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Berkeley County Board of Education candidates speak at forum

April 18, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County Board of Education candidates addressed issues of growth, salaries and fairness in the school system at a forum hosted Wednesday by the Business Education Partnership program.

Three candidates will be elected to four-year terms on the School Board during the May primary elections.

Incumbents Todd Beckwith and Bill Sonnik both have been on the board for eight years and each is seeking a third term.

Other candidates attending Wednesday's forum were Pat Murphy, Annie Otto and Rick Pill. Robin Danfelt did not attend.

Beckwith and Sonnik said they are proud of what the board has done to deal with growth issues, such as passing bonds to build two new schools and additions to four existing schools.

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Beckwith, a banker at City National for 23 years, said the county is growing by about 300 to 400 students a year, which he said is the equivalent of one school. He said teacher retention and salaries are other issues that need to be addressed.

Sonnik, a 33-year employee with Verizon, said there are problems with mobility, what he calls a socio-economic factor, in the schools. He said schools are seeing a 33 percent to 100 percent rate of students coming and leaving the schools.

Murphy said he recognizes and respects the benefits of working together but "sometimes you need a vocal minority."

Murphy, who served in the Legislature and teaches fifth grade at Wright Denny Intermediate School in Jefferson County, wants to challenge social promotion, which allows a child who isn't making the necessary grades to graduate to the next grade.

Otto has 26 years experience with Berkeley County Schools and served a four-year term on the state executive committee.

She said she feels she has a keen understanding of how legislation works, and she wants to use her experience to work toward bringing more money into the area.

Pill, an attorney in the county for 25 years, said his experience as an attorney and private practice owner can help the board in matters of land purchases for new schools and in spending funds appropriately.

"We have to make good use of other people's money," Pill said. "We have to be careful spending taxpayers' money, but there is no better place to spend it than on the education system because you get a return on your dollar."

Board member Berniece Collis, who was first elected eight years ago, will not run for another term.

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