Four Howard County school board candidates offered different approaches on how they would cope with galloping enrollment and budget cuts and improve human relations, at a forum last night.
The nearly two-hour forum was sponsored by the county's PTA Council and League of Women Voters.
The candidates -- S. Melvina Brown, Delroy L. Cornick Sr., Sandra H. French and Linda L. Johnston -- are vying for two board seats vacated by Karen B. Campbell and Ruth Hutchinson.
Ms. French said she would use redistricting and portable classrooms to accommodate an expected increase in enrollment of 14,000 students by the end of the decade.
"We're going to have to bite the bullet and redistrict," she told about 40 people who attended the forum at Howard High School.
"[We need to] recognize that we can't remain emotionally attached to our schools," she said.
Ms. French, a substitute teacher in county schools and a part-time office manager, also proposed converting the School of Technology to a comprehensive magnet school, offering more academic courses to appeal to all students, to save about $25 million on new school construction costs.
Echoing Superintendent Michael E. Hickey, Ms. Johnston said she would consider year-round schools, building cheaper schools and leasing buildings to handle increasing enrollment.
"We have to look closely at the disadvantages and see if we can accept them," said Ms. Johnston, an associate professor of health education at Howard Community College. "It's going to be a tough decision."
Ms. Brown said she would lobby the state for more money for education, and perhaps raise taxes.
"If we want quality education, we have to pay for it," said Ms. Brown, a real estate sales representative for RE/MAX Columbia.
Mr. Cornick, a retired Morgan State University professor, said he would consider all factors in Howard County's growth.
"There needs to be a comprehensive look at school construction that involves residential, school and commercial building," Mr. Cornick said. "We need a long-range look at the problem."
The candidates also explained how they would improve the human relations climate in county schools.
Ms. Brown suggested training teachers in the use of a multiethnic and multicultural curriculum so that they could teach students without injecting their own prejudices and biases.
Mr. Cornick also proposed a multicultural curriculum, the encouragement of respect between teachers and students, and cooperative learning, in which students teach one another. "It helps them learn respect for one another," Mr. Cornick said.
Ms. French supported the school system's current plans to improve human relations, which include the hiring of a new human relations coordinator, Jacqueline F. Brown, and a three-year program in which all employees would participate in a series of workshops designed to eradicate racism and prejudice in county schools.
"I know we're heading in the right direction," Ms. French said.
Ms. Johnston suggested using conflict mediation in elementary, middle and high schools. "We need to look at the different cultures that are coming into the county," she said. "We need to start at home."
The candidates also shared their views on standardized testing, and school-based health clinics.
Ms. Johnston, Ms. Brown and Ms. French supported standardized tests that would allow students to earn credits.
"This is a great opportunity for students to test out of a course and go on," Ms. Brown said. "It brings more incentive to the classroom."
Mr. Cornick said he supported standardized testing statewide.
"We want to make sure that Wicomico County is meeting the same standards as Howard County," he said.
All candidates said they object to a school-based health clinic that would provide information on birth control and dispense birth control devices to teen-agers.
Ms. Brown and Mr. Cornick said the schools' family life curriculum already provides sufficient information on birth control.