Growth, mentoring, among school's top issues

October 31, 2004|by Edward Forrest

Four years ago, I ran for the Washington County Board of Education based on three broad priorities - supporting student achievement, recruiting and retaining teachers and improving communication within our public school system.

I am proud of my record of service that has led to improvement in all of these areas. As a policymaker for the public schools, I have supported initiatives that increase educational opportunities for students of all learning types, enhanced pay, benefits and professional development for staff, and helped to improve stakeholder input and feedback in policy development.

I have been honored to serve the citizens of the county as a member of the board. As a passionate supporter of public education, I have worked diligently during my term to advocate for our school system at the local and state level.

Locally, in addition to serving as chair of various board committees and board president, I have served as the liaison to the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce to advocate for system needs with local business leaders. At the state level, I have served for several years on the Maryland Association of Board of Education legislative committee so local issues and views are heard in Annapolis.


Thanks to the hard work and commitment of our support staff, teachers and administrators, our school system is making progress toward meeting the requirements of No Child Left Behind. We must continue to focus on student achievement and improving opportunities for all children. As we work together to meet these challenges, new ones are on the horizon. Among them we must:

· Develop a comprehensive plan for dealing with rapid enrollment growth and hold down class size.

· Ensure that students, beginning with the class of 2009, are prepared for an understanding of the new state graduation requirements of the High School Assessment while decreasing the dropout rate and increasing graduation rate.

· Address teacher shortages in specific content areas: Math, science, special education and foreign language.

· Expand alternative education options.

· Maintain competitive salary, benefits and support for all staff.

· Enhance parent and community involvement in our schools.

· Develop a kindergarten through 12th grade systemwide mentoring program for at risk students.

· Ensure that all children are prepared to meet NCLB proficiency standards in reading and math.

Because of my deep sense of commitment to board service and our public school system, I was among the first to file for election in October 2003.

I was not looking for an easy opportunity to fill an unchallenged seat or for time to review the resumes of potential challengers. As the only working parent who serves on the board, I bring a needed element of balance and different point of view since I work outside the field of education.

My ability to understand and empathize with issues and concerns of parents, teachers and members of the community guide my decisions. I have strived to maintain public trust. Each vote that I have cast during my tenure on the board was made only after thorough and thoughtful consideration of its impact on Washington County students. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the county and look forward to continued public service.

W. Edward Forrest of Smithsburg is a member of the Washington County Board of Education.

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