Hartings aims to be parents' voice on school board

January 11, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

As the parent of a Boonsboro Elementary School student, recent discussions about redistricting and moving the school's magnet program have affected Justin Hartings and his family.

The research and discussions in which he participated during the past several months also made him take an interest in the decisions made by the Washington County Board of Education. Hartings, 36, who lives outside Keedysville, says his military experience and business background will help him make responsible and educated decisions as a member of the seven-member board.

He is hoping to fill one of four open seats on the board, and has filed to run in the 2008 election. Nine people have filed, including Hartings, and a primary election will be held Feb. 12.

He and his wife, Nicole, have two children in public schools in Washington County, and another in a private prekindergarten program. Hartings said parents need more representation on the Board of Education, especially with Board President Roxanne R. Ober and Member Bernadette M. Wagner ? who both have school-age children ? exiting the board.


"I think there's a real need for some parental representation," he said.

Hartings was a captain in the U.S. Army, and spent four years on active duty at bases in Maryland and Washington, D.C. He spent two of those years at Fort Detrick, where he did biodefense research.

He commercialized that technology and started his own business based in Frederick, Md., called Biaera Technologies. He still is a member of the individual ready reserve of the U.S. Army. He has been a member of the U.S. Army as a cadet, reservist and an active duty officer since 1989.Hartings said his business knowledge will help him scrutinize budgets and ensure that resources are being spent on successful programs for students. Those that are not successful will be fixed or eliminated, he said.

"You have to be very accountable to the taxpayers to make sure you get the most bang for your buck," Hartings said.

As a member of the board, he would advocate for a more strategic approach to redistricting. Hartings said there is an overcrowding problem in the county's schools, adding that additional magnet or specialized programs might be the answer.

He said those programs should be equitably distributed throughout the county, but said he does not recommend immediately moving any such programs.

While looking to the future, Hartings said officials also can take a cue from the past.

"Any profession today looks drastically different than it did 10 or 15 years ago," he said. "The school system should continue to look at a variety of options for kids in the school."

A variety of options, including a science magnet program or a music program, will engage students in learning, he said.

Hartings said he is a "fresh face" for the board of education, and could provide some new ideas for how to improve the school system and help students succeed.

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