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Wolf, Larkin are solid choices for schools

Most school board elections are of little interest outside the local voting venues. But this year we have a real exception. People want to know how in tarnation a candidate can avoid discussing any issues, fail to show up at any political forums or even put up a campaign sign and still be considered a contender. It's the Patricia McNasby question.

If voters will take the time to acquaint themselves with District 5 incumbent, Kathleen Wolf, they will see that she has been an excellent board member and has a distinguished record in business and public service. She is among the most visible and accessible School Board members and an expert on issues concerning pre-kindergarten children.

But she still must be concerned. McNasby thrashed a well-qualified candidate in the Democratic primary, 12,109 votes to 8,769. It didn't seem to matter to voters that she purposefully hid from their view, or that when she qualified for election she was tossing around two possibilities _ School Board or governor. They voted for her. If she gets by Wolf on Nov. 6, politicians everywhere may adopt a new strategy.

For the sake of Pasco's schools, we hope voters will re-elect Wolf. And while they're making that important decision, we recommend that they also select Democrat Jean Larkin in District 1. Though the voters can't go wrong in that race since there are two fine candidates, we believe Larkin has the edge in experience.

While McNasby's qualifications and experience are difficult to determine because she avoids discussing them, she did earn a bachelor's degree from Glassboro State College in New Jersey and taught elementary school in Middletown Township. Since leaving that job in 1985 and moving to West Pasco, she has taught in Pasco at the New Port Richey Christian school _ for one month in 1987. On her financial disclosure statement, she lists alimony as her source of income.

Kathleen Wolf taught elementary pupils in Long Island, N.Y., and Pasco County from 1964 to 1979 when she opened her own business, The Little Learning Place preschool on Ranch Road in Port Richey. She and her husband, David, a teacher at Gulf High School, have put two children through Pasco schools and have a 13-year-old daughter still attending.

It's difficult to dispute Wolf's statement of her qualifications: "My experiences as a parent, teacher and business woman give me insight and knowledge as I deal with concerns of curriculum, finance, personnel and community."

Since 1984, two years before her first election campaign, she has been a member of the Pasco Early Childhood Interagency Council, which identifies and assists handicapped preschoolers. Her special interest in very young children has led her to participate as a board member on the development kindergarten review committee and the pre-kindergarten steering committee.

She also serves on the Reading Assistant Program adult literacy task force, the pupil progression plan review committee and the Florida School Board Association.

Wolf is especially conscious of the need to improve communications among parents, administrators, School Board members, students and teachers and has made specific, realistic recommendations. For instance, she would have administrators occasionally substitute in the classroom. She emphasizes the need to provide up-to-date technological equipment for students and provide career information to them early. She proposes expanding the successful Marchman Vocational Center as money becomes available.

Wolf is a major reason that the Pasco County School Board enjoys credibility in the community and has kept pace with the county's rapid growth. We recommend her with enthusiasm.

Jean Larkin, our choice for District 1, has demonstrated a sincere desire to serve her community for 15 years. She has volunteered thousands of hours to schools in and around her hometown of Dade City and to youth recreation programs, and she enjoys a reputation among principals and teachers as a parent who is always there when needed.

After earning a bachelor's degree from Florida Southern College in 1967, Larkin taught second grade in St. Petersburg for two years. She since has assisted her husband in the family's citrus and cattle business.

Larkin focuses many of her discussions on improving the self-esteem of children and reducing the dropout rate. We are confident that she would work well with Superintendent Thomas Weightman and his staff in keeping Pasco's schools on a path that has earned the district its good reputation statewide.

Karen Marler, a teacher at Pasco Elementary School in Dade City, also would be a positive force on the School Board. Larkin's history as a selfless volunteer for the benefit of her community, however, gives her the edge and we recommend her to voters.

The contest

Pasco County School Board members represent districts but are elected countywide. They serve four-year terms at a current salary of $19,338, set by the state according to population. In the Nov. 6 election, Democrat Jean Larkin will meet Republican Karen Marler for the right to replace retiring 16-year board veteran Agnes Deal in District 1. The District 5 race matches incumbent Republican Kathleen Wolf against Democrat Patricia McNasby.