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Officials: Honors for Washington County schools will help growth, business

December 05, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Government and community leaders say that having six Washington County high schools recognized as some of the best in the nation will impact local economic growth and business.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said it could even bring more respect for the county among lawmakers in Annapolis.

Six local high schools were included in a list of the country's best high schools published Monday by U.S. News & World Report. They are Clear Spring, Hancock Middle-Senior, North Hagerstown, South Hagerstown, Smithsburg and Williamsport.

Nearly 19,000 public high schools in 40 states were analyzed on their ability to serve all students well - not just those who are college bound, according to the publication's Web site. Only about 1,600 of those schools were included in the "America's Best High Schools" report, which was based on data from the 2005-06 school year.

"I think it's a great thing for Washington County," County Commissioners President John F. Barr said. "It substantiates that we do have a world class educational system in Washington County."

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A quality school system will entice more people to move to the community, and businesses also will consider moving their headquarters here, he said.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said the reverse also is true. If business leaders and families see that a school system is failing, they will leave the community.

"It will get a lot of attention," Board of Education Member Paul W. Bailey said about the publication's list. "I think businesses, certainly our Chamber of Commerce, has to be elated with this as far as selling our community as a good place to live and work and go to school."

Knowing that area students are succeeding also means that future employees of local businesses are being well-prepared, Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce President Brien Poffenberger said.

"To have a school system that is training our work force at a nationally and internationally recognized level is great news for the business community," he said.

Munson says the recent accolades are due to a shift in Washington County that places more emphasis on education.

The county's history as a farming and manufacturing community is changing, Munson said.

"All of those things have changed now," he said. "You have to be educated to move on."

Shank said the inclusion of local schools in U.S. News & World Report is a reflection of the high-quality teachers and staff working in the county's schools.

He said there are some high-level administrators who would like to take credit for the honor, but it is the teachers who helped students succeed.

"I think that clearly they have taken the challenge very seriously to provide that level of education and to them I give all of the credit," Shank said.

Board of Education Member Bernadette M. Wagner said good teaching and believing every child can succeed led to the high schools' success.

Teachers are putting in extra time after school hours to offer tutoring to students who need it Board President Roxanne R. Ober said. She said that this type of distinction could not have been earned without a dedicated teaching staff.

Wagner said increasing the rigor and available courses in middle schools helped prepare students to succeed in high school. More available options and choices for students is another contributing factor, she said, along with additional training and development for teachers.

"We do a better job of meeting the professional development needs of our teachers," she said.

Bailey said being included in the rankings also will help the school system attract and retain quality teachers.

Having six of the best high schools in the nation is the type of information that would be included in recruitment materials for teachers, said Donna Newcomer, assistant director of human resources for Washington County Public Schools.

"It's one of the things that when we're recruiting teachers, we try to recruit them on the reputation of the school system," she said.

Bailey said although the distinction of being included in the list is an honor, school officials, teachers and students cannot rest on their accomplishments.

"At the elementary, middle and high school level, we realize there is still work to be done, and we need to approach (things) with that in mind," he said. "There is much to be accomplished."




ยท To see the complete list of U.S. News & World Report's best high schools, go to www.usnews.com/highschools.

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