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Council, School Board take step toward closer relations

September 09, 2002

When a family decides to look for a new home, the first thing they decide is how much they can afford to spend. And if they have children, the second thing they want to know is: How are the local schools?

If the answer is "good," then new residents and businesses will want to be there. That's the reason we're glad that the Washington County School Board and the Hagerstown City Council have agreed to meet on a quarterly basis.

The idea came from Roxanne Ober, a member of the board, who said she felt it would be a good way to update the council on projects and programs at the city's schools.

In their first meeting, school officials told the council about the $12.2 million renovation and expansion of Salem Avenue Elementary School and about the magnet program for gifted and talented students at Fountaindale Elementary School.

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Councilman Linn Hendershot expressed concern that the school system was placing too much emphasis on the gifted student, at the expense of "the average Joe." Hendershot also said that he felt it was more important that a student know how to operate a computer keyboard than to play the drums.

Hendershot's concern for the less fortunate is well-known and much appreciated. But research covered last year in The Chicago Tribune indicated that when gifted students share classes with less-accomplished students, the "average Joes" do better and the gifted students aren't hurt. There's also a ton of research to indicate that students enrolled in instrumental music classes do better academically.

What's needed in the city schools, with their higher percentages of economically disadvantaged students, is more volunteer help. When that "average Joes and Janes" that Hendershot worries about get lost, it may be because there wasn't a caring adult with the time to listen and encourage them.

To be that adult only takes a few hours a week, in the school system's mentor program. If the council could use its influence to encourage more people to volunteer, it would be a great benefit to the school system, its students and to the future of the city itself.

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