School board candidates address cuts

February 08, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

Editor's Note: This is the second of a four-part series in which the 15 candidates running for the Washington County Board of Education talk about education-related issues. Next Sunday: Are there programs the school system has cut which you would restore, if elected? How would you pay for them?

Asked what programs or staff they would slice from the budget if they had to make cuts, the candidates for the Washington County Board of Education gave a wide variety of answers, including eliminating assistant principal positions and substitute teachers.

But some of the 15 candidates running for four open seats did not specifically answer the question: "In a tough budget year, if the Board of Education was faced with having to make cuts, would you cut school-level staff or programs? Which staff or which programs? Be specific."

Board President W. Edward Forrest and Board Member W. Princeton Young refused to speculate on the scenario, while other candidates said they did not have enough information to give specific answers.


"I would cut vice principals," Barry C. Harbaugh said. "I do not think we can afford to cut teachers or programs." He does not know of any programs that can be "reasonably and responsibly" cut, he said.

Cutting assistant principals would increase the workload of the principals and the guidance counselors, he said. But any cuts would adversely impact other positions, said Harbaugh, 44, of Clear Spring.

"The short answer is you don't cut either (programs or staff)," George William Sonnik III said. He was a member of the Berkeley County (W.Va.) Board of Education from 1994 to 2002.

"What you do is you cut way back on substitute teachers. You still need them so you use your school-based administrators, principals, vice principals," to fill in, said Sonnik, 57, of Williamsport.

"If that does not cover it, you cancel non-instructional field trips," he said. He cited as an example a field trip to the zoo.

If the cuts still are not enough, he then would suggest cutting instructional field trips, he said.

Sharing the burden

The Rev. Blaine Feightner said he would prefer spreading the pain around instead of cutting school staff.

"My bottom line is to ask each employee to work one hour per pay period without remuneration," Feightner, 57, of Keedysville, said in a written statement. "I would ask everyone to share equally in taking a calculated cut based on the needs of the shortfall. Thus it would not hurt one activity or one department or a few employees - rather the burden would be shared across the board, from top to bottom."

Roxanne R. Ober said what she would do is delay the implementation of some programs, such as pre-kindergarten and instrumental music, in some schools.

The delay would save the school system money on staff salaries and supplies, said Ober, 44, of Hagerstown.

She also would defer purchasing new textbooks, she said.

Bernadette M. Wagner said she would choose to defer implementing Spanish programs in the elementary schools, as well as instrumental music programs.

Wagner, 46, of Hagerstown, said she also would consider slowing down the phase-in of all-day kindergarten classes.

William H. Staley said he would cut student achievement specialists.

Student achievement specialists track student progress on tests and help teachers understand where students fail and succeed, he said.

Staley, 59, of Hagerstown, said he would choose those positions to cut because they are not working directly with students on a daily basis.

Richard Bruce Grassby said he would be inclined to cut programs rather than staff.

"If the staff are good, you want to retain them. They are the lifeblood," said Grassby, 68, of Hagerstown.

But he would need to know more about what programs are offered locally before he can make a decision, he said.

"That is a tough one since I don't know the programs offered," he said.

Programs before staff

Tom Janus said, "I would always cut programs before staff, thus freeing the staff to become teaching resources for children with additional learning needs.

"Top priority would be those programs or grants whose funding is expiring - if I knew which programs, I would mention them specifically, but I am not privy to that information," said Janus, 61, of Hagerstown. "Grants can be real 'Trojan Horses' - they look great when they come in, but when the grant money expires, the 'hidden' cost must be added to the general expenses of the Washington County school system."

"I would also target any program or grant where educational outcomes are not productive. The need for instructional methods to show results or be dropped is in the best interest of children and teachers," he said.

Board President W. Edward Forrest said that while he would decide on cuts if the situation described arose, he said it is not fair to speculate on that ahead of time.

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