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County school board members sworn in

December 02, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Justin M. Hartings' daughter thinks he's been elected president.

Not quite. But the Keedysville resident was elected to serve on the Washington County Board of Education. He is the only new face among the four elected and re-elected members who took the oath of office Tuesday.

School Board Vice President Donna Brightman and member Wayne D. Ridenour were re-elected to four-year terms, and former board member W. Edward Forrest, who gave up his seat in 2007, also was elected.

Ridenour is beginning his second term on the school board, and Brightman, who was appointed to fill Forrest's seat after he resigned, is beginning her first full term on the board.

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About 70 people attended a ceremony Tuesday during which the four took an oath of office. Their first public business meeting will be Tuesday.

Former board members Roxanne R. Ober and Bernadette M. Wagner did not run for re-election.

Board member Paul W. Bailey praised Ober and Wagner for their thorough work on the school board over eight years, and for their good intentions.

He said the school board must work to maintain recent success in what he called a "record-breaking year" for Washington County Public Schools, and emphasized the importance of the board in that effort.

"What goes on in the boardroom reflects what happens in the classroom," Bailey said.

Board members William H. Staley and Ruth Anne Callaham, and student representative to the board, Scoti Dodson, also offered their congratulations.

Brightman said her husband, Courtney Hirsh, has questioned her sanity for wanting to continue to serve on the Board of Education, and said that the seven-member board's top priority and primary obstacle in the coming years will be money. The budget, she said, will be a huge undertaking.

Forrest echoed that concern and said he plans to recommend that the Board of Education form a committee to study areas of the current budget that can be cut now in order to free up money for the upcoming fiscal year. Anticipating cuts, Forrest said it will be important to add to the system's current surplus so programs do not have to be cut in the future due to a lack of funds.

That committee also should examine the upcoming budget for areas that can be cut back, Forrest said.

"The economy is going to have a huge impact on what we do," he said.

Forrest said an economic downturn in the 1990s led the system to end its elementary school music program, which returned within the past five years, and he said he does not want to have to eliminate those important programs now in response to the anticipated state budget shortfall.

Maryland Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said there is incredible support for education in the state's General Assembly, but if the financial situation worsens, then all areas of the state's budget, including education, will be on the chopping block.

"We have a lot of work to do," Ridenour said.

All four newly elected board members thanked their families for their support during the yearlong campaign that ended Nov. 4. Thanking his supporters, Ridenour said that "in this job, the students are my most important constituent."

Hartings thanked his supporters for giving a "newbie" a chance to serve, and said he realizes he has just signed up for a job that includes a lot of work for very little pay.

"It's much easier to make a buck than it is to make a difference," he said.

Hartings added that as a team, the new school board can make a difference for the students of Washington County and the community.

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