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School board candidates to meet public tonight Leggett faces 4 challengers


Teachers' salaries. A parent-friendly school environment. Reading, writing and arithmetic, including balancing checkbooks. Business partnerships. Budget constraints.

Those are some of the issues the five candidates for the lone Anne Arundel County school board seat that opens July 1 believe are important.

The public will get its first chance to meet the candidates tonight when they are introduced at 7 p.m. at the Arundel Center by County Executive Robert R. Neall and members of the county School Board Nominating Convention Committee.

Vincent O. Leggett of Annapolis is finishing his first five-year term, and wants to retain his at-large seat.

Yesterday, Mr. Leggett, 39, cited his efforts to encourage more businesses to become involved in education by providing mentors, equipment or money for individual schools as a reason to retain him.

Mr. Leggett said parents want their children to have the basics -- reading, writing, arithmetic -- and equality in educational opportunities.

Despite the budget constraints facing the board, he said he wants to give employees raises. "Compensation is important for morale," he said.

Two of the candidates competed unsuccessfully last year for a school board seat: Francis A. "Paco" DeBartolomeo, a 39-year-old satellite technician for National Public Radio who has six children; and Elizabeth Greene, 41, a mother of two and publisher of a newsletter.

Mr. DeBartolomeo of Tracy's Landing describes himself as an evangelical Christian who thinks schools should get back to basics.

"People graduate from high school who can't put sentences together and can't write a letter to the editor," he said. "It's disgraceful."

He also said students should learn basic economics in school -- how to balance a checkbook and make a budget -- and they "should be taught some basic values."

"We shouldn't teach them with the idea of converting people to religion, but there are basic moral principles on which our country was founded," said Mr. DeBartolomeo.

Mrs. Greene said her experience as a PTA volunteer has helped her understand education issues. The most important ones, the Hanover resident said, are discipline and school budget priorities.

The other candidates are newcomers to school board races. Carlesa Finney, 39, is deputy chief executive officer for the family and community services division of the Anne Arundel County Community Action Agency. Michael Slotterback, 34, works as an intelligence analyst for Delex Systems Inc.

Ms. Finney, of Glen Burnie, said she is running "because I haven't seen a strong community voice on the board."

She said she would work to make the school system "more friendly to parents."

"In my opinion, it's not a warm and inviting setting for parents who may not be self-assured or who may not have the necessary knowledge about an issue, but who feel they want to get involved," said Ms. Finney.

Mr. Slotterback, an Arnold resident, said he decided to run for the board after the birth of his 7-month-old daughter.

He said he is concerned about teacher salaries and the need for larger staff in elementary schools.

"It's a lot easier to get kids into good habits when they're younger with individualized attention than to correct problems at the high school level," said Mr. Slotterback.

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