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Berkeley County Board of Education candidates speak at forum

April 25, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Five candidates running for seats on the Berkeley County Board of Education discussed issues of growth, teacher retention, social promotion and discipline at a forum held at the Apollo Civic Theatre on Wednesday.

Three of the six candidates will be elected during the May 14 primary.

The candidates who participated in the forum were incumbents Todd Beckwith and Bill Sonnik and Patrick Murphy, Annie Otto and Rick Pill. Robin Danfelt did not attend.

Beckwith and Sonnik, who have served eight years on the board, said they are proud of the rise in student standardized test scores, the passing of two bonds that helped build two new schools while additions were added to others, and the professionalism that is now associated with the board.

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Murphy said the board has done a good job but social promotion, which is the passing of students on to the next grade even though they have not made the necessary grades, remains an issue.

"We fail them (the students) each and every time we socially promote them," he said.

Otto said she would like to address the issues of suspension, which she believes causes some students to drop out of school.

She said an alternate program should be created that would help students who are suspended catch up with their school work.

Pill touted his experience as a lawyer and private practice owner.

He said his qualifications will help spend taxpayer money wisely and efficiently.

All five of the candidates believe that teacher retention and salary increases are the county's biggest problem, right next to growth.

When asked about a countywide policy addressing discipline and dress code, not all of the candidates agreed.

"As long as clothes aren't vulgar, they're acceptable," Otto said.

Murphy said pilot programs within each school should be implemented, and the programs should be structured around what teachers and parents want.

Others said that generally speaking, they agree with countywide policies but that exceptions would have to be made because each situation is different, especially in the area of discipline.

We have to "temper justice with mercy," Sonnik said.

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