Washington County school board members ready to serve

November 06, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Tough challenges and a grim financial outlook await newly elected members of the Washington County Board of Education.

Some said Wednesday that the local school system's budget will be a focus of the coming years, as state and federal coffers run dry.

The four winners in Tuesday's general election were Wayne D. Ridenour, W. Edward Forrest, Donna Brightman and Justin M. Hartings, according to complete but unofficial results.

Eight candidates competed for four open seats on the seven-person elected School Board.

Tuesday's winners will be sworn in Dec. 2. They will each serve a four-year term and earn an annual salary of $5,500. That amount will increase to $5,600 if one is named president of the Board of Education, replacing Roxanne R. Ober, who did not run for re-election. Board member Bernadette M. Wagner also did not seek re-election. Both served on the board for two terms.


Ridenour, the apparent top vote-getter in Tuesday's election, said he was happy for the opportunity to serve another term. He was elected for the first time in 2004.

"I look forward to serving with the new members," Ridenour said Wednesday. "I still think Washington County schools can continue to do great things."

Hartings, a newcomer to local politics, said he knew from the beginning that he would have an uphill climb in securing a seat on the board.

"I think that my primary barrier in the beginning was name ID because there were some really, really great candidates running ... those who served before," Hartings said.

He said he was grateful for the support he received.

Forrest spent much of election night at the hospital after his father suffered a mild heart attack. Forrest said Wednesday that his father was still in critical care, but was expected to be released Friday.

After learning the election's results, Forrest said he was humbled to be among the top four and was "very, very happy."

Forrest said he looked forward to working with the new board, and was especially excited by the new energy that Hartings' perspective might bring.

"I think that with some fresh ideas from Justin, and just getting a good group of people working to get the system moving forward ... we'll have some tough decisions on the budget, but also good opportunities to make things happen," Forrest said.

This was Forrest's third election to a seat on the Washington County Board of Education. He served seven years before resigning in 2007. Brightman was nominated to fill his seat.

Brightman, also an apparent winner in Tuesday's election, said the largest challenge facing the next board will be the economy.

Brightman also pointed to "failing test scores" as a concern, especially four elementary and middle schools that failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress this year, and the five schools that narrowly missed that mark by only one student.

Brightman said that her apparent win was hopefully validation of the job she's done for 18 months since filling Forrest's seat, and said she hopes to build more relationships and trust within the community, and also better communicate with the citizens during her next term in office.

Two former board members were defeated in Tuesday's election. Jacqueline B. Fischer and Russell F. Williams II lost their bids to reclaim the seats they lost in the 2006 election. Both served for one term from 2002-06.

"I wish those who succeeded in the race the best of luck, and I realize they are going to be faced with some tough decisions in these economic times," Fischer said.

Fischer said she had been approached about serving on the board's Facilities and Enrollment Advisory Committee, but said she was unsure if she would accept.

Williams said he would likely not run again for a seat on the Washington County Board of Education.

He said he does plan to continue in his community volunteer work "as long as I have the health and strength to do it."

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