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Brightman ready to put school plaque issue 'to bed'

Washington County school board's vote to add member's name fails, as did a vote to leave her name off

Washington County school board's vote to add member's name fails, as did a vote to leave her name off

May 07, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Donna Brightman is tired of discussing whose names will appear on plaques at three elementary schools and said Tuesday she would like to put the issue "to bed."

However, after two failed votes, the Washington County Board of Education was no closer to a decision, and Board President Roxanne R. Ober said the plaques could be discussed again.

Brightman - the board's vice president and a candidate for the board - said late last month that the school board should discuss why her name will not be included on plaques being placed at three county elementary schools slated to open in August.

Brightman joined the board after initial contracts for the schools were in place.

The current policy states that school board members, the superintendent of schools and the Board of County Commissioners "holding office at the time of the construction contract award will be represented on the plaque." Brightman learned last month that she will be the only sitting board member whose name would not appear on the plaques at Rockland Woods, Maugansville and Pangborn elementary schools.

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Brightman has said she wanted to discuss the policy and ensure fairness for herself and others.

"Cheap shots"

Brightman said during Tuesday's meeting that "cheap shots" have been taken against her for what she called her challenge of the "status quo," so she's taking a stand on the plaque question.

Brightman said in an interview after the meeting that she asks questions, such as the one she's asking about the plaque policy. She said she continually tries to strike a balance of power between the school board and Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan.

"The citizens expect that from their board of education," Brightman said.

Brightman said she's been getting some "push back" from Morgan for those efforts.

"I agree with Mrs. Brightman," Morgan said, responding to Brightman's "balance of power" comment. "There must be a balance for the sake of the students, staff and community. However, the personal concerns or agendas of individual board members should not interfere with the mission of educating students."

The decision

For now, it appears that no plaques will be placed at the new elementary schools.

Board Member Bernadette M. Wagner suggested adding Brightman's name to the plaques, along with the seven current and past school board members originally considered. That would have required a change in the board's policy or a suspension of that policy.

Brightman also suggested looking "at the existing policy (to) see whether we want to make any changes in reference to the existing issue." She also suggested discussing a different policy regarding plaques that would "ensure more fairness in the future."

According to drafts of the plaques presented Tuesday, W. Edward Forrest's name would appear on them. Brightman, who was appointed to the board in May 2007 and whose first meeting was June 5, 2007, replaced Forrest, who resigned earlier that year.

Forrest also is a candidate for the school board.

Wagner's proposal was not approved, even though the board voted 3-2 in favor of the proposal. Board members Wayne D. Ridenour and Ruth Anne Callaham were opposed. Brightman abstained and Board Member Paul W. Bailey was absent.

Ober said a majority - at least four board members - is needed for a vote to succeed, so the measure failed.

Another suggestion to approve the plaques without Brightman's name also failed. The vote was 3-2 in favor, with Bailey absent. Board members Wagner and William H. Staley were opposed. Brightman abstained.

Morgan said the board should not suspend its policy by placing Brightman's name on the plaques.

"Hold to the policies so we know what we are supposed to carry out," Morgan said. "Only suspend (policies) in a dire situation."

Ober said she is not sure why a decision on school plaques is causing a problem for the board. For now, she said, no plaques will be placed at the schools.

The issue: The Washington County Board of Education has discussed placing plaques on three elementary schools under construction. The plaques would have the names of elected officials involved in the projects, but not the name of Donna Brightman, who joined the board after initial contracts for the schools were in place. Brightman asked the board last month to discuss placing her name on the plaques.

What's new: Two votes about the plaques failed Tuesday during a public business meeting. A vote to add Brightman's name to the plaques failed, as did one to leave the plaques as they are.

What's next: The board could take another vote on the plaques. As it stands now, there will be no plaques on the schools.

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