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Candidates visit 41 schools, meet principals

May 02, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Two candidates for the Washington County Board of Education have visited nearly every local school, an experience they say has opened their eyes to problems facing educators.

Roxanne Ober and Bernadette Wagner clashed with school administrators last year over a decision to reshuffle the schedules of teachers in the Project Challenge program for gifted and talented students.

But the two, who serve on the Paramount Elementary School PTA, emphasized they are concerned about a broad array of issues.

Ober, 40, and Wagner, 42, said they have met with the principals of 41 of the county's 44 schools.

They said principals consistently told them they do not have enough guidance counselors and that their teachers do not have enough planning time.

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Wagner said she would work to provide more of both.

"Kids are coming to school with a lot more baggage," she said.

Their other proposals include:

-- Exploring the idea of raising fees charged to outside groups that use school buildings for meetings. They said they have not been able to get a written policy governing such fees.

Ober and Wagner said money generated by facilities fees could be used to expand after-school programs and provide transportation to students who participate in extracurricular activities.

-- Making policies uniform throughout the school system.

Wagner and Ober said some schools have strict, written discipline policies while others do not. Some schools have launched innovative ideas like homework clubs that should be replicated countywide, they said.

-- Applying for more systemwide grants rather than focusing on smaller grants for individual schools.

"Schools are competing against each other for these grants," Ober said.

Wagner said the school system does not do a good job of seeking outside sources of funds and then blames the Washington County Commissioners for failing children.

"They are antagonizing their funding source. It is embarrassing to listen to our School Board members speak," she said. "Right now, they have one strategy to get more money: Beat up on the County Commissioners."

Board member Andrew Humphreys, who is seeking re-election, said the board has "bent over backwards" to keep the County Commissioners informed. He said the school system created a grant-writing position during his tenure.

"I can say that we have gone after and succeeded in securing more grants and more supplemental funding than at any time in recent memory," he said.

Wagner and Ober are running as a slate, which enables them to pool financial resources and coordinate campaign spending, although voters do not have to vote for both.

Eight candidates are running for four seats. Incumbents Humphreys, Dori Nipps and Edwin Hayes are seeking re-election. The other challengers are Russell Williams, John Cohen and Edward Forrest.

Board members elected this year will make $4,800 a year; the board president makes $4,900.

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