Eight of nine candidates seeking to fill two vacancies on the Baltimore County school board fielded questions on inclusion, magnet schools and standardized tests at a nominating convention in Towson last night.
Most of the candidates, though with some reservation, supported inclusion -- the placement of special education students in regular classrooms -- but Shirley Giberson of Upper Falls, who has been an outspoken opponent of Superintendent Stuart Berger, was against it.
"It's a mess," she said. "There are a lot of problems we don't hear about. Everybody has been shut up."
Ms. Giberson is the founder of PRIDE -- Parents' Rights in Developing Education -- which criticized Dr. Berger and stated it wanted to oust him and several board members perceived as sympathetic to him.
At the public forum sponsored by the School Board Nominating Convention of Baltimore County, the issue of magnet schools was handled with care by the candidates. Magnet schools offer focused courses of study in such fields as environmental science, foreign languages, visual arts, sports science, computer technology and business.
"Some good has come out of it by giving children a choice," said Michael P. Kennedy of Catonsville, a retired county teacher who supervises student teachers at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. "But we have to look carefully at how the students are doing, and is it hurting other schools?"
The two school board appointments are seen by some as pivotal on the 12-member board, which includes one student with limited voting rights. The board continues to struggle with change in county schools and is considering rehiring Dr. Berger, whose contract expires in July 1996.
When the vacancies are filled, only four of the nine board members who hired Dr. Berger in 1992 will remain.
The nominating convention, a grass-roots group of 138 community organizations, will submit its choices in May to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who is expected to make the appointments this spring or summer. He is not bound to follow the recommendations.
The governor's choices will fill an at-large seat and one in the 3rd Councilmanic District, which are being vacated on June 30 by Rosalie Hellman and Alan M. Leberknight, respectively.
In addition to Ms. Giberson and Mr. Kennedy, candidates for the at-large seat are:
* Stephen A. Burch of Catonsville, a senior vice president of Comcast Cablevision, Mid-Atlantic Region, who was unable to attend last night's meeting.
* Marita J. Cush of Catonsville, production manager for McCormick & Co.
* John A. Hayden III, a partner in a Towson law firm who lives in Anneslie.
* James T. Russell IV of Phoenix, marketing director for Contact U.S.A., a company that sells copyright products.
Candidates for the 3rd District seat are:
* Sterling H. Chadwick of Lutherville, president of AT&T; Automotive Services in Towson.
* Katharine A. Cohn of Timonium, who has served on many education committees.
* Richard C. Naden of Owings Mills, an accountant.
Laura Lange of Monkton, a senior vice president at Legg Mason Wood Walker brokerage firm, has withdrawn her name.