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The most important office on next year's local ballot

December 08, 2003

How do we encourage people to run for seats on the Washington County School Board?

It's an important question because the filing date for next year's race is Dec. 22, just two weeks away, and four of the seven seats are open. And so far, only two candidates, Wayne Ridenour and incumbent Ed Forrest, have filed for office.

A third incumbent, Princeton Young, has said he will run, but Roxanne Ober and Bernadette Wagner have not said whether they'll seek another term.

For years The Herald-Mail has taken the position that uncontested elections are not a good thing - for the voters or the candidate. Those who run for office should have to say what they want to do and why the voters should choose them to do it.

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Despite the low pay- $4,800 as opposed to the $30,000 the Washington County Commissioners get - School Board members vote to spend more than 70 percent of all local tax money that's collected.

But more important, the decisions they make will determine how local children are educated. If the schools do the job well, students will go on to advanced training or college, either of which means a greater likelihood of getting a good-paying job.

So what is involved?

A publication on School Board service prepared by Ober and Wagner this fall states that the job takes at least 80 hours a month and that the board's most important task is hiring and supervising the superintendent of schools.

In addition, School Board members set goals, oversee the budget and lobby the Washington County Commissioners for operating and construction funds.

The Ober-Wagner pamphlet also talks about the need to be a part of a team and to act as a leader without attempting to micro-manage the school system.

The current board has overseen progress on things like test scores and attendance, but the job that remains is to get more citizens involved, as mentors and advocates.

That means more than asking people to help; School Board members must also give people the sense that their concerns are being addressed and that their input is valuable.

It's a big job, but it just may be the most important local elected office. If you feel you can do it, please consider running.

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