Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Father, son in the race

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For Tony and Joe Chmelik, it all started with a newspaper article reflecting on the affects of the No Child Left Behind Act and the burden it puts on teachers.

The issue was one of many education-related topics the Ijamsville father and son felt should be addressed by the Frederick County Board of Education.

Instead of discussing their thoughts with each other, the Chmeliks decided to try something new — they both registered to run for the Board of Education in the February primary election.

‘‘We decided to do something about it,” said Tony Chmelik, who owns Chesky Construction in Ijamsville.

Chmelik and his father, a retired Marine, are running against two incumbents – Donna Crook and Kathryn Groth — and eight challengers.

The competition is definitely not a problem for the Chmeliks, they said this week.

‘‘We are not worried about that at all,” Tony said. ‘‘Ideally, we’ll both get elected.”

Running for the board will be a new experience for both father and son. They both see it as a chance to get involved in the Frederick County Public Schools system and try to improve education for students.

The two have similar stances on a number of issues, including increasing the system’s fiscal discipline, placing an emphasis on parent involvement and refocusing school curriculum on core academic subjects.

Although he has not had experience within the Frederick County Public Schools system, Joe, 77, has experience as an educator from the time he headed the Marine Corps Computer Science School in Quantico, Va.

Joe served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 20 years, then worked for 17 years at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., where he was director of business activities, director of museum shops and controller of museum shops.

‘‘Both of those organizations have a reputation for excellence,” he said. ‘‘I hope to bring that spirit of excellence to the education system in Frederick County.”

A Frederick County resident of 35 years, Joe has seven grown children, three of whom graduated from Linganore High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Naval Academy, a master’s degree from American University and a master’s of business administration from the University of Chicago.

Joe, who has 35 grandchildren, is also closely involved in the education of son Tony’s 10 children, who are home-schooled. Joe Chmelik believes that increasing parental involvement, as exemplified by his son, should be one of the Board of Education’s top priorities.

Joe said the school system should place more attention on core academic subjects, such as math, literature, chemistry and geography.

‘‘... I would like to see the thrust of our efforts to be to give these students the best education that we are capable of,” Joe said.

Tony Chmelik, who has 10 children between the ages of 16 and two months, said he and his wife, Becky, decided to home-school them all because they were dissatisfied with the Frederick County Public Schools system.

One of his concerns was the county schools’ curriculum, which he said pushes students through a variety of concepts too quickly and doesn’t give them time for an in-depth understanding. One indicator for that is the high number of students who have to take remedial courses at Frederick Community College, he said.

‘‘Our superintendent should be making sure that we are producing students that are capable of going out there and are able to compete,” he said.

Tony Chmelik, 40, earned a bachelor’s degree in math from Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C. He has run his own business for 18 years and believes that he can use his experience as entrepreneur on the Board of Education.

‘‘The job of the board is not educating,” he said. ‘‘The board’s responsibility is to make sure the system is running properly. The last person I want on the board is an educator.”

Chmelik said that one of his priorities as a board candidate would be to advocate for fiscal responsibility and fiscal discipline when it comes to the school system’s growing budget.