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Schools officials report on state of education in Washington County

April 10, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- About 100 government, business and community leaders found out Wednesday whether they are smarter than Washington County Public Schools graduates.

They were asked to answer questions that high school students see on state assessments in government, biology, algebra and English.

"Who needs an intervention?" asked Board of Education Vice President Donna Brightman.

Board Member Ruth Anne Callaham replied that the Greater Hagerstown Committee appeared to be having difficulty with the questions.

It was a light-hearted moment in an otherwise serious report about the state of public education in Washington County. The annual report was given during a breakfast hosted by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

Board President Roxanne R. Ober presented the report, and the seven members of the school board answered prepared questions and questions from the audience. She presented data about testing, new school construction, options for students and initiatives for the future.

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Overall, Ober and other board members said, the state of education in the county is strong.

"We strive to meet the needs of all students," Ober said. "We believe that one size does not fit all in education."

She said that tax dollars spent on education in Washington County are a "sound investment," and that the Washington County Public Schools system is among the four most successful school systems in the state. There are 24 public schools systems in Maryland.

Brightman said that success often is not measured only in test scores. Professional development, the climate in the schools, helping children reach their full potential and other factors should be considered.

"I'm very pleased that we're serving our students well, and that is the most important thing for me as an educator," said Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan.

Officials said there are some obstacles to achievement, though. Board Member Wayne D. Ridenour said that attracting and retaining quality teachers is always a priority. He said that with federal mandates in place through No Child Left Behind legislation, there are additional burdens on teachers, and it is important to look for ways to ease those burdens.

"If you get good people, you have to pay them to keep them," Ridenour said. "I'm very passionate about our people. They are the key. They are the ones who make it go."

He said other challenges include limited space for students and aging buildings.

Board Member Bernadette M. Wagner said the board would like to offer prekindergarten at every elementary school, but would need more space for those students, and more money.

Brightman said that the school board and the Washington County Commissioners were to meet next week to discuss ideas for funding, and perhaps the idea of partnering with developers to add capacity at some of the county schools.

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