Until Carroll County's schools move from third to first place in the state, Cheryl A. McFalls is not ready to walk away from the school board.
Elected in 1986, she is running for a second term mostly because of a movement called "school improvement."
The school system is rewriting the curriculum based on what the community feels students should know by the time they graduate. A large group of educators, business people and parents have been drafting those requirements.
"To me, school improvement is just getting started," Mrs. McFalls said. "I want to see it fulfilled. I just wasn't ready to walk away from the strides we're making. I want to see us be first in the state, and I believe we can be."
Mrs. McFalls emphasizes her heavy involvement in schools. She began as a volunteer when the older of her two children started kindergarten at Manchester Elementary School.
She advocates "the traditional standards and family values that Carroll County holds dear," she said at a recent debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Carroll County.
"I've been active in education for 14 years, whether as a parent volunteer, PTA president or school board member."
Mrs. McFalls said she believes that is the main difference between her and her challenger, C. Scott Stone.
"I do not see and have not heard from Mr. Stone that he has been involved in any way in education until he decided to file for his candidacy a half-hour before the deadline," she said.
Another difference she sees between her and her challenger is her more conservative approach to what materials are allowed in the curriculum.
"I believe I bring a parent's perspective and very conservative nature to my decisions as a school board member," Mrs. McFalls said.
She said she takes a much broader view than Mr. Stone of what materials should not be used, even if it means striking down materials approved by screening committees of staff and parents.
"I do not believe that is censorship," she said. "That is doing the job we're elected to do.
"I really do look at curriculum to see if it meets community standards and is it age-appropriate. Sometimes it would meet community standards, but just not for the age group it's recommended for."
Mrs. McFalls, 41, of Manchester, is a Baltimore native who graduated from Mergenthaler Vocational Technical School. She and her husband, William, a cable splicing technician for the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., moved to Carroll County in 1978. They have two children, Michael, 19, and Sarah, 13. She is not employed outside of her home.
Mrs. McFalls attends the New Life Foursquare Gospel Church, which rents Westminster High School for its Sunday services.
Her first try for a school board seat was a request to be appointed by Gov. Harry Hughes to complete a term after a board member died.
Although the rest of the school board and several community members nominated her, the governor appointed someone else. She ran the next year and defeated two men.
Mrs. McFalls said her main motivation at the time was to make Carroll County school employees' salaries competitive not just with those in counties such as Harford and Garrett, but also with those in surrounding counties to which Carroll's schools have been losing staff.
She said she and the board have succeeded in moving the teacher salaries from their ranking at 16th to eighth since she came on board, and moving the superintendent's salary from ninth to eighth.
"That was a concerted effort," she said.