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Curbing dropout rates important to school board candidate

January 02, 2004|by Pepper Ballard

If elected to the Washington County Board of Education, Bill Sonnik would like to keep students from dropping out of school and make sure school system employees are made to feel valued.

"Educating children is way too important a job to feel like you're not all moving in the same direction," the former Berkeley County (W.Va.) Board of Education member said.

Sonnik, 57, of Williamsport, is one of 16 people who filed for four open School Board seats. A primary election will be March 2. Eight candidates will run in the general election Nov. 2.

Sonnik, a member of the Berkeley County school board from 1994 to 2002, said he recently moved back to Washington County, where he was born and raised.

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"I really wasn't going to file, but then I read that they needed people," the Verizon health-care benefits coordinator said.

Since then, Sonnik has talked to people about their concerns regarding the county's public school system.

"It appears as though people feel that they aren't valued," he said.

Sonnik said he doesn't like to see teachers bogged down with unnecessary paperwork.

"I'd rather see teachers just be able to teach," he said.

Sonnik said he's not a fan of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, but said standardized tests that are being used to measure the system's success are a staple of education. Although he doesn't like to hear that teachers are teaching to the test, he said he can't blame them for following through with orders because they, too, will be tested on their students' performance.

He said he'd like to see if the school system could develop partnerships with local businesses that would allow employees to take time off to attend school functions without penalty, a system he said has worked well in Berkeley County.

As far as funding, Sonnik said he looks forward to working with the Washington County Commissioners and the local delegation to the Maryland General Assembly.

"I think we ought to be real diligent in lobbying in Annapolis," he said.

Sonnik said he'd like to see county students not need remedial courses when they go to college.

"The key to everything is reading," he said. "If you have a child not reading on grade level, it's a problem."

Sonnik said he's surprised the county school board does not replace its textbooks on a more regular basis. He said he thinks science and history textbooks should be renewed more often.

"They get outdated in a hurry," he said.

His people skills and his ability to listen, solve problems and build a consensus, aside from his experience working on a school board for eight years, make him qualified for a position with the Washington County school system, he said.

Sonnik, president of the Potomac Fish and Game Club in Williamsport, likes to read, fish and golf.

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