Morgan: I believe those kinds of complaints have almost disappeared because folks who have been hired to come to work willingly in Washington County have proven themselves to be committed to improving the system and providing an excellent education for students.
Several of these folks actually took a cut in pay from previous jobs and I could provide to you an analysis of comparable positions in similar-size schools systems in the state of Maryland that pay far more. As for being an "outsider," yes, that criticism appeared my first month on the job in the fall of 2001. In truth, I've lived in the "valley" for more than 20 years, consider this area home and recently bought a house in Boonsboro. I would hope that this community would measure me and my staff not by where we come from, but by our hard work and commitment to high standards for all students in Washington County.
Moderator: County government planners have stopped work on a number of subdivisions because schools in those areas don't have room for new students. How soon can local schools be expanded to deal with the need for additional space?
Morgan: The school system is experiencing unprecedented growth not seen since the 1970s. We will have some "growing pains" for a while until we can build some new schools and put additions on to existing ones. This may sound hard-nosed, but it is not our responsibility to look out for the developers; it is our responsibility to advocate for our students, some of whom have been educated in overcrowded schools for several years now.
Of course, the quality of the teaching is what really matters and I'm proud of our teaching staff. However, our students deserve adequate facilities. We are trying to deal with this issue through the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO), an ordinance that will be set by the commissioners to ensure adequacy of our school buildings to accept growth in enrollment.
Right now, we are slated to build one new school per year for at least the next seven years. It takes about 18 to 24 months to get a new school project off the ground, so any planning we are doing now will be two years out. We are currently building Maugansville and there has been extensive planning to get to this point. And as you may know, Salem Elementary is nearing completion.
Moderator: During the negotiations on the "career ladder" issue, WCTA president Claude Sasse said that one of the best things that the system could do to help teachers would be to implement a new system to discipline children who misbehave in the classroom. Are you discussing that idea with WCTA now?
Morgan: Yes, the new contract calls for a joint WCTA/School Board committee to explore various approaches to handling discipline in the schools. I suspect this will be a very productive work group. However, this is a complicated issue that cannot be solved by one teacher, one school, administration and others without a lot of parent involvement.
We know from experience that the "big stick" or "zero tolerance" approach only works part of the time. We need to be generating within our students self-controls and a motivation to do their best.
As a last thought, I will say unequivocally that while every student deserves an excellent education in the public schools, one or two students do not have the right to impede the education of 25 others in a classroom. The answer may be more alternative school settings so students who require a much smaller structured environment can thrive so that other students can thrive as well.