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Ober, Wagner achieved much in their two terms

December 06, 2007

Seven years ago, two Washington County women ran for the Board of Education as a team, sharing expenses and a point of view on what needed to happen to take the school system to the next level.

On Monday, Roxanne Ober and Bernadette Wagner declined to file for a third term on the School Board. Wagner told The Herald-Mail that she and her one-time running mate hoped that future members would "always put children first."

Wagner said she felt the two were committed to board service and said they did not use their posts as "a stepping stone to further our agendas or political agendas."

We hope that statement does not preclude them from considering other local races in the years to come. Based on their achievements to date, they would be good candidates for other posts that have an effect on the community's welfare.

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Frankly, they did what they said they were going to do back in 2000. In a forum that year at the Washington County Technical High School, Ober said she favored improving the pay scale to keep experienced teachers from leaving. Wagner called for a new emphasis on school security.

They delivered on both promises and after the election, they tackled a long-standing board practice that they felt was counter-productive - accusing the county commissioners of being anti-student if the school system's budget wasn't fully funded.

The new, more diplomatic approach has paid dividends, with the commissioners voting to fully fund school budgets in recent years.

During their terms, the two also worked on the issue of what is called "governance." That means deciding which duties the superintendent would handle and which would be up to the board.

In contrast to some previous boards, whose members dabbled in everything from the location of school bus stops to the criteria used in cheerleader tryouts, the boards on which Ober and Wagner served remained, for the most part, in a policy-making role.

But the most important decision Ober and Wagner had a hand in was the appointment of Dr. Elizabeth Morgan as the superintendent of schools.

Following the departure of Herman Bartlett and the delivery of an educational audit that called for a better organizational structure, Morgan was the right person for the job.

She has gained the respect of the business community and others the system needs as partners and supporters - and the elected offricials who make the key funding decisions.

Morgan has also introduced magnet programs and helped improve student achievement to the point where six county high schools were recognized for excellence by U.S. News & World Report this week.

But just as important, Morgan and the board members have begun changing the mindset of Washington County citizens, many of whom now realize that it takes more than a high-school education to succeed today.

For their part in these achievements, we salute Ober and Wagner. We hope that the conclusion of their School Board terms won't mean their complete retirement from public service.

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