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Washington County school board candidates talk about funding, student achievement

October 26, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- With Maryland state officials already predicting a lean budget year and national worries over an economic decline, the eight candidates running for seats on the Washington County Board of Education were asked what they would cut from the school system's budget.

Answers ranged from one candidate's own salary as a board member to concerns over swelling legal fees included in the school system's budget.

The candidates overwhelmingly said they understand that this will be a tough budget cycle, and many said it is important that these cuts do not affect classroom instruction.

On page A3 of today's Herald-Mail, the candidates vying for four open seats on the School Board were asked what they would cut from the Washington County Public Schools budget and also how they measure the school system's success.

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Today is the fourth and final Sunday when candidates will respond to questions in The Herald-Mail before the Nov. 4 general election. Some of those questions came from readers and some, including today's, were posed by staff members.

Candidates were asked to respond to the questions in writing, using 100 words or less.




BOE candidates discuss the budget, students' success



Russell F. Williams II, 65

Hagerstown

Given the current economic crisis and the lean budget year state officials are predicting, if you had to make a cut from Washington County Public Schools' budget, what would it be?

A Board of Education hires a superintendent. The superintendent is charged with running the schools and making recommendations for allocation of resources. Once the superintendent has determined the resources available and recommended the best allocation of these resources, the board, as a deliberative body, after listening to the reasoning of the superintendent and of the citizens who support or disagree with the superintendent's recommendations decides what changes if any to make to the superintendent's proposals. It would be unwise for a Board of Education member or candidate to suggest cuts before having available all of the detailed information mentioned above.

How would you measure success in Washington County Public Schools? Is that measurement quantifiable?

If the school system claims to be a world class system and has documentation to back that claim then that documentation can be used as quantifiable measurement of success. In my letter to the editor of July 29, 2008, I noted the board's claim to be a world class system and concluded, "For this claim to be valid there would have to be some evidence that the Washington County Public School system is among the best of the best. Evidence is available to support that amazing statement." I then provided extensive, footnoted, documentation to support the world-class school system statement.

Wayne D. Ridenour, 57

Williamsport

Given the current economic crisis and the lean budget year state officials are predicting, if you had to make a cut from Washington County Public Schools' budget, what would it be?

The first round of state cuts has not seriously impacted our funding; however, it remains to be seen if we will continue to be as fortunate. If one cut is all I had to make, it would be my salary as a Board member because that is the one thing I know will not impact our students. Beyond that, it becomes necessary to know what the level of funding will be. If the reduction is small, we may be able to weather it using our budget surplus. If our funding is significantly lower, we would need priority recommendations from staff. Minimizing the negative impact on students first and then our personnel must be the primary guide for our budgetary decisions.

How would you measure success in Washington County Public Schools? Is that measurement quantifiable?

When NCLB became law, the state implemented MSA/HSA programs in different grade and subject levels, to set standards of mastery that all students would meet. Although this is quantifiable, is it a true measure of success? In my opinion, true success is measured individually and may not be quantifiable. Success for a special needs student may be growth in language, math, writing or social skills. For other students, success may be the acquisition of the knowledge and skills necessary to enter college or pursue employment in a trade. Our job as educators is to be certain our students have the opportunities and support necessary to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to enter the next stage of their lives. Ultimately, success occurs if our students become contributing members of society.

Margaret Lowery, 61

Halfway

Given the current economic crisis and the lean budget year state officials are predicting, if you had to make a cut from Washington County Public Schools' budget, what would it be?

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