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Opponents take opposite paths in school race

In the District 5 School Board race, the incumbent is a veteran educator who wants to remain on the board to complete several projects. The challenger, also a former teacher, says she wants to get back into education _ and adds that she needs the money. The incumbent, Kathleen Wolf, taught in public school for 22 years and now operates a Port Richey preschool. She was elected to the Pasco School Board four years ago.

The challenger is Patricia McNasby, who scored a big surprise victory in the primary without campaigning or raising any campaign money. McNasby taught school in New Jersey for eight years. Since moving to Port Richey, she has been looking for a teaching job but has been turned down in Pasco and in the New Jersey township from which she came.

Without a trace of humor in her voice, McNasby last week explained why she became a School Board candidate: "My priority is to make money and, most importantly, to relax."

The two candidates do have a few things in common. Both have experience in the classroom. Both are running decidedly low-budget campaigns.

But otherwise, the Wolf vs. McNasby race is a study in contrasts.

Wolf is relatively well known in the community, having taught in Pasco since 1971. As the owner and operator of a preschool, Wolf said she stays in touch with parents and children. During her tenure on the School Board, Wolf has been a fixture at school events.

McNasby is a relative unknown. She has not taught in the local public schools and left a position at a local private school after less than a month. She has not been politically active and has not attended school functions.

Wolf is running a somewhat traditional campaign, although she has not raised much money. She has attended candidate forums, erected signs and distributed fliers. Hers is a low-key campaign, but it worked four years ago when she was elected to the School Board.

McNasby hasn't campaigned at all. Except for paying her filing fee to get into the race, she has done little to indicate that she is a candidate. Hers is a non-existent campaign, but it worked for her in the primary.

Wolf has several endorsements: from the school employees' union, the Pasco Builders' Association and the St. Petersburg Times.

McNasby has no endorsements, partly because she has not attended endorsement interviews. It is unclear where McNasby's support is coming from. In fact, in the primary she didn't even go to the polls to vote for herself.

Kathleen Wolf

During the campaign, Wolf has mentioned several times that she is in an unusual position: She is an an incumbent who hasn't had to defend her record. She had no opposition within her party, so she didn't have to campaign for the primary. In the general election, Wolf faces an opponent who hasn't said a thing about Wolf's performance over the last four years.

Still, Wolf has been campaigning on her record and looking back over her term on the School Board.

"I spent four years trying to be available," Wolf said. "I try to attend as many functions as I can." One theme repeated in the Wolf campaign is a promise to improve communication with parents.

Wolf said she thinks parents generally are pleased with the Pasco school system. Still, she said, there have been some trying times in the past four years. In the last year or so, School Board meetings have been attended regularly by some groups that have been critical of the board and administration.

"There is some dissatisfaction," Wolf said. "I think it's a small group of people, but they're very vocal."

Wolf said that at times, she, too, has been dissatisfied with programs and decisions. She said she wishes schools' recycling efforts would progress more quickly. She expressed displeasure long ago about the developmental kindergarten program, and that program recently underwent some major revisions. Wolf consistently has been on the losing end of 4-to-1 votes on the number of credits needed for graduation. She wanted the number of credits reduced to match the state requirement. She also suggested that administrators keep in touch with the classroom by working as substitute teachers, but Wolf said she still is waiting for action to be taken on that suggestion.

Still, Wolf said she thinks the School Board and administrators do a good job for students and parents. She speaks proudly of some programs, such as the Cyesis program for girls who are pregnant or have had babies. She also is proud of the School Board's efforts to keep up with growth.

Wolf says her experiences in education and in business qualify her for the job.

Patricia McNasby

McNasby, the challenger, has been the big surprise of the political season. She scored a big victory in the primary _ taking 12,109 votes or 58 percent of the vote _ although she didn't campaign and didn't state her views on issues. The day after the primary, political observers were left scratching their heads, trying to explain how an unknown could win an election without campaigning.

Since the primary, McNasby has granted a few brief interviews but has done little to explain her views.

For instance, when asked what she would do about the dropout rate, McNasby said: "We should do something, but at this point in the day, I don't want to say anymore." When asked how she, as a teacher, motivated students who needed help, McNasby said: "I could certainly give you a perfect answer to that, but not today." And when asked whether she had views on year-round schools or the dropout rate, she said: "Not at the present time. But I'll give it some triangulated thought."

In interviews last week, McNasby did say why she is running for School Board.

"I want to get to work really badly," she said. McNasby taught in New Jersey schools until 1985. Since then, she has tried to get work as a teacher. She was hired at the New Port Richey Christian school in 1987 but left after less than a month. Neither she nor the principal would say why she left, only that it was mutually beneficial.

McNasby said she would love to work in the classroom again and that serving on the School Board would be another way of staying involved in education.

She also said she wants the School Board job for the paycheck.

"I want the money," she said. "And, of course, I enjoy working."

McNasby expressed displeasure about a story published in the Times after her win in the primary. The story told of her lack of success in finding a teaching job in Florida. It also pointed out that on file with her application with the Pasco school system is a letter in which McNasby is taken to task for allegedly shouting profanities at a secretary.

When asked what she would like to see in subsequent stories, McNasby said: "Something of satisfactual thought that would highlight my wisdom. Say, "Patricia really wants to win and, if she does, will do an excellent job, in any event."'

McNasby said that if she loses her bid for the School Board, she might run for Congress.