Candidate says achievement gap must be closed

October 27, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

Editor's note: This is the last of a series of profiles on Washington County Board of Education candidates.

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Bernadette M. Wagner said she is seeking re-election to the Washington County Board of Education because she wants to continue the progress the board has been making as a collaborative body.

Wagner, 47, of Hagerstown, said that progress includes adding seven new Advanced Placement courses, hiring an autism specialist to work with the increasing number of students with autism and increasing pay for teachers at the bottom and middle tiers of the salary scale. Wagner and other board members have pledged to increase salaries for teachers higher on the scale.

Wagner and fellow incumbent Roxanne Ober, 44, are running as a team because they have a shared vision and consider a combined campaign more economical, Wagner said.


Wagner is one of 16 people who filed for four open slots on the school board. The eight candidates who received the most votes in the March 2 primary - one of whom was Wagner - are on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.

People should vote for her because she understands legislation affecting Washington County schools, including the No Child Left Behind Act, she said. The federal legislation is designed to close the achievement gap between schools and to make sure all students are academically proficient.

The board will have to commit more money to meet the legislation's requirements, including one that all elementary schools offer all-day kindergarten, Wagner said.

"I have demonstrated the ability to work collaboratively with my colleagues," said Wagner, who was school board president last year. She also is good at delegating work and developing consensus, she said.

The most important issue facing the school system is providing adequate instructional space for all teachers and students, she said.

Wagner said the school board must continue working with the Washington County Commissioners and the Hagerstown City Council to find ways to get money to offset the impact new developments are having on the schools.

During the primary election, Ober and Wagner distributed documents and made speeches to local groups in an effort to increase the number of people running for four school board seats. The field grew from three candidates to 16, she said.

She said she first ran in 2000 because she wanted to be someone solving the problems rather than someone just talking about issues.

Wagner spent five years as a public school speech pathologist. She also taught preschool and coached.

Wagner and her husband, Matthew, have five children, two of whom graduated from North Hagerstown High School. She has a son who is a senior at North High and twin daughters in sixth grade at Northern Middle School.

If re-elected to the Washington County Board of Education, Bernadette Wagner said she would:

· Advocate for funding to meet the capital needs of Washington County Public Schools.

· Work to recruit and retain teachers, providing them with more support staff and support the board in increasing pay for teachers who have worked in the school system for more than 15 years.

· Try to increase the number of students taking more academically rigorous classes and taking the advanced placement tests.

· Work to close achievement gaps, the differences in test results among subgroups of the student population.

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