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Philosophies at odds in school races

District 1: A teacher is up against a real estate agent in a battle over what it takes to be a good School Board member. June Black believes the best person for a School Board job is someone who knows the schools from the inside. As a teacher, she said she has that experience.

Republican Merrill Osterhout, her opponent in the District 1 Citrus School Board race, said it takes more than classroom experience to make sound school decisions. He said his diverse background and knowledge of Citrus County are more important.

Black, a 28-year-old teacher and Democrat, is on leave from her job to be with her young daughter. She is teaching private violin lessons on the side.

During the campaign, Black has proposed a Saturday Scholars Program that would bring volunteers into the schools on weekends to help children who are behind in their studies.

She also advocates an expansion of the existing teen-age parent program, which provides day care for the young children of students working to earn their diplomas.

Black said she would like to see a greater effort to get needed supplies into the hands of teachers. As a teacher, she said she has seen shortages of such things as paper.

Local teachers, through the political action committee of the Citrus County Education Association, have endorsed Black.

Other portions of her platform include encouraging regular parent-teacher conferences, supporting parent participation and increasing communications between the school system and the community.

Osterhout, too, knows about the schools from the inside; his wife, Susan, is a teacher.

A Citrus County resident of 38 years, Osterhout said he knows what the county is about; has seen how big government works through his previous job with the engineering department in Pinellas County; and learned the value of listening in his current job in real estate.

"I feel my experience and my breadth of knowledge ... is much greater than hers," Osterhout said. "It takes a lot more to run a school board than being a classroom teacher."

He has spoken out against the tendency of public officials to get caught in red tape.

"I think a lot of candidates start off with good intentions, but they get rolled up in the bureaucracy," he said.

Osterhout offers the recent controversial rezoning from the Lecanto to the Crystal River schools and the recent budget hearings as examples of instances when the board didn't listen to the parents and the public.

"The bureaucracy gets to be so big that they get to feeling that they're it and they know it all," he said.

Osterhout, 41, said the board should have taken a closer look at the budget this year.

"You didn't need a crystal ball to see that we're headed into some problems," Osterhout said. "They didn't cut back a single thing."