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School Board Candidates Attend Second Public Forum
Lexingon Park, MD - 3/30/2012
By Dick Myers
The six candidates for the two contested St. Mary’s County Board of Education seats in next Tuesday’s primary faced each other for the second time on Thursday at a forum sponsored by the St. Mary’s County League of Women voters. The forum at the Lexington Park Library featured the two incumbents emphasizing their experience on the board and the four challengers emphasizing their professional and community resumes with some offering opinions of needed changes.
The forum moderated by Pat Dunlap featured opening statements and written questions turned in by the audience. Each candidate was asked a question and the other candidates were not allowed to respond to that question.
At-Large incumbent Marilyn Crosby said her 28 years of educational experience in the classroom plus four years on the board gave her a front-row seat. “I understand the intricacies of education,” she said in her opening statement.
She said her goal for another term would be manageable class sizes. She said some first- and second-grade classes have 29 students. She said she knows all of the county commissioners. “I will take them to the schools and show them what it is like to teach a class of 29.” She noted that the 43-teacher reduction in the system this year is only partially being overcome with the request for 23 more teachers next year.
Crosby, in response to a question of school safety, said the system has been addressing the issue, and mentioned the recent College of Southern Maryland play on bullying seen by all 9th and 10th graders. Regarding discipline issues, she said, “If it happens it has to be addressed.” She added that more counselors were needed.
In her closing she said, “This board with its experience has created a first-rate school system.”
Challenger James Tomasic said, “I am an advocate for common sense solutions.” He said his children were his motivation for running. Tomasic works on base and has been involved in youth activities for a number of years.
In response to a question about e-readers Tomasic said he still favored textbooks and was concerned about the cost of purchasing e-readers.
Tomasic said in his closing that he was “proud of the teachers and staff in St. Mary’s County Public Schools.” He noted that no other current member has kids in the public school system (although Crosby has a grandchild).
Challenger Trisha Post, the mother and guardian of children in the system, is the current County Council of PTA’s chair. She noted her experience as a court appointed special advocate and a trained mediator.
Post, in response to a question about balancing curriculum in science and the arts, responded with strong support for the school system’s STEM program. “The county is making big strides,” she said.
Post pointed out improved communication between the county commissioners and school board recently. She said things will continue to improve “as long as we are all supporters of each other and understand that education is a big equalizer.
Post grappled answering a question about the recent incident in which a student who was being bullied defended himself and was also expelled. She said, “I think all parties are doing their best.”
Post emphasized her experience with the county council of PTA’s in her closing statement.
District 2 incumbent Cathy Allen said in her opening remarks, “I know how we do what we do and why we do it.” She said the St. Mary’s school system has been number one in the state for four years in a row and she wants to continue that progress.\
Allen was asked why the school taught to address weaknesses in test scores. She denied that was happening. She said the metrics used was what was mandated by the state and federal governments. She said the targets the system was required to meet have been consistently met in recent years.
Allen, when asked about special education, said, “We can always do better,” but felt the needs were being addressed. She also said the system also has to address the needs of gifted students. “We have supports in place,” she added.
Allen, when asked if it was possible to have music instrument training in elementary schools, said music education was already at that level and had been for quite some time.
In response to another question on graduation rates, Allen said that Great Mills H.S. was lagging but it was being addressed with the recent Apex grant aimed at helping students recover missed credits so they can graduate.
In her close, she said she brings “strong, compassionate leadership” to the board.
Challenger David Kelsey emphasized his 40-year educational experience and said he has been “studying education’ all that time. He said closing the achievement gap is his number one priority.
Regarding the rate of students attending college, Kelsey said the issue was getting those who feel alienated from the school system back in to the fold. He also said more children who are deemed candidates for it should be placed in honors programs whether they wanted to be there or not.
Kelsey noted in his closing that the lack of funding for education would lead to long-term decline in education results
Challenger Jim Davis said he would bring business experience to the school board. He said even though he was a “military man” by experience he considers himself to be a businessman first and foremost.
Davis was asked if there was sufficient funding for the schools and responded with something he heard at a recent meeting: “It doesn’t matter how much you give me it would never be enough.” He said the school system has to live within its means. He said he would try to help the system get more federal funding and also find ways to save money on operating costs.
Davis in his close said all the candidates were saying pretty much the same thing but he brought to the race business experience.
The Bay Net interviewed all of the candidates over the past few weeks. The interviews can be seen through the following links:
Marilyn Crosby – http://www.thebaynet.com/news/index.cfm/fa/viewstory/story_ID/26764
The top two vote getters in each race in the April 3 primary will face each other in the November general election.
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