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Fouche: Why I seek School Board seat

December 09, 2007|By BOB MAGINNIS

Meredith Fouche was the first candidate to file for the Washington County School Board this year, in his first try that office since 1992. The 56-year-old Sharpsburg area resident held off until now, he said, because personal and family obligations didn't leave him with enough time to do the job properly.

"You don't take on a job like this until you have the time," he said.

Asked why he is running, Fouche said the decision came after he began attending School Board sessions.

"I realized that, in my own opinion, that I had the intelligence, the caring, the overall complexion, if you will, to do as good a job as some of the members I observed."

One of his main concerns, after talking to a number of parents, is his feeling that because of the emphasis on academic testing, there isn't enough time for students "to pursue the creative side of their development."

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Fouche said he would alter that by adding more time for creative pursuits and exercise in the school day.

Asked if that would mean a longer school day, Fouche said he didn't feel parents want their children to spend more time in school. Something will have to be deleted from the school day to make room for creative pursuits, he said.

After being challenged by someone he identified only as "a prominent member of the community," to find a model for his enhanced recreation proposal, Fouche said he began looking.

On Nov. 22, he wrote a letter to the editor that said that Snow High High School in Snow Hill, Md., has a 90-minute, grant-funded after-school program that offers, among other things, guitar, chess, SAT preparation, an "It's Academic" team, Women on a Mission, yoga, homework central, cooking and sports study hall.

The last one takes place one-half hour before the end of school, he said.

The next board elected will face some serious challenges, Fouche said, "because of the apparent way our economy is going, we're going to have to do more with less."

There must be a strong emphasis on seeking grants, particularly from the federal government. Fouche, who was interviewed Dec. 4, said that two weeks prior to that, the grant-writer's position at Board of Education headquarters was vacant.

Asked what he would do if he were guaranteed to achieve just one thing during his term, Fouche said it would be attracting and retaining quality teachers.

Today's schools have much more high-tech equipment to help students, but Fouche said that in one respect, things haven't changed too much since the days of the one-room school house.

"It's still a group of students in a classroom with one teacher. If we build a new Eastern High School and we don't staff it well, we're lost," he said.

Another important issue, Fouche said, is encouraging parent involvement.

"I realize parents are very busy today, but I hope they could be more involved in the decisions the School Board makes," he said.

Fouche, who has served on a number of school study groups, acknowledged that "it's hard to become an advocate."

That might be because parents choose to concentrate on the PTAs or the Citizens Advisory Committees in their own schools, he said. It might also be due to poor public relations from School, Board headquarters.

Fouche he said the system needs to do more programs such as the one presented recently by Sharon Chirgott, coordinator of the school system's Academy of Finance. Chirgott gave a good overview of the Student Service Learning requirement, commonly known as community service.

Asked if he would vote to renew School Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan's contract, Fouche said he would.

"I feel that Dr. Morgan, like all of us, has her good qualities and her qualities of somewhat lesser ability," Fouche said.

On the plus side, Fouche said, "She's a motivator, she's intelligent and she cares about kids."

Conversely, Fouche said, that "where she gets in trouble sometimes from my vantage point, she sometimes discounts the individuals problems of parents."

But Fouche said, "I would vote to renew her contract, even though saying that will lose me some votes."

The recent school bus incident, in which a 5-year-old was mistakenly dropped off two miles from his home - for reasons that have yet to be fully explained - took place just prior to Fouche's filing.

"I was concerned, concerned that the Board of Education never told us what went on. We as taxpayers deserve that information," he said.

He welcomes input from voters and can be reached by e-mail at

www.fouche 2008@wmconnect.com.

If elected, Fouche will find many challenges within the school system, which sometimes fails to publicize the good things it does. Sandy Shepherd left the local system more than five years ago and since then I can't remember anyone in that office pitching me a story.

In the months ahead, I hope to interview most of the candidates for School Board, whose members are paid less than $6,000 a year to control a multi-million-dollar budget and make decisions that could affect students - and the community - for generations to come. Please read what I and others write, so that you can make a decision based on something other than name recognition.

Bob Maginnis is

editorial page editor of

The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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