School Board candidates tackle issues

October 14, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

BOONSBORO - Most of the candidates seeking seats on the Washington County Board of Education voiced their opinions on the role of the school board and on how facility improvements should be funded, during a forum in Boonsboro on Wednesday night.

Sixteen people filed for four open slots on the Board of Education. The eight top vote-getters in the March 2 primary election will be on the Nov. 2 general election ballot. Tom Janus, 62, of Hagerstown, who lost in the primary, is running as a registered write-in candidate.

All of the candidates on the ballot except for Teresa Spruill, who was out of town, attended Wednesday's forum, which was organized by the Boonsboro Citizens Advisory Committee and held at the school cafeteria.


About 75 people attended the forum.

Board President Edward Forrest, 41, Vice President Roxanne Ober, 44, and board member Bernadette Wagner, 47, are seeking re-election. All three live in Hagerstown.

In addition to Janus, the incumbents are being challenged by five candidates: Wayne Ridenour, 53, of Williamsport; William Staley, 60, of Hagerstown; former board member Thomas Berry, 72, of Rohrersville; Spruill, 46, of Smithsburg; and Barry C. Harbaugh, 45, of Clear Spring.

The candidates were given three questions in advance. Some also fielded other questions from audience members during the forum.

The candidates were asked what, if they were elected, the relationship would be between the board members and the superintendent and administrative staff. "Would it be one of leadership, or advisory?", they were asked.

Berry, Forrest, Janus and Staley said board members must be the leaders of the school system.

"We have the money. We have the means. We only need the leadership," Janus said.

The citizens who elect the board members are the real bosses of the school system, Staley said, "not the superintendent of schools and the people she brought in with her."

Harbaugh, Ober, Ridenour and Wagner said the board members need to serve as leader of the school system but also take advice from teachers, administrators and Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan.

Wagner said citizens should "hold her (Morgan) accountable just as you hold us accountable."

The candidates were asked how they would suggest funding facility improvements in Washington County Public Schools.

Berry, Forrest, Ober and Wagner said at least some of the money is going to have to come from the Washington County Commissioners and suggested parents remind the commissioners that they want county money to be spent on capital improvements.

Harbaugh suggested selling naming rights to school facilities, such as a lab, to pay for improvements.

Janus said the school board should select an instructional philosophy and strategy before making capital improvement decisions.

Ridenour said Washington County should use a "unique opportunity" to its advantage, namely that county voters helped elect the Republican governor. Since a majority of Washington County voters cast ballots for the Republican governor, that fact should be used to try to get more state education funds, he said.

Staley criticized cost overruns on school capital improvement projects and questioned the quality of capital improvements made at South Hagerstown High School in recent years.

Ober and Wagner spoke about the importance of getting a school impact fee put in place so developers will pay for the consequences of their developments.

The candidates also were asked about the No Child Left Behind Act, among other topics.

Two more forums set

If you missed Wednesday's forum for the Washington County Board of Education race there are two others you can attend to hear from the candidates.

-- Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. at Hagerstown Community College's satellite campus in Valley Mall. Spring Ward, who teaches at Hagerstown Community College, said she and students in her state and local government class are organizing the event.

-- Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the United Auto Workers meeting hall at 18131 Maugans Ave., Hagerstown. The forum is sponsored by the Washington County Teachers Association, the Washington County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations and the Western Maryland AFL-CIO Labor Council.

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