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Young leaves school board

November 19, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - As he leaves the Washington County Board of Education after serving as its first black member, Princeton Young expressed hope that other black Washington County residents will follow his lead.

Young, whose last meeting as a board member was Tuesday, said it was his hope that black educators in Washington County would run for seats on the school board.

"What I would hope is someone else will come forward. Maybe they will read this and will consider running," Young said.

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Washington County has a significant black population, "but they are almost never equally represented in areas of politics. Someone needs to speak up for them," he said.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich appointed Young to the school board in May 2003 to fill the seat vacated by Doris J. Nipps, who was elected to the Washington County Board of Commissioners in November 2002.

Young, 57, ran in the 2004 school board race but did not make it past the primary.

Young said he did not think his race was a major factor in the election. He said he thought he was hampered by the fact that he was not as affiliated with the school system as is, for example, Wayne Ridenour, a retired teacher who will fill Young's seat.

Young's colleagues on the school board praised him at Tuesday's meeting as well as in separate phone interviews.

"He was a great addition," school board President Edward Forrest said Tuesday. "He has really been an outspoken advocate for students who do not necessarily have an advocate of their own at home."

Young said he will increase his workload to fill up time previously spent on his school board duties.

As a therapist at the Washington County Mental Health Center, the Hagerstown native works with children and adolescents.

"I will still be trying to make a difference," he said. "That contact alone is so rewarding."

Young said he made the decision to volunteer to fill the school board vacancy in part so that there would be black representation on the school board.

It is important for the school board to get a broad view of the community and he was able to help provide that as a board member, he said.

Young pushed the school system to be more aggressive in recruiting minority teachers, which it is doing, he said.

Minority teachers in the school system have been working to encourage other minority teachers to work in the county, Young said. Their work has included putting together a pamphlet to answer common questions those interested in teaching here might have about the area, including the proximity to Baltimore and Washington D.C., he said.

Young said that as a school board member he tried to find ways to close the "achievement gap," which he described as the disparity between students from poor families and those from families with more money.

For example, a student from a poor family is less likely to have been exposed to libraries and museums, he said. Studies show such students are also less likely to have been read to as children, he said.

"If you start at a disadvantage from the first day of school it will get greater and greater as time goes on," Young said.

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