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School board candidate Murray says he would have an 'open ear'

August 05, 2010|By JULIE E. GREENE

It was Francis X. Murray III's efforts to get the Washington County Board of Education to ban the use of fragrances systemwide because of his son's asthma that led him to run for one of the three board seats open in this November's general election.

Murray and his wife, Kelly, approached the board with their request last fall, but still hadn't learned of any resolution.

Scented products can trigger an asthma attack for Danial Murray, a student at Smithsburg High, leading him to miss school. While a resolution was reached at the school level for Danial, the couple has not received a response about their request to ban fragrances systemwide, he said.

"If I'm going through this problem of not getting a response from the board, then other parents and probably other staff members feel the same way," said Francis Murray, a former principal of the Job Development Center.

If elected, Murray said, he would have an "open ear" to parent and staff concerns. If he says something will get done, it will get done, Murray said. People would get an answer, even if it's a "no," he said. That's better than "we can't decide," he said.

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School board member Ruth Anne Callaham, Policy Committee chairwoman, told the school board March 2 that the committee discussed the request for a fragrance ban, including the difficulty in enforcing such a rule, and decided the better approach was to educate students and teachers about the issue, according to board minutes.

But the Murrays said no one ever contacted them to let them know a decision had been made.

School board President Wayne Ridenour said it's not the board's practice to send individuals notices of decisions.

Murray also said there are more pressing matters than the need for a new primary school near Eastern Elementary east of Hagerstown.

He would rather the money be used for a new school in the southern part of the county or toward structure and maintenance issues with older schools such as Winter Street, Conococheague and Bester elementary schools. Those schools need to be renovated or replaced, he said.

The school system's facilities master plan calls for a new south county elementary school, and a new West End elementary school to replace Winter Street and Conococheague elementary schools. The board also is moving forward with a feasibility study to determine whether Bester needs to be replaced or modernized and expanded.

Murray also said the school board should have stuck to its agreements with the unions for teachers and support personnel, and given the unions' members the agreed-upon raises in their contracts. The trouble with the economy didn't happen overnight so the board had time to find a way to keep its agreements with the unions, he said.

Murray was principal at the Job Development Center from 2000 to 2008, when he left to serve as vocational director and assistant principal at Strawbridge School at the Board of Child Care in Randallstown, Md., for a year, he said.

Murray now works at the Baltimore City Detention Center with juveniles who were charged as adults, and with students at a Baltimore residential treatment center.

He and his wife have three children who attend Washington County Public Schools. They also have been foster parents for two years, he said.

The 11 school board candidates for the Sept. 14 primary will be narrowed to six for November's general election.

School board members elected in November will serve four-year terms and earn $6,100 a year. If one of the newly elected members becomes board president, the annual salary will be $6,200.

Francis X. Murray III



Age: 43

Address: 21202 Serenity Drive, near Leitersburg

Education: North Hagerstown High, Class of '85. Associate of arts degree in general studies from Hagerstown Junior College. Bachelor's degree in history and teacher certification in social studies from University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Master of science degree in educational leadership from Hood College. Certification in special education from Maryland State Department of Education.

Occupation: Works for Baltimore City Public Schools at Baltimore City Detention Center with juveniles who were charged as adults and with students at a Baltimore residential treatment center.

Party affiliation: Republican, but the race is nonpartisan

Political experience: None

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