School board incumbent Brightman wants to refocus education on students, community

October 01, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • Donna Brightman
Donna Brightman

Donna Brightman said she’s running for re-election to the Washington County Board of Education because she wants to help refocus education on individual students and the community.

“I think education is heading in the wrong direction,” said Brightman, referring to federal and state regulations and laws.

“We’re losing local control of our schools,” said Brightman, 60, who lives near the southern tip of Washington County.

She said she was running for the local post, and not a state or federal office, because she believes the local school board is the best way to cause such change.

“I believe in local government,” said Brightman, who is the local school board’s legislative liaison to the Maryland Association of Boards of Education and a board member for the state association.

Brightman filed her candidacy on Dec. 19, 2011.

Because there are only five candidates for the four school board seats up for election, they did not have to run in a primary election in April. The school board has seven members. The school board race is nonpartisan.

The general election is Nov. 6.

Also running for the school board are Travis W. Poole and Melissa Williams, and incumbents Justin Hartings and Wayne D. Ridenour.

Brightman said “public policy closest to the classroom is the most relevant.”

Local school systems have exchanged local control for money, Brightman said.

Brightman said voters might want to ask candidates for state and federal office about their stances on local control of education issues.

“One person can’t tackle something this huge,” Brightman said.

Asked what areas of the budget she would want to look at if cuts were needed, Brightman said she bases all her budget decisions on how they would affect the classroom.

“The classroom is the heart and soul of the school, and the schools are the heart and soul of the communities, so I want to take it back to the students, and I would look at trying to isolate, or insulate the classroom from budget cuts if at all possible,” Brightman said.

Brightman said she was concerned about the lack of progress some Washington County Public Schools system students in early grade levels have had with reading skills.

“Reading is the golden ticket to everything else,” Brightman said.

If students are not reading on or above grade-level by third grade, they’re going to struggle in other courses such as math, science and history, she said.

Over the summer, the school system instituted a new summer school program for incoming second-graders who were reading below grade level, in an effort to help them catch up.

Brightman said participating in that program was not as high as school system officials had hoped. She said school officials need to be more proactive to reach the children that need help through the summer school and similar programs.

“We have programs in place. Those programs are not reaching all pre-K children that could benefit from a similar program. And I know that staff is making every effort to identify those children. The summer school program is just the first step in a reading literacy program that we need to expand on,” Brightman said.

Brightman is a landscape designer and project manager. She and her husband, Courtney Hirsh, have two grown sons who graduated from the local school system.

School board members elected in November 2012 will serve four-year terms and will be paid $6,100 a year. If one of the newly elected members becomes board president, the annual salary will be $6,200.

A salary bump kicked in, starting with board members elected in 2010.

Board members such as Brightman, whose seats are up for re-election this year, are paid $5,500 a year, while the board president is paid $5,600.

Brightman’s website is

Candidate’s profile

Name: Donna L. Brightman

Age: 60

Address: 19431 Garretts Mill Road, near the southern tip of Washington County

Education: Graduate of Oak Ridge High School in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Studied business at Bauder College in Atlanta, and attended James Madison University to study business and political science. Earned a certificate in plant pathology from Montgomery College in Montgomery County, Md.

Occupation: Landscape designer and project manager

Party affiliation: Democrat

Political experience: Has been serving on school board since she was appointed in 2007. She was elected to the school board in 2008. Ran for Washington County commissioner in 2006.

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