BY NOW, public school parents in both Montgomery and Prince George's counties may have read enough campaign literature, heard enough debates or discussed their school board races with enough other parents to make their decisions on Tuesday -- but in each county they are outnumbered by voters who have no children in the schools. Whether parents or not, taxpayers have a direct stake in the operation of their public schools, not to mention eductaion of their counties' next generations.
MONTGOMERY: By and large, the tradition of nonpartisan slates competing for school board seats in Montgomery has served the county well. Unlike the confusing free-for-all, win-by-a-hair school board elections in the District of Columbia, the formation of tickets with differing proposals or policies has tended to correct any long-term veering to extremes by the board. The process also has produced impressive candidates on both sides of issues, and this year is no exception.
There are six candidates vying for three seats on the seven-member board. Incumbent Marian L. Greenblatt, who has served as board president, and Susan K. Peyser, who has taken her two daughters out of public school, are running together on a "Stand Up for Traditional Education" platform that would continue the board's policies of the last two years under what came to be known as the conservative majority." Though the "back-to-basics" slogan has considerable appeal, neither of the two tickets in this contest is advocating otherwise. Similarly, independent Michael F. Coodman describes himself as an educational conservative.
Incombent Blair G. Ewing, who is campaigning with Marilyn J. Praisner and Sandra M. King-Shaw, advocates reinstating the seven-period school day (reduced by the board to six) and doing away with countywide examinations, which Mrs. King-Shaw has described as superfluous tests "for minimum competence." Though many of the decisions made by the present board were significant in their accent on discripline and budget-cutting, the difficult but necessary decisions on school closings and curriculum improvements could benefit from a moderate shift in the majority. Voters who want such a change should vote for the Ewing, Praisner and King-Shaw slate.
PRINCE GEORGE'S: In three of six school board elections, candidates are running unopposed for reelection: board chairman Jo Ann Bell, Susan Bieniasz and Bonnie Johns. In District 1, Paul Duncan, a former bricklayer turned teacher, is running against Doris A. Eugene, vice chairman of the school board, parent of five children and a veteran of 20 years with parent-teacher organizations. Since her appointment to the board by former county executive Winfield Kelly, Mrs. Eugene has played an important role as a hard-working conciliator with a strong sense of the fiscal constraints imposed on school services by the TRIM law limiting property tax revenues to fiscal 1979 levels. She has earned another term.
In District 3, Catherine M. Burch and Malinda M. Miles have been competing vigorously to fill the seat held by Chester Whiting, who was defeated in last May's four-way race. Mrs. Miles, with endorsements from several education groups as well as experience with organizations such as the Citizens for a Stable Community, wins an edge.
In District 9, incumbent Norman H. (Chuck) Saunders, who won a seven-year term in 1973 on a wave of anti-busing sentiment, is being challenged by Mary Touchstone, who says the board has allowed busing squabbles to distract attention from the important education issues in the county. She is right, and she offers a constructive change for the school board.