Letters to the editor - 8/25/02

August 25, 2002

Facts to remember, as school opens

Monday, Aug. 26, is the first day back at school for the nearly 20,000 students in the Washington County Public Schools. I am sure it is difficult to believe that the days of swimming, playing ball, and summer jobs have come to an end and it is time once again to hit the books, resume band practices and do homework.

Some of our students will be attending school for the first time and some may be attending a new school. Our new magnet program will be opening at Fountaindale Elementary and the staff at the school is very excited that we will be offering such an interesting and advanced program for the first time in Washington County. We hope to expand the program into other schools in the future.

South Hagerstown High's renovation is finished after several years of construction. Williamsport Elementary is in the midst of renovation to enlarge and improve the facility, but will be open and ready for business! Several other schools received new roofs, some new carpeting and others a coat of paint.


Throughout the county, we have hired approximately 75 new teachers and they are busy getting acclimated to their classrooms and schools. Actually, our new teachers have been working for more than a week in their classrooms and with supervisors and principals orienting to our curriculum.

As parents, we ask you to send your child to school every day with a positive attitude and an open mind, eager to learn. Make sure they have eaten before leaving for school or have them eat breakfast at school. Children who have eaten can concentrate better during class and are also less likely to feel ill during the day.

If you believe your child may qualify for free or reduced-price meals, please contact your school principal and he or she can help you fill out the required forms.

All 178 buses have been serviced, gone through Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration inspections and are ready to hit the streets Monday morning. Our buses travel 2.5 million miles per year and the safety of our students is a priority. Some of our buses were already busy transporting students to and from our summer programs. This summer we had more than 1,000 students involved in various programs at most of our schools.

We are looking forward to a new, exciting school year! This is the beginning of years of schooling for many and a new beginning for some. All the staff at every school is here to assist you and your child in having the most positive, successful school year yet!

Doris Nipps is a member of the Washington County Board of Education.

How you can help your child succeed

Another summer vacation has passed and school is once again in session. By now, most folks have probably become familiar with the ongoing goal of building a world class public school system for Washington County.

Reaching world-class status will require the commitment from all stakeholders in the county to provide expanded opportunities for all students, rigorous coursework, professional development, a process of continuous improvement and of course, accountability for student achievement. This letter is intended to focus on one of the most basic but crucial commitments that can be made to help sustain and improve student achievement.

Part of the vision statement adopted by the Washington County Board of Education in 1998 states that "Students arrive at school ready to learn." At face value, this may seem simplistic, but in our hectic fast-paced lives of football, soccer, Scouting, cheerleading and a virtual menu of extra-curricular activities, we must recognize what research has shown. Children who arrive at school well-rested and well-nourished have shown higher levels of academic achievement. This is probably the most basic and yet most important way parents and guardians can be involved in the success of their children.

Over the years, parent volunteers at individual schools have made tremendous contributions to WCPS. Hundreds of reading tutors, mentors, band and athletic boosters and others working in other capacities have joined the effort to boost achievement in our schools. It is also important to acknowledge the contributions and many hours of service parents have given over the last year to a variety of ad-hoc committees for the board: redistricting, study groups, management review team, alcohol and drug task force and others.

As you can see, there is a wide spectrum of opportunities for parents and guardians to become involved in WCPS. This year the Washington County Council of PTA's theme for the 2002-2003 school year is "Parent involvement increases student achievement." Parent involvement doesn't necessarily mean countless hours of work. Reading a bedtime story or making sure your child has a good breakfast are also ways to be involved in your child's educational success. The size of your time commitment is your decision.

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