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City man seeks School Board seat

September 11, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

A Hagerstown man has filed his candidacy for a seat on the Washington County School Board, saying parents should have more influence in how schools are run.

"Students are parents' children. They don't belong to the state," said John W. Cohen. "Parents know best the kinds of curriculum that needs to be taught in schools."

Four seats on the seven-member board will be open in the 2000 election. The primary is March 7; the general election is Nov. 7.

Cohen said he opposes the school system's strategic plan and a state requirement that all students perform 75 hours of volunteer work to graduate. He says the requirement, known as service learning, is unconstitutional.

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Cohen said he wants to improve communication between the School Board and parents and remove political correctness from the curriculum.

The 43-year-old maintenance mechanic is a Christian who said he wants to restore Bible reading and prayer in schools. Removing those things from the classroom is the reason students have problems with violence, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and illiteracy, he said.

"It's not just children but where the nation is headed," he said.

For example, legislation will not prevent school shootings, he said. "It's a heart thing. It's the nature of people that needs to be changed," he said.

Teachers should instill family values instead of letting students develop their own value systems, he said.

He opposes the School Board's strategic plan, he said, because its main objective is to create a compliant work force.

"It's not what it appears to be. It's not good," he said. "It's labor-driven. It has nothing to do with academic excellence."

Cohen advocates basics in the classroom. For example, many of today's students can't do math problems without a calculator, he said.

He decided to run, he said, because of the poor education his children and other people's children are receiving. "What they should have learned in second grade wasn't even taught," he said.

Cohen also said he is displeased with the current board as a whole. The members pursue their own agenda regardless of what the public wants, he said. "You can go and say what you want, but they really don't care what you say."

The board should be responsive to the community but use wisdom, he said. "They're elected to do the bidding of parents, as far as I'm concerned."

Terms of board members B. Marie Byers, Andrew Humphreys, Doris Nipps and Edwin Hayes are running out. The new members will serve four-year terms and make $4,800 each. The president will make $4,900.

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