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Gersen's experience here

May 01, 1997

After 10 years as Washington County's Superintendent of Schools, Wayne Gersen has taken a similar post with a system in Wappinger Falls, N.Y., a system with fewer students, a bigger budget and higher pay for its top official. Nice perks, but as he said in the last commentary he wrote for The Herald-Mail, he was also frustrated by the fact that citizens here hadn't spoken out as budgets got tighter and tighter.

During his tenure here, Gersen instituted higher standards for students and began the process of bringing the Internet and related technology into the classroom. The pre-kindergarten program's enrollment was more than doubled, the elementary guidance counseling program was expanded and the Career Studies Center was converted to a comprehensive high school, mixing academic and trade skills programs.

Gersen also rode out a financial scandal that resulted in the departure of two top officials, a scandal that some of his foes used as a stick to punish him for other transgressions, real or imagined. Instead of helping him deal with the matter, which did not involve a great deal of money, they cited it as evidence that he was not on top of the job.

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It is an unfortunate fact of life in Washington County that disagreements over public policy often turn into grudges that are nursed long after they should have died a natural death. Allowing a dispute over policy to "get personal" is a mark of immaturity that this county cannot afford on the eve of a new century.

Another unfortunate fact of life in Washington County is the reluctance of many citizens to step forward when some of these silly situations are playing themselves out. Good citizens cannot be passive observers when bad things are happening or when good programs or ideas are going down in flames. For example, many people expressed concern to us about what they perceived as a lack of top-flight candidates in the last election for the Washington County school board, but few of those concerned filed for office themselves. The next superintendent cannot succeed if citizens do not speak up about what's right (and not just what's wrong) with the local school system.

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