Washington Co. School Board candidates sound off at forum

August 04, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

General election date: Nov. 4

To learn more about the Washington County Board of Education candidates, go to and click on the 2008 Election Coverage box.

On the site, you'll find a video of each candidate explaining why voters should vote for him or her, profiles of each and more.

HAGERSTOWN -- The Hagerstown Business and Professional Women organization hosted a forum Monday for candidates for the Washington County Board of Education. Here is some of what was said:


Donna Brightman, 56

Southern Washington County

Would you support another elementary and middle school in Southern Washington County, and could the Boonsboro school complex be used to expand Boonsboro High?

Brightman, who was appointed to the Board of Education in May 2007, said she would support a flexible use of facilities to make more room for students. She said developers have suggested land where a school could be built.

The addition of a fourth building would allow for more flexibility, she said, like moving ninth-graders into the middle school building to create space in the high school building.

"It's a shame that as a county we didn't have a vision for more of these campuses ... community schools so we'd have more flexibility," Brightman said.

Jacqueline B. Fischer, 62

Clear Spring

What opportunities will students at newly built elementary schools have when they go to less-than-modern middle schools?

Fischer said middle school students are able to take high school courses if they are "motivated."

There also are middle school magnet programs, which are expansions of elementary programs that already exist, said Fischer, who served on the school board from 2002-06.

There also are opportunities to add magnet programs at other middle schools, specifically a program that would lead into the International Baccalaureate at North Hagerstown High.

"There's a lot that can be done," Fischer said.

W. Edward Forrest, 45


Do you support federal No Child Left Behind legislation? How has it affected the local school system?

"I support the vision and intent of the act," Forrest said. "I don't support the unfunded mandates that came along with the act."

Forrest said the act has done a lot to raise the bar for students who otherwise might have fallen through the cracks. He offered the example of his own son, who is a struggling reader. Forrest said he was told by administrators that his son was "just one of those who falls through the cracks."

"That's not a good enough answer for my child, or for any child," said Forrest, who served on the school board from 2000-07.

Meredith Fouche, 57


Why does South Hagerstown High School need additional portable classrooms?

"Certainly those 10 portable classrooms are there for a purpose," Fouche said. "Students need to fill them. They don't have room in the main building."

Fouche said that South Hagerstown High was last renovated in 2001, and it would have been more cost-effective to add additional classrooms at that time.

He said he was unsure why Washington County Public Schools data did not show that added classrooms would be needed in just a few years.

Justin M. Hartings, 37


Hartings did not attend the forum because he was out of town on vacation.

Margaret Lowery, 61


What ways can you suggest that will restrain the constant for requests for an ever-increasing budget by the school board?

"The analysis guides us," Lowery said.

She suggested more planning and appraisal of educational programs that could help officials develop a more comprehensive master plan. Lowery, who has no political experience, said the emphasis would be on cost effectiveness.

"It would allow the board to rectify the difference between what they might like as an item they want and an item they really need."

Wayne D. Ridenour, 57


Ridenour, who has served on the Board of Education since 2004, did not attend the forum because of a personal issue.

Russell F. Williams II, 65


Why are eighth-graders in Washington County making less progress on state tests than other students?

Williams, who served on the Board of Education from 2002-06, said that if the eighth grade test is harder than other tests that would explain the discrepancy.

He said that often as students get older they do not score as well on standardized tests, but said he does not know the reason.

"The Washington County Board of Education figures show that Washington County overall is in the top four systems in Maryland, and Maryland is in the top three or four school systems in the nation," Williams said. "So, to that extent, Washington County residents are getting a lot of bang for their buck."

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