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NAACP makes needs known to candidates

August 06, 2006|by DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN - President Samuel Key said the Washington County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People does not endorse candidates, but its membership wants elected officials to know where the chapter stands on issues on issues such as education.

About one third of the approximately 60 people attending Saturday night's annual Freedom Fund Banquet at the Plaza Hotel were elected officials, candidates for office or representing candidates.

"We know that it's an election year ... We are going to hold you accountable for what you do if you want our vote," said Thomas Gibson, the chapter's first vice president.

Mayor Robert Bruchey, Hagerstown City Councilwoman Penny Nigh, Washington County Sheriff's candidates Douglas Mullendore and Dan Seiler, and Maryland House of Delegates candidate Paul Muldowney were among those in office or running for office that were in attendance. The NAACP branch also has candidates among it members, including Second Vice President Russell Williams, a member of the Washington County Board of Education and Third Vice President Hampton Wedlock, who is running for a Washington County Commissioners seat.

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There were no overt political speeches at the banquet, but with Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan as the guest speaker, Key said afterward that the chapter has changes it would like to see.

"We have very few minority teachers in the area ... This is one thing we need drastically," Key said. An active minority recruitment program is needed "not only to get them here, but to keep them here," he said.

Access to tutoring for students to close the academic performance gap is another, he said. "Not all children learn in the same way or at the same speed," he said.

"The problem with education has nothing to do with African-American kids," said Timothy D. Anderson, the Kent County, Md., NAACP president and vice chairman of Region 7 which includes Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. He wants to see programs that bring more members of the community - retirees, students and professionals - to work with younger students during school.

Morgan told the members and guests that the NAACP has been a "strong platform for public education," particularly for its efforts in desegregating schools in the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown versus the Board of Education. Of nearly equal importance, she said, is implementation of No Child Left Behind legislation in 2001.

"The vision of the plaintiffs and the litigators of the Brown decision may finally be realized after all these years" through No Child Left Behind, Morgan said.

"The fight is no longer about equality ...The fight today is about access" to challenging and rigorous courses, extracurricular activities, intervention programs and other resources to give disadvantaged students the opportunity to close the achievement gap.

She asked them to "believe that education is the ticket, the path, to upward mobility."

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