Washington County BOE candidates tackle redistricting question

January 14, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

Each of the nine candidates vying for four open seats on the Washington County Board of Education was asked the following question:

The Washington County Board of Education recently voted on redistricting changes that affect more than 15 schools. Redistricting was undertaken to fill a new elementary school being built south of Hagerstown and two larger replacement elementary schools for Maugansville and Pangborn. Would you have done anything differently, and why?

Name: Donna Brightman
Age: 56
Hometown: Southern Washington County

Prior political experience: Brightman was appointed to the Board of Education in May 2007 to fill a vacancy. She ran unsuccessfully in the 2006 general election for a Washington County Commissioner post.

Brightman said she has a unique perspective on redistricting, having served on the committee that proposed the changes to the board and as a voting member of the board that adopted those changes.


She served on the facilities and enrollment advisory committee before being appointed to the Board of Education.

Brightman said programming for the new Rockland Woods Elementary, like a possible magnet or signature program, should have been part of initial discussions about redistricting.

"Parents look at those things" when considering a school for their children, she said.

Name: Jacqueline B. Fischer
Age: 62
Hometown: Clear Spring

Prior political experience: Fischer served on the Washington County Board of Education from 2002-06. She lost her bid for re-election in the 2006 general election.

Fischer said she does not consider redistricting as just a way of filling Rockland Woods Elementary. She said redistricting was a way to bring as many schools as possible to state-rated capacity or local-rated capacity.

Fischer, who served as a member of the facilities and enrollment advisory committee that has studied redistricting for about one year, said the Board of Education and Washington County Public Schools staff worked hard and came up with a good outcome.

"It was not an ideal situation because of where the school was placed," Fischer said.

She said the changes that have been approved by the board will help about 15 of the county's schools.

Name: W. Edward Forrest
Age: 44
Hometown: Hagerstown

Prior political experience: Forrest served on the Board of Education from 2000-07. He ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Washington County Commissioners in 2006.

Forrest says he's disappointed that the redistricting process has not yet been completed.

The plan adopted by the Board of Education will leave about 200 empty seats at Rockland Woods Elementary School when it opens in September. The board is, however, continuing to study additional options.

"Hopefully the (board) will move forward on that," Forrest said.

With those seats still unfilled, he said it will be difficult for the board to receive state, and even county, funding to build new schools.

"I do have to say that the fact that the process is not complete at this time is disappointing to me," Forrest said.

Name: Meredith Fouche
Age: 56
Hometown: Sharpsburg

Prior political experience: Fouche was a candidate for the Board of Education in 1988, but did not make it past the primary. He ran again in 1992 as a write-in candidate, but was not elected. He ran in 1990 for Washington County Commissioner, but withdrew before the election.

Fouche said the former board of county commissioners made a mistake.

Fouche says commissioners made a deal with the developer of the housing development in which Rockland Woods Elementary is being built - Westfields. He said they allowed the developer to build more houses in exchange for land for a new elementary school.

"In hindsight, what should have been done was addition on Fountain Rock (Elementary School) and Greenbrier (Elementary School)," Fouche said. "However, that did not happen."

Name: Justin M. Hartings
Age: 36
Hometown: Keedysville

Prior political experience: None

Hartings said that any decisions made about redistricting must balance two competing interests: filling a new school and preserving the community.

He said the Board of Education should have included programming decisions for Rockland Woods Elementary in its early discussions about moving students to the new school.

By letting parents know they can send their children to a bigger, nicer school with improved programs, they might want to make the change, he said.

He said those offerings, like a magnet or signature program, should be unique to the school -not moved from an existing school.

Name: Tom Janus
Age: 65
Hometown: Hagerstown

Prior political experience: Janus ran for a Board of Education seat in 2004 and in 2006, but was ousted in the primary election both times. He ran as a write-in candidate for the 2004 Board of Education election, but was unsuccessful.

Janus said he likely would not have done anything differently.

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