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Washington County board candidates answer questions

October 16, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HALFWAY - Randomly paired to answer more than 40 questions ranging from the nutrition of school lunches to the quality of teacher pensions, eight Washington County Board of Education hopefuls responded in one-minute increments at a Hagerstown Community College student coordinated forum Friday night at Valley Mall.

The eight top vote-getters from March's primary are vying for four open seats. The election is Nov. 2.

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

The incumbents are being challenged by former School Board member Thomas Berry, 72, of Rohrersville; Barry C. Harbaugh, 45, of Clear Spring; Wayne Ridenour, 53, of Williamsport; Teresa Spruill, 46, of Smithsburg, and William Staley, 60, of Hagerstown.

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Candidates were allowed one minute to answer questions developed by HCC State and Local Government students in addition to some questions submitted from among nearly 40 audience members attending the forum Friday night at HCC's Valley Mall Center.

Candidates did not each answer the same question as of 8:45 p.m. except for the opening question, which asked what makes each candidate "unique."

"I hope nothing makes me unique because my goal is to make the Washington County school system the most respected in Maryland," Berry said.

Forrest, who noted his board experience, said his ability to "build consensus" that makes him unique. He said he also is "able to empathize with concerned parents."

Harbaugh said that he has a background in business and education.

"My reason for getting involved is my son who currently attends the school system," he said.

Ober, who noted her board experience, said that she has a broad financial background, including 14 years of experience working with budgets. She said she also is a consensus builder, a good listener and is responsive to citizens.

Ridenour said that he taught history for 30 years at Boonsboro High School and hails from a family of educators. He said he is "trusted to listen to concerns" and is "a passionate supporter of public education."

Spruill said that she moved to Washington County in 2001. She said her unique feature is that "I didn't grow up in Washington County, so I don't know how we've always done it here." Spruill said she would like to look into alternative funding.

Staley, who noted his teaching experience at Washington County Public Schools and at Hagerstown Community College, said he's had "a lot of different occupations in my lifetime." He said he was born and educated in Washington County and has built a network through his "diverse background."

Wagner said that she made three promises when elected to the School Board and has kept them. She said that she has in-depth knowledge of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"I have the ability to advocate for the whole system, all 20,000 students," she said.

Tom Janus, 62, of Hagerstown, a write-in candidate, passed out fliers outside the mall entrance, but was not allowed inside the forum.

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