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Members hope tract will spur some to run for school board

December 16, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Serving on the Washington County Board of Education can be challenging but school board member Bernadette M. Wagner and school board Vice President Roxanne R. Ober said it's a job that needs to be done.

That's why they've prepared and distributed more than 200 pamphlets encouraging people to get involved in the school board, they said.

The pamphlets, accompanied by a handbook, "School Board Service: A Vital Link to School Excellence and Student Achievement," were given to local service clubs, businesses and community organizations in hopes of finding qualified candidates to run in the 2004 school board election.

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So far only two people, school board President W. Edward Forrest and retired teacher Wayne David Ridenour, have filed to run for the four open seats, currently held by Forrest, Wagner, Ober and W. Princeton Young. The deadline to file for the posts at the county Board of Elections is Dec. 22.

Wagner and Ober said they are undecided about whether to seek re-election.

The scant field is a familiar scene for the two school board members, who said no primary election was held four years ago when they ran for school board seats because there were too few applicants. In the most recent election, three people ran for three school board seats.

Ober said that in 1978, 14 people filed for the school board primary and in 1998, 16 people filed. In 1999, eight people filed, one person shy of the need for a primary.

Maybe people are too busy to run for the school board, she said. The job, which she said takes up about 80 hours a month, involves formulating policies, determining curriculum and deciphering budgets. But if someone has a passion for education, it's a job that can be rewarding, she said.

The scarcity of candidates is "a great concern for me knowing that the school board sets the vision for the school system," Ober said.

Wagner said she would like the school board to include professionals with backgrounds in law or real estate. Such people might add a needed insight into not only the dynamics of the school system, but into the community at large, she said.

Through work to complete the Maryland Association of Boards of Education's Leadership Program, Wagner and Ober decided to collaborate on creating the informational pamphlet and handbook. The materials include advice from former school board members and information on the requirements of the job.

They said their mission to find more candidates ran deeper than the leadership program. They said they promised themselves that they wouldn't stop trying to find a qualified pool of candidates.

Some people have said they're dissuaded from running for the post because they lack experience in running a political campaign, Wagner said, but added that campaigning is only a piece of the pie.

"I consider myself a public servant. I don't consider myself a politician," she said.

The general election is Nov. 2. New school board members would take office the first Tuesday of December.

School board members make $4,800 a year and the school board president makes $4,900 a year.

The pamphlets and handbooks are available at the county Board of Elections at 35 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown.

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