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School Board president to chat at 1 p.m. Wednesday

August 28, 2007

Washington County School Board member Roxanne Ober made history in her first run for office, teaming with Bernadette Wagner to offer the voters a two-for-one deal that touted the duo's combined leadership skills and brainpower.

The boards she has served on have racked up some impressive accomplishments. They hired Elizabeth Morgan as superintendent of schools, dealt successfully with the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act and were successful in getting the school system's budget fully funded by the Washington County Commissioners.

New "academies" were set up in various schools, creating a setting for those students who wanted to specialize in everything from business and finance to the performing arts and science and technology.

But many challenges remain, including the following:

Leaders of the Maryland General Assembly are hinting at reduced funding for the state's counties and one proposal would have the counties pick up a greater share of teacher-retirement costs. The School Board might have to do more with less in 2008.

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Three new elementary schools are under construction and, with money tight, keeping the change orders and unpleasant "surprises" to a minimum is essential.

The Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, like the Mike Callas Stadium at North Hagerstown High School, will require private help to complete the construction and to equip the new school.

A foundation has been set up for that purpose, but part of the challenge of getting this school opened is demonstrating that there is major public support for it.

Ober is now president of a seven-member board that includes two former teachers, an ex-administrator, a businesswoman and her running mate, Wagner.

Ober has agreed to do an online chat on school system issues with The Herald-Mail on Wednesday from 1 to 2 p.m.

Questions can be e-mailed in during the chat or in advance by addressing them to onlinechat@herald-mail.com.

If you'd like to see how past chats have worked, go to The Herald-Mail Web site at www.herald-mail.com and click on "chat" and then "online chat."

There you will find transcripts of every chat done since 2005. Our guests have included Herald-Mail columnist Tim Rowland, best-selling author Nora Roberts, School Superintendent Morgan and all of the candidates in the last contest for Washington County State's Attorney.

We would like you to participate, but if you can't, you can access the transcript online later, or wait for it to be printed in the Sunday, Sept. 2 edition of The Herald-Mail.

If you have any suggestions for future chat guests, please direct them to Editorial Page Editor Bob Maginnis by e-mail at bobm@herald-mail.com, or by regular mail to The Herald-Mail, 100 Summit Ave., Hagerstown MD 21740.

These chats are an opportunity for citizens to pose questions they might not otherwise get a chance to ask - and to see both their questions and answers posted on the Tri-State area's busiest Web site. Please join us if you're able.

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