Washington County BOE candidates oppose bus transportation policy

October 23, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- Eight candidates running for local elected offices agreed on three things Wednesday.

Each person running for one of four open seats on the Washington County Board of Education said they oppose a new school bus transportation policy, expect to serve their full four-year term if elected and would expand a search for a new superintendent for Washington County Public Schools nationally if Elizabeth Morgan retires in the next few years.

The candidates made these statements and answered prepared questions and ones from the audience during a forum Wednesday hosted by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce and held at Duffy's on Potomac.

Here is some of what was said during the forum:

Donna Brightman, 56, Southern Washington County

Brightman suggested meeting with community groups and the Washington County Commissioners to come up with alternatives to redistricting, which she said was the result of a "lack of visionary planning in our county."


Even after a restricting effort before the start of the 2008-09 school year that affected about 1,200 students, Brightman said some issues remain in the distribution of the student population.

Jacqueline B. Fischer, 62, Clear Spring

Fischer said she is committed to spending tax dollars frugally and wisely, and said that would be one of her priorities if elected to the School Board. She said many of her goals are the same ones she had during a previous term on the board, including increased student achievement, improved salaries and benefits for teachers and more opportunities for students.

She said she supports "what is best for all students, not those of any particular school or district."

W. Edward Forrest, 45, Hagerstown

The biggest obstacle to students participating in the magnet and other specialty programs available in Washington County Public Schools is available transportation, Forrest said.

With the system facing tough economic times, he said the school system will need to weigh the cost of a transportation system that would take a child to a school other than his or her home school.

Forrest also said that officials should better communicate with parents and students about the available programs.

Meredith Fouche, 57, Sharpsburg

Fouche said he wants to reduce the number of portable classrooms being used by county schools, and also wants to have a reading intervention teacher in every elementary school.

He also said that strict testing mandates enforced by federal No Child Left Behind legislation do not promote a well-rounded education. He said the majority of enrichment programs are for the top one-third of scholastic achievers, and that the majority of the student population is being left behind.

Justin Hartings, 37, Keedysville

Hartings said a more flexible transportation policy that allows Washington County Public Schools students to access enrichment programs across the county is one way to increase access to those programs for students.

He also said that the Hagerstown area is well-served by specialty programs, which should be equally distributed in Hancock, Southern Washington County and other areas.

Margaret Lowery, 61, Halfway

Lowery said she would like to study student data to find out which Washington County Public Schools programs are not working and remove them from the budget.

"The programs that are not working, we really need to look at those programs," she said. "We need that strong, hard data. These are working. Those are not. (We need) hard data if we're going to remove any of those programs."

Wayne D. Ridenour, 57, Williamsport

Facing a national economic crisis and budget concerns at the state level, Ridenour said the first cut he would make from Washington County Public Schools spending would be his own salary.

As a board member, Ridenour makes $4,800 annually.

Ridenour said further cuts should be based on what has the least impact on students and employees.

"Then from then on, we'll have to make the tough decisions," he said.

Russell F. Williams II, 65, Hagerstown

Williams said the elected Board of Education should include a diverse group with "lots of viewpoints."

With more than one-third of the Washington County Public Schools population receiving free or reduced-price meals, Williams said he has the most experience working with the county's poorest residents.

"There are a lot of poor people out there," he said. "I am the candidate who most actively interacts with the poor."

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