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School board expansion discussed

January 23, 1997

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - The push to increase the size of the Washington County Board of Education could include a requirement that some school board members live in specific geographic districts in the county.

The idea would ensure that areas beyond Hagerstown would have fair representation on the school board, supporters of the idea said Wednesday.

"We're concerned that the rural schools in Washington County get the attention they deserve," said Sen. Don Munson, R-Washington.

Del. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, said he would like three members of an expanded seven-member board to represent areas, such as the southern and western parts of the county, that usually do not have representation on the board. Four members would be elected at large.

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"My goal is to make sure the people out in the outlying, rural areas feel they have somebody to speak for them on the Board of Education," Poole said.

But school board President B. Marie Byers said there is no need for districts because board members are sworn to represent the entire county.

"I would personally not like to have districts because we are a countywide system," she said.

Members of the county's legislative delegation informally agreed during their weekly meeting to at least study the idea in coming weeks.

What remains to be determined is where the district borders would be and whether the school board members from those areas would be elected by all county voters or by voters in the specific district.

Whatever happens, it appears the school board will be expanded from five to seven members in 1998. No member of the delegation has voiced opposition to that idea, which is supported by all five of the existing board members.

Supporters of a seven-member board have said expanding to seven members would permit a committee structure that would help the board address increasingly complex education issues.

"Educational issues are so complex you really need seven in-depth-thinking people to enter into that decision process," Byers said.

Washington County Teachers Association President Bill Greenwald said that, while the idea "has merit," he is concerned that a larger board could lead to the election of single-issue candidates.

He also called for more public input before the delegation pushes ahead with the plan.

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