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School Board holds public hearing on budget

February 27, 2001

School Board holds public hearing on budget



By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Three people turned out to speak Tuesday night at the Washington County Board of Education's public hearing on the proposed $127.4 million budget for fiscal 2002, two of them pushing for salary increases and the third urging the board to trim the budget.

Richard E. Gehrman, principal of Springfield Middle School, who spoke on behalf of a group of administrators, said salary increases for staff should be the highest priority on the budget.

He said Washington County's school system has had a number of achievements over the last few years, including: Ranking sixth in the state on MSPAP scores; Having four schools named Blue Ribbon schools; and ranking first in the state on the middle school math portion of the MSPAPs.

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"We want to ensure our continued success in our schools," Gehrman said.

The School Board is proposing a $5.3 million increase for all staff salaries.

Stephen Hummel, chairman of the Budget Advocacy Review Committee, said the group supports the entire proposed budget, including salary increases. He asked that the community support the School Board when it submits the budget to the Washington County Commissioners.

"As an entire county, we must implore our County Commissioners to fully fund our operating budget," Hummel said. "We ask the community as a whole to rally with us."

Jesse Unger, president of the Smithsburg High School PTSA, cited dollar amounts that could be cut from the budget, including cutting literacy resource teachers, calling them a "waste of tax dollars."

She claimed the resource teachers don't work with students and said the schools need classroom teachers.

"I wish to make everyone here aware that these teachers do not work with students nor do they have a classroom," Unger said. "We did not ask for, nor do we want a literacy teacher added to our staff unless they work with students, and we all know that is not in the plan."

She said the public relations position should be set at a "reasonable salary."

The School Board, which did not address the concerns at the public hearing, did so in a budget work session afterward. None of the three who spoke at the hearing attended the work session.

The board said they supported Gerhman's statements, but called Unger's inaccurate.

They said literacy resource teachers work with students who need help reading, and provide professional development for teachers.

It also was said that while some of the items that concerned Unger were listed on the budget, most of them likely would not be funded. The board hopes to fund the top 12 priorities listed on the budget.

"We have to be optimistic that all of these things will be funded but we're probably not going to get there," Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett said.

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