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Five seek four seats on Washington County Board of Education

January 11, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Five candidates, three of them incumbents, filed to run for four open seats on the Washington County Board of Education as Wednesday’s 9 p.m. deadline approached, according to the county Board of Elections.

Incumbents Wayne D. Ridenour, Donna L. Brightman and Justin Hartings are running for re-election on the seven-member board, while board member W. Edward Forrest did not file to run again.

Newcomers Melissa Williams and Travis W. Poole also filed to run.

School board positions are nonpartisan, meaning that candidates are not elected based on party affiliation. If no more than eight candidates file for the four open board seats, there will be no April primary for those positions, and the candidates will be on the ballot for the November general election.

“I’m proud of the system, I’m proud of our schools” and its employees, Board of Education President Wayne D. Ridenour of Williamsport said when asked why he was running for a third four-year term.

The Washington County Public Schools system is one of the few in the state that continues to add students.

“I want to do what I can to help the system continue to grow,” Ridenour said.

That includes meeting the needs for classroom space, personnel and dealing with “a plethora of requirements passed down from the state and federal governments that our students are required to meet,” he said.

Donna L. Brightman of Knoxville was appointed to fill a vacancy by Gov. Martin O’Malley in 2007 and was elected to a full term the following year.

“I do think public education is going to be very challenging” in coming years, Brightman said.

She said she wants county schools to focus less on “high stakes testing” required by state and federal mandates, and focus more on what works for children in the classroom and for the community.

“A lot of local control of education has been handed over to federal and state governments,” Brightman said.

She said she wants to see a stronger partnership between the community and public education.

Elected in 2008, Justin Hartings of Keedysville said he ran then to help prepare students not just for existing jobs, but to give them the type of skills that would attract new businesses to the area.

Hartings, who owns a biotechnology company, said he wants to continue working toward that goal.

“Working in that field, I think there are a lot of emerging opportunities for Washington County and for our kids,” Hartings said.

Preparing students to take advantage of those opportunities will attract new businesses to the county, he said.

Melissa Williams of Smithsburg spent 35 years as a teacher and administrator in the county school system, and for much of that time was involved with Title I programs for students qualifying for free or reduced meals.

“That’s why I think I have so much to offer as a school board member,” Williams said of her experience.

She said she wants “equity for all students in the county,” including lower-income students, minorities and those with special needs.

“Our test scores show these are the students who are not showing the progress we need to see,” said Williams.

The system also needs to “find a balance between basic skills and keeping abreast of new technologies” and use state and federal resources to develop plans to meet the needs of all students.

Attorney Travis W. Poole of Hagerstown did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

School board candidates
The following is the list of candidates for the Washington County Board of Education. The race for school board is nonpartisan, and candidates are listed under both parties on the ballot:
• Brightman, Donna L. (incumbent)
• Hartings, Justin (incumbent)
• Poole, Travis W.
• Ridenour, Wayne D. (incumbent)
• Williams, Melissa

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