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Board of Education race

June 12, 2000

They face a long campaign, a salary that amounts to gas money and the unrealistic expectations of many citizens who believe that there's a secret pot of money somewhere that can finance all the school system's needs.

They're the candidates for Washington County's Board of Education, and six months after they filed, some important issues have emerged. Two of the most important are:

- School funding. What seemed to be an improving arrangement between the school board and the county commissioners deteriorated this year, as the board concentrated on what it felt was its proper share of the county budget.

If the next board needs more money, it needs to detail how cash will be spent. It also needs to do a better job of seeking grants, building business partnerships and seeking donations for the school foundation set up with great fanfare in 1996.

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- Communications. On April 18, Sharon Chirgott, teachers' association head, delivered a list of questions and concerns to the board that, boiled down, suggest a lack of communication between the central administration and its front-line troops, the teachers. A follow-up meeting June 5 produced some progress, but strayed off into vague charges about intimidation by Superintendent Herman Bartlett Jr.

Some of this may be the natural tension between labor and management, or resentments caused by the major changes initiated since Bartlett arrived. Whatever it is, it does not help children and the next board's challenge is to open what now seems to be a closed (or muffled) channel of communication.

It is also important for the board and its staff to do a better job of communicating with the public. It's amazing that no one in the system writes for this newspaper on a regular basis, on topics as simple as why it's important for parents to check homework, or to have a summer reading list for their children. Students aren't the only ones who have lessons to learn, and it will pay the school system to teach them.

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