Members of the new liberal majority on the Montgomery County school board said yesterday the major change they hope to make will be in tone, rather than educational policy, when they take office Dec. 1.
"We're not talking about a change in how the schools operate," said top vote-getter Marilyn Praisner, an analyst with the Central Intelligence Agency. "We're talking about a change in how the board operates."
Praisner was one of four candidates backed by EDPAC (Education Political Action Committee) who won decisive victories Tuesday, ending the domination of the once strong six-member conservative majority on the board.
The EDPAC sweep of all four seats being contested on the seven-member board left conservatives with only two representatives.
As the bitter campaign came to a close, supporters of the conservative incumbents -- Carol F. Wallace and Joseph Barse -- tried to link the EDPAC candidates to busing and permissive educational policies.
Soon after the polls closed, it became clear that the two incumbents had fared poorly in the field of eight, and that the EDPAC slate would win easily.
Besides Praisner, the slate included James Cronin, a professor at Montgomery College; Robert Shoenberg, the dean of undergraduate students at the University of Maryland, and Odessa Shannon, a planner with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Yesterday, members of the slate reiterated that they plan to make no major educational changes.
If there are any changes, both Praisner and Cronin said in interviews, they will be minor: from uniform standardized final exams to teacher-made final exams; from mandatory homework three to five times a week at the elementary level to homework without a specified number of times a week; from a loss of credit for cutting classes to a way of making up that credit; from an eighth grade sex education course without a unit on contraception to one with a unit on it.
Indeed, even on the most controversial issue of the campaign--improved racial balances in the schools--the new board members said there was no consensus about what they might do.
They do not envision more busing for integration purposes and that if any changes in school boundaries are made they would only be made after public debate.
Cronin said yesterday that the board would look at three controversial school decisions reversed by the state board of education.
In the case of Rosemary Hills elementary school, perhaps the most controversial closing decision the board made, Cronin said he would consider removing the North Chevy Chase students that were enrolled there earlier this year if he were convinced the quality of education could be improved.
Such a move would increase dramatically the percentage of minorities enrolled.
Asked about the future role of Marian Greenblatt, the former board president and conservative spokesman who with Suzanne Peyser will be in the minority, the new members were circumspect.
"This election was a referendum on Greenblatt," said Cronin. "But now we will just have to wait and see if there is a new Marian Greenblatt who will have to use rational and argument instead of dictating."
Greenblatt, for her part, did not want to speculate yesterday on her future role, but instead noted that the "ball is obviously in the other court" and that it will "obviously be a tough period."