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Ousted board member says victors were 'a team'

May 16, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Pete Dougherty said he knew it was going to be difficult to hold on to his Jefferson County Board of Education seat when three candidates for the office "had become a team" in pointing out problems in the school system.

Dougherty said Lori Stilley, Delores Milstead and Cheryl Huff came together to highlight the frustrations people had about the school system and how they were going to address them.

Stilley said Wednesday that the three candidates had their own platforms and that Jefferson County residents linked the three winners before Tuesday's election.

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Stilley, Milstead and Huff were the top vote-getters in Tuesday's board of education race, effectively putting Dougherty, Board President Larry Togans and board member Peter Morgens out of office.

Although Stilley, Milstead and Huff said changes were needed in how the school system is dealing with overcrowded, outdated facilities and other issues, Dougherty said the three will soon find how challenging the job is.

One of the problems they will discover is how restrictive state and federal laws are regarding the ability to make changes, said Dougherty, a long-time board member.

"There's going to be a degree of frustration. It kind of sounds silly, but there's a game you have to play," Dougherty said.

Although Stilley and Milstead said the three new board members had their own platforms, Stilley said it was county residents that made the three into a team.

Stilley said it began when a group of citizens ran an ad encouraging people to vote for Stilley, Milstead and Huff. The three candidates were later invited as a group to forums, Stilley said.

"The community drove that concept. I know I ran my own campaign," Stilley said.

Although the three new board members shared many of the same ideas, "we were three different people with three different perspectives," Milstead said.

Milstead said she didn't meet Huff until after the campaigns started.

Stilley was the top vote-getter in the election with 2,538 votes, according to returns. Milstead followed with 2,518 votes and Huff secured the third seat with 2,028 votes.

Trailing the three were Dougherty with 1,553 votes, Togans with 1,224 votes and Morgens with 1,178 votes.

Kathryn Conant had 824 votes.

Togans said he believes overcrowding in schools was not as much of a problem as some of the candidates had described it.

Togans said he does not think the school system is close to "hitting the panic button," especially in light of the new ninth-grade center being built beside Jefferson High School. The ninth-grade center is intended to free up space at the elementary level.

Togans said it is easy for candidates to "go through the school system and pick out negative things. They're going to find the same problems we faced," Togans said Wednesday.

"Hopefully, they will do a good job," he said.

Morgens said he agreed with the other candidates' assessment that facilities in some county schools were outdated. Morgens said he was one of the first people in the county to begin calling for a proposed $39 million bond issue - which was eventually rejected by voters - for school improvements.

Morgens said he also believes there needs to be curriculum improvements, such as adding more advanced placement classes at Jefferson High School.

"There's lots to do, no question about it. I wish them luck," Morgens said.

The three new board members, which will make the board an almost entirely female board with the exception of Paul Manzuk, will take office July 1.

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