PRESSING PROBLEMS affecting schools in Howard County mean whoever is elected to succeed Board of Education Chairwoman Susan Cook won't have a lot of time for learning on the job. Superintendent Michael E. Hickey has submitted a budget for the next school year that may have to be trimmed substantially. Meanwhile, the school system in one of Maryland's most popular counties keeps growing and growing. With three new schools opening next fall, it will have a student population approaching 40,000.
The difficult budget decisions that have to be made comprise one of the reasons Mrs. Cook decided not to run for re-election. In addition to spending more time with her family, she said she wanted to concentrate on solving the school system's money problems and could not do that while campaigning. But the money woes have the potential to worsen by the time Mrs. Cook leaves office. Especially if Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker fails to come up with enough local money to meet the state "maintenance of effort" standard that must be reached to receive additional state funds.
Five candidates are running for Mrs. Cook's seat. The two top vote-getters in a non-partisan primary on March 5 must face each other again in the Nov. 5 general election. All five are sincere about wanting to be involved in the improvement of county schools because they personally want children to succeed. But some of the five don't know enough about Howard schools and the best ways to solve their problems. Three candidates are knowledgeable, and two particularly stand out in that regard. Either could quickly become an effective board member.
Fran Wishnick still has children in Howard schools and has been active in their PTA groups. She has already proved herself a force to be reckoned with, as a member of the Columbia Council and a co-founder of Columbians for Howard County, which opposed last year's controversial drive to incorporate Columbia.
Jane Schuchardt can provide an important viewpoint as well. She taught in the county system for 25 years. Her insight into what works and what doesn't work in Howard schools would be valuable in cost-cutting debates.
The Sun endorses Fran Wishnick and Jane Schuchardt in the March 5 primary for the Howard County Board of Education seat.