"I understand the need for a benchmark," he said. But MSPAP should not restrict a teacher's flexibility or creativity, he said. It should not mean teaching to the test. "I want to make sure it doesn't come to that," he said.
Forrest is also concerned with the distribution of Project Challenge teachers. The School Board now allots the most teaching time in the program for gifted and talented students to schools with the highest enrollment.
"I want to make sure all students' needs are met county-wide," said Forrest. His philosophy on schools is driven by equity. Parents should feel comfortable that their children will receive the same services and benefits in any county school, he said.
He joins a race that so far has seven hopefuls seeking four seats. The filing deadline is today. Candidates have until 9 p.m. to file at the Election Board office, 33 W. Washington St., Room 200.
Born in Hagerstown, Forrest went to Washington County schools and graduated from Smithsburg High School in 1981. Two of his three children attend Old Forge Elementary School, where he also attended.
He and his wife, Kathy Forrest, are officers of that school's PTA. She is president and he is vice president. Their son Ben, 8, is in the third grade. Their daughter, Alison, 6, is in the first grade. Their four-year-old son, Jonathan, is in pre-school.
The Forrests became active in 1996 as co-chairs of the PTA's legislative committee. They kept the association informed about issues before the General Assembly that affected children. "It made me more interested in policies going on within our school," he said.
Forrest graduated from the University of Maryland in 1986. His family moved back to Hagerstown from Baltimore in 1993, in part because of the strength of local schools, he said.
He works at Martin's on Dual Highway and serves as assistant cub master for Cub Scout Pack #108. His wife is director of the John Wesley Day Nursery in Hagerstown and a teacher there. They enjoy gardening, but the PTA is their "main hobby," Forrest said.
As a candidate, he pledges to be fair and open-minded. "I don't go into things with my mind made up," he said.