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School board seeks parental help

November 10, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education may be adding a new weapon to its arsenal used to get capital funding from the Washington County Commissioners.

During an Evening with the Board session at North Hagerstown High School Tuesday night, a parent asked how parents and others can help the school board get the money it needs to address enrollment growth in the schools.

School Board Vice President Roxanne Ober said she had been thinking about that question and was considering development of "a parental advocacy tool kit," a set of documents that can be sent home to the families of all students.

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Ober said she probably will work with Carol Mowen, the school system spokeswoman, to develop the documents.

After the session, attended by about 50 people, Ober said the "tool kit" could include sample letters to the Washington County Commissioners and the local delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, urging them to provide more funding to the school system. Other sample letters could urge other changes that could help the school system get more money for capital funding, she said.

At a public hearing each year on the school budget, parents traditionally ask the County Commissioners to fund the schools.

Ober's suggestion followed a presentation in which William Blum, the chief operating officer for Washington County Public Schools, and Elizabeth Morgan, schools superintendent, urged parents to help them get full funding from the Washington County Commissioners for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

On Nov. 3, the school board unanimously adopted a proposal under which its capital plan would more than double, as would its request for capital funding from the County Commissioners.

For the current fiscal year, the County Commissioners gave the school board $10 million in capital funding, Blum said. That was an increase from $5 million the prior year and to get that increase, Blum said, "we felt like we had to kiss the ring."

Under the new proposal, the school board would ask the County Commissioners for $24.15 million, up from $10 million, in capital funding for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2005.

The six-year capital improvement plan, expanded to address enrollment growth, calls for building two new elementary schools and a new high school, among other projects.

Ober said it is only through activism by parents that the school board can get the capital funds it needs for the construction and renovation program.

"This whole picture revolves around funding," Ober said.

Blum made a presentation illustrating the problem caused by enrollment growth and possible ways to solve it. But there is some good news, Blum said: Washington County can follow the model of Frederick County, Md., which experienced tremendous growth in the last 20 years.

"We don't need to reinvent the wheel," Blum said.

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