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Baker leaving REACH to take Washington County Public Schools post

December 31, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN - As Washington County Public Schools begin a new push to supplement tax dollars with private fundraising, the school system has tapped REACH Executive Director Terri Baker to head the campaign, officials say.

Baker, who has led REACH for 10 years, will leave the faith-based nonprofit organization to become the school system's development coordinator starting Jan. 14, she said.

"I felt like I was really called to do this," Baker said. "I can inspire people to follow a mission that they believe in."

Her new position will involve procuring grants for the school system, as well as building relationships with businesses and organizations, and seeking funding for special projects, said Dale Bannon, director of system development for the school system.

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It was created to replace the grant specialist position, which has been open for more than a month after the previous grant specialist left to take a job with the Cumberland Housing Authority, Bannon said.

The System Development Office refined the position after learning the school system would receive a smaller increase in state funding for 2008-09 than expected, making the budget tighter, Bannon said.

"The development office will work to help make up for this funding shortfall through creative fundraising, partnerships and grant writing," he said.

Some of those partnerships will center around specialized programs at individual schools, such as those at the new Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, he said.

Baker said she sees her new mission as a way of building the future of the community.

"I'll be helping develop more opportunities for children here in Washington County so they can fulfill their hopes and dreams, whatever those may be," she said.

She said she also hopes to make sure local students are connected with job opportunities within the county.

"If we don't give them those opportunities, they're going to move somewhere else," she said. "It's going to take more than just tax dollars. It's going to take innovative thinking."

Bannon said he thinks Baker will bring the type of experience and ideas the system needs.

"We had a strong candidate pool, but by far Terri rose to the top," he said. "She's talented and well-respected in our community, and she has a record of building strong collaborations and a genuine interest in providing opportunities for all students in Washington County."

At REACH, Baker coordinates the efforts of hundreds of volunteers in a cold-weather homeless shelter, a crisis intervention program and an assistance program for elderly and disabled people. She also helps raise funds for a budget that comes primarily from donations and seeks foundation grants.

She said it will be difficult to leave REACH, but she thinks it's a good time to hand it off to someone with new ideas and to move on to another worthy mission.

"I see this as a next step," Baker said. "That's how I feel. Everything is a journey."

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