To get parents involved, tell them why it's crucial

August 10, 2004

Washington County PTA president Scott Nicewarner is apparently learning an old lesson - when things seem to be going well, people don't join advocacy organizations.

But what Nicewarner and others need to remember is that it's not enough to tell people they ought to be involved. Citizens need to be sold on the need for them to pitch in.

It really shouldn't be all that hard this year. In November, voters will choose from a field of eight candidates to fill four School Board seats.

Three of those candidates - Bernadette Wagner, Roxanne Ober and Edward Forrest - are incumbents - known quantities whose future actions aren't likely to be a big surprise. A fourth, Thomas Berry, has also served on the board previously.


But that leaves four candidates - Wayne Ridenour, William Staley, Teresa Spruill and Barry Harbaugh - whose views are less widely known.

Ridenour actually was the second-highest vote-getter, so his chances of being elected are better than average. That makes it more important that citizens learn about where he stands on the issues.

The issues that voters should be concerned about include:

  • How will the county school system cope with the requirements of the federal "No Child Left Behind" law? Every group of children, including minorities and special-education students, must make progress every year, or schools will face federal sanctions. How will the system do that in a way taxpayers can afford?

  • What will happen during the next round of redistricting? In an effort to convince more parents to enroll their students in city schools with a higher percentage of low-income students, some of those schools have been given "magnet" programs. Will that be enough, or will a Frederick County-style system, which involves more frequent moves for students, be necessary?

  • How will the county increase the percentage of students who move on to a four-year college education or advanced technical training? Without more college-educated residents in the county, companies with high-tech jobs won't give this area a second look. Is what's being done now sufficient or is more needed?

It would not take an expensive public-relations campaign to raise these issues. A letter to the editor, published at no cost, would do just fine.

Given Nicewarner's concern about the lack about parent participation, it seems like a good time to write one.

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