends a Montessori school, sent an e-mail with the subject line: "Teaching children morality? Yes!"
There was also criticism.
In an e-mail titled "Why are you on the school board?" Michael Sheridan of Northern Virginia wrote: "If you want to teach your kids at home, do it. But get out of the administration of public education if you are going to try and kill it."
Another writer, Thomas Giles, took issue with Young's interest in removing from the required reading list books that she believes have immoral messages, such as Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."
Giles acknowledged that he had not read the book, but wrote, "It struck me as myopic and unconstitutional to remove any book from being read by young people whom need as much exposure to data in order to have a reservoir of knowledge to be able to draw from when entering into the world on their own."
In replying to the e-mails, Young attached a letter to expand on her background and policy positions.
On the issue of appropriate books, Young said, "I do not promote banning books, but I do advocate for responsible wholesome, age-appropriate content."
She makes clear that she has not voted for vouchers, Bible distribution or intelligent design -- issues touched on during a "brainstorming" session by the board last year -- but said she is "willing to discuss and give consideration to ideas put forth by any" of her fellow colleagues.
Although Young has home-schooled three of her four children at times, she writes that her eldest daughter attended Charles County schools for all 12 years and that the three others attended public schools for a combined 11 years.
"I do not serve on the school board to benefit my children; rather, I serve as a advocate for those parents who make the decision to send their children to public schools," she wrote.
Besides e-mails from interested area residents, Young also received two invitations. She was asked by a graduate student from the University of Maryland to participate in a panel discussion on religion and public education sponsored by Students for the Separation of Religion From State. She plans to take part in the event next month.
A producer from ABC's "World News Tonight" also asked Young to participate in an interview for the network's coverage of a lawsuit in Dover, Pa., that challenges the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution in public schools.
Young called back, but ABC did not send its cameras after she said she cleared up the "misconception that the board is somehow discussing the same things they are in Dover. We're not on the same track, but based on what they read in the newspapers and editorials and public opinions a lot of time, they assume."