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School board could expand

November 22, 1996

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

A proposal to expand the Washington County Board of Education from five to seven members picked up some steam Thursday, as several area legislative leaders said they support the plan.

None of the members of the county's legislative delegation to the General Assembly voiced opposition to the idea during a meeting with the school board. Only Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, said he was undecided.

School board member B. Marie Byers, who supports expanding the board, said seven members would permit a committee structure that would help the board tackle increasingly complex issues in education.

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Earlier this year, the school board voted 3-2 to support the plan. The two members who voted against the idea, Janice T. Cirincione and Thomas Berry, will leave the school board next month when their terms expire.

Berry said he cannot see how a larger board would do much for the school system other than make its meetings longer.

"I'm not sure what problem you are going to solve," he said.

But Byers said she has seen the advantages of the seven-member board in her observations of the Frederick County Board of Education.

"It works much better, it works much more efficiently, and they don't have very long meetings," she said.

The two incoming school board members, Andrew R. Humphreys and Edwin Hayes, said they support expanding the school board.

"The issues are getting more and more complex," Hayes said.

A proposed bill put together by Byers calls for seven at-large board members to take office following the next school board elections in 1998.

But Poole said he thinks the idea of having the members represent specific geographic districts of the county should at least be considered. He said that is especially important in the rural areas, away from Hagerstown, where people might feel their views were not being represented.

The delegation will vote on whether to submit a bill when the legislative session begins in January.

Poole's support is considered important because he is a member of the House Commerce and Governmental Matters Committee, which would likely review any bill to expand the school board.

Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, said a bill could face some problems because the Washington County Commissioners have not supported the plan, but he added that it probably could get legislative approval anyway.

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