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Berry wants students readied for real world

October 18, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Thomas Berry, a candidate for the Washington County Board of Education, said that if elected, he would try to ensure that each student able to type 30 words per minute would receive $30 upon graduation from high school.

While Berry, a former board member, described the cost to the school system of such a move as "peanuts," the promise would help guarantee that graduates are ready for the real word, whether or not they continue on to higher education, he said.

He would like the $30 promise to be made for all qualifying students, but he would need other board members' support to make it happen, he said.

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Berry said the reward system works. He made the same promise to his three grandchildren and two have collected the $30, while the third is working on it, he said.

Berry, 72, of Rohrersville, was a school board member from 1992 to 1996. He ran unsuccessfully for a second term in 1996.

Berry is one of 16 people who filed for four open slots on the School Board. The eight candidates with the most votes in the March 2 primary - one of whom was Berry - are now on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.

The former aerospace engineer said he is running for the Board of Education because "it is a job that needs to be done, and done right, for Washington County students, parents and taxpayers."

Several years ago, Berry said, the school system was on track to be in the top echelon in the state, but over the past few years, it has strayed from that path. If elected, he would work to get the system back on track, he said.

Asked why people should vote for him, he said, "They should read what I say and understand that I am serious about it and make up their mind whether they want to vote for me or not."

While no longer on the board, Berry still hears from teachers and teachers' families about their frustrations with their work in education, including the amount of paperwork they have to deal with, overcrowding in schools and school discipline policies, he said.

The school system needs to simplify the amount of reporting and paperwork teachers must do, he said.

"Teachers are paid to be teachers, not clerks," he said. "They are not policemen and they are not accountants."

He thinks the school system has too many administrators and believes some of them should be assigned to become classroom teachers, he said.

However, he said, that leads to another problem he wants to work on: Not enough classrooms in the school system.

"If we have 15 or 20 more teachers available to us, where would we put them? We need more space and we need it quick, and we need it cheap," he said.

Berry said he decided to first run for the Board of Education in 1992 because only a few people were seeking seats. He thought there should be a larger field of candidates, he said.

"I thought that was unacceptable," he said.

He thought he would be a good fit on the Board of Education because he was interested in local government and budget issues, he said.

Berry is a member of Mt. Zion Lutheran Church. He is a math tutor, and likes to jog and travel.

Berry, who is married to Jacquelin Berry, has one son and three grandchildren.

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