Our run for school board

October 24, 2004|by Roxanne Ober and Bernadette Wagner

We, Roxanne Ober and Bernadette Wagner, are happy to serve this community as members of the Board of Education. We see ourselves not as politicians but as elected public servants dedicating many hours to improve the quality and equity of the educational system in Washington County for $4,800 per year. We would gladly forgo monetary remuneration in favor of community support and appreciation for public education.

How Do We Serve?

We do this by listening to input from a variety of diverse stakeholders with very different needs and agendas including: parents, teachers, support personnel, administrators, business leaders, citizens who no longer have or never have had children in our school system.

We listen to their views, we analyze data, we ask questions, we require documentation and then we strive to develop effective policies to ensure a well-run school system focused on student achievement.

We are proud of the accomplishments made during our first term. As board members we have had the privilege of being part of a team that has:


· Posted Washington County's highest graduation rate.

· Begun to reintroduce elementary instrumental music.

· Increased salaries for starting and mid-range teachers.

· Developed a plan to address salaries for senior teachers

· Kept health care cost increases down to 6 percent, even though the average increase is 17 percent.

· Added new Advanced Placement classes.

· Created two magnet schools to provide educational options for parents and their children.

· Decreased the dropout rate by more than 3 percent.

· Attained the highest high school attendance in the state

· Increased the CIP to $10 million to address maintenance needs and enrollment pressures.

Why Do We Serve?

To be honest, we both planned to serve only one term. In fact, we developed a brochure to generate interest in board service and to encourage and assist quality candidates. We had hoped that parents and community leaders from different disciplines such as medicine, health care management, law, social work and financial planning would consider sharing their talents and time with the citizens of this county.

Unfortunately, three days prior to the filing deadline, there were only three candidates for four vacancies, so we filed. Now we are seeking re-election for very different reasons. First, we believe that a diversity of viewpoint is extremely important in a democracy. Currently, the board has three members each with 30 years of experience in Washington County Public Schools, two current candidates are 30-year veteran teachers in Washington County, one is a substitute teacher in the system and three candidates are married to teachers.

A teacher's perspective in extremely important for they are the ones on the front lines of education. They are touching the lives of children everyday, making a difference for the youth of Washington County. The diverse needs of the citizenry deserve to be well-represented and therefore their representative should have diverse backgrounds.

Secondly, we ran because we want to protect the progress that our school system has made. Unlike many of the other candidates, we have no particular agenda to fight federally mandated requirements of No Child Left Behind, influence textbook adoption, fire the superintendent or rigidly follow Total Quality Management practices.

Rather, we want to meet the challenges contained in state and federal legislation by supporting teachers to meet HQT status, providing them mentors, offering on-site MSDE courses and giving them access to the technology needed for accountability reporting.

During our first term, the board increased salaries for beginning and mid-level teachers. If elected to a second term we want to make sure that our senior teachers, those with the most experience, receive a salary increase as well.

Who Do We Serve?

First and foremost we serve the children of Washington County. It is the board's responsibility to equitably meet the needs of all children. However, since the needs of each school differ, so do some of the programs and interventions. No one would suggest that a parent provide eyeglasses to all his/her children, if only one has poor vision. Similarly, board members must judiciously allocate limited funds where they most benefit children. As board members, we continuously evaluate programs for effectiveness and reallocate funds if necessary.

We also have a responsibility to the parents to listen to their concerns, reflect on their input and consider their suggestions. However, the board, unlike parents who have the luxury of advocating for their own children, must advocate for 20,000 students. The most difficult task of a board member is prioritizing conflicting needs. Every parent sees his concern for his child as most important. As elected officials, board members must use their best judgement based on research, community input, staff recommendation and available funding to determine the priorities.

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