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Seven candidates vie for Jefferson school seats

May 08, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Like the Jefferson County Commission election, the candidates in the race for three seats on the Jefferson County Board of Education are also focusing on population growth in the county.

Incumbents Larry Togans, Pete Dougherty and Peter Morgens are seeking re-election in next Tuesday's primary election. Also running for the three seats are Lori Stilley, Kathryn Conant, Cheryl Huff and Delores Milstead.

Because the race is nonpartisan, the winners will be determined in the primary.

Only two board members living in an election district may serve on the board at the same time. The election districts are Kabletown, Charles Town, Middleway and Shepherdstown.

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Doris Cline, who is not up for re-election, holds one of the Charles Town seats and Paul Manzuk, who is not up for re-election, holds one of the Kabletown seats.

That means only one seat is available for a candidate from either the Charles Town and Kabletown districts. For example, if two candidates in Tuesday's election were the top vote-getters and were both from the Charles Town district, only the one with the most votes would win a seat. The top vote-getter from another district would win a seat on the board even if he or she had garnered less votes than the second-highest vote-getter in the Charles Town district.

Board members earn $160 per meeting for up to 50 meetings.

Primary candidates include:

n Larry Togans, the board president, is completing his seventh year on the board representing the Kabletown District.

Togans, of 225 Tuscawilla Hills, Charles Town, said he is seeking re-election because he wants to follow through on the board's request for $15 million in state funds for a second high school in the county.

The School Board is applying for the money from the Economic Development Grant Council, a newly formed state organization set up to distribute about $200 million for economic development projects in the state.

Togans, 55, said he wants to make sure that schools remain a safe place to learn. School shootings like those at Columbine High School in Colorado tend to fade from people's memory with time, but the school system must remain vigilant to make sure problems do not arise here, Togans said.

Adequate pay for teachers and a shortage of minority teachers remain challenges for the board, he said.

n Kathryn Conant, who is running for the Kabletown seat, said she is concerned about academic issues in the public school system.

As part of "career cluster" studies at Jefferson High School, students in eighth grade are encouraged to pick a subject area in which they would be interested in "majoring,", said Conant, 52, of Route 4, Harpers Ferry.

Conant said she believes eighth-graders are too young to make that decision. She noted beginning college students often can't decide on a major.

Conant said she is concerned only about 35 percent of Jefferson High School students go to college.

Everyone realizes a second high school is needed; the important issue is to make sure it's in the right location, Conant said.

Conant, who lives on Blue Ridge Mountain, said the mountain area is ignored when it comes to school facilities and some students in the area have to ride school buses for up to 45 minutes.

n Lori Stilley, who is running for the Kabletown seat, said she is worried about overcrowded conditions in schools. All the schools in the county are dealing with overcrowding, Stilley said.

A ninth-grade center being built next to the high school will free up space at the elementary level, but T.A. Lowery Elementary and Wright Denny Intermediate will still be close to capacity after the center is opened, said Stilley, of 5 Augusta Court, Charles Town.

Portable classrooms make up about 75 of the seats at Page Jackson Elementary, about 175 seats at Charles Town Junior High and 200 at Harpers Ferry Junior High, Stilley said.

"It's crazy," she said.

Stilley said she thinks the School Board has been unsuccessful in winning state funding for school construction projects because they have not developed solid and detailed plans.

Stilley has never held elected office.

n Pete Dougherty, who is seeking re-election to his Charles Town seat, said the priority for the school system is a second high school.

Dougherty, 49, of 1101 S. Samuel St., Charles Town, has been involved in the effort to apply for $15 million from the Economic Development Grant Council to help pay for a new high school.

If the county builds a second high school, all schools will be under their student capacities, said Dougherty. After a second high school is built, impact fees should be implemented in the county to pay for new school facilities needed because of population growth, said Dougherty, who has been on the board 18 years, including 12 as president.

Dougherty said future needs of the school system must be studied given the rapid growth occurring in neighboring Loudoun County, Va., into which 21,000 people moved during the last 15 months.

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