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For local School Board, Bailey, Fischer, Callaham

November 01, 2006

The test of whether an incumbent deserves another term is based, in large part, on what they've accomplished in the term that is ending.

By that standard, Paul Bailey and Jacqueline Fischer deserve another four years on the board. Both spent decades of their professional lives in the education system, then volunteered for the job of overseeing it for a salary - $5,600 a year - that probably doesn't even cover the added expense involved.

One of the best things a top manager can do is to hire good people, then resist the tendency to micromanage them. That's what Bailey and Fischer have done with Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan.

Test scores have increased and new programs have been created for students seeking to concentrate on special areas such as banking or engineering.

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Most important, the bickering between the School Board and the County Commissioners over funding may now - we sincerely hope - be a thing of the past.

Morgan and the incumbents have been smart enough to realize that they cannot do what some previous boards did and suggest that the commissioners are heartless if all their requests were not met. Instead, Morgan and company have offered to meet their critics, explain what it is they're doing with taxpayers' money and listen to constructive criticism.

The next board will have to do all that and more when it begins dealing with the largest school building and renovation program in 30 years.

Part of this will certainly involve the possibility of redistricting, always a hot-button issue for parents. And the drive to reorganize and upgrade some schools, such as Eastern and Bester elementary schools, which serve some of Hagerstown's most challenged students, will be no walk in the park, either.

We believe the third seat should go to Ruth Anne Callaham, the top vote-getter in the primary.

In her unsuccessful campaign for Hagers-town City Council, she showed a willingness to listen and learn that will serve her well on the board. Nor will her connections with the business community hurt when it comes time to seek partners for projects the system would not be able to undertake without such help.

In making these choices, we mean no disrespect to the others who are running. All have contributed by making it a contested election in which everyone in the race had to justify their positions.

In particular, candidate William Staley contributed by bringing up the issue of vocational education. He is correct when he says that not every student will go to college and that there should be options for them.

In any fresh look at vocational education, Staley should be part of the group that explores what other areas have done - and how Washington County can use proven ideas for its own students' advantage.

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