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Two BOE forums remain to hear candidates' views

October 15, 2004

The first of three candidate forums for those seeking seats on the Washington County Board of Education was held Wednesday night.

If you missed it, there are two more, one tonight at 7 p.m. at Hagerstown Community College's Valley Mall campus and the other on Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. the United Auto Workers hall on Maugans Avenue.

We urge citizens to attend one or the other because there are several important issues facing the local school system.

The first is the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates yearly progress by every student group, including special-education students and those from low-income families.

Conforming to NCLB is not an option; arguing that it is not fair and/or an unwarranted intrusion into local matters would be a waste of time. The candidates should have some idea on how they will meet this mandate, whether or not more federal funding is forthcoming.

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The second issue is how to increase the number of local students who obtain four-year college degrees or other advanced technical training.

An early consultant's report on the redevelopment of Fort Ritchie said that a high-tech complex there was unlikely because of a shortage of local workers with the degrees needed to do the work.

Frederick County's median income is higher than Washington County's and it's no coincidence that that county has a higher percentage of college graduates. Washington County needs a strategy to do the same.

Finally, there's the issue of school overcrowding. Because of what one school official said this week are inaccurate projections from state planners, it's likely that more portable classrooms - and more students in every classroom - will be necessary until construction catches up with the population surge.

Redistricting will be part of the solution, at least temporarily. It has never been a popular solution, but because the state won't help pay for new schools if there is room in the existing ones, it is necessary.

To be elected, candidates should be willing to say they are willing to do what's best for all students, even if it makes some of the parents unhappy.

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