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Candidates say administrators block teacher meetings

May 02, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Two Washington County residents seeking seats on the Board of Education said they have encountered resistance from school administrators in their attempt to learn about the schools.

Roxanne Ober and Bernadette Wagner, who are running as a slate, said they have visited 41 of the county's 44 schools. They said they have spoken extensively with principals to educate themselves about the problems facing local schools.

They said administrators from the system's central office have rebuffed their attempts to meet with teachers in the schools.

They said principals have referred to an e-mail from the central administration barring candidates from visiting teachers during their lunch break because it is a duty-free period.

"We thought it would be an informal way to touch the teachers," Ober said.

Deputy Superintendent Theresa Flak said she sent an e-mail to schools after receiving "numerous complaints" from principals about candidates wanting to talk to teachers during their free time.

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Flak said she did not bar candidates from the faculty lounges, but left the decision to each principal. She said she told principals they should treat candidates as they would any other citizen.

"Generally, we try to keep our schools out of partisan politics," Flak said.

Flak said teachers are entitled by law to a 30-minute lunch free from school duties.

Sharon Chirgott, president of the Washington County Teachers Association, said the law is meant to ensure teachers get a lunch period.

But Chirgott said she does not think teachers would mind talking to candidates during their breaks as long as they respected the wishes those who wanted to be left alone.

"I would think that would be an appropriate thing to do," she said. "I'm kind of surprised we have such a heavy-handed approach."

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