Washington Co. BOE hopeful describes her experience as an educator

October 04, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • Melissa Williams
Melissa Williams

SMITHSBURG — Smithsburg resident Melissa Williams is running for a seat on the Washington County Board of Education, a position she said is perhaps a natural progression in her career as an educator.

Williams, 62, spent 35 years as a teacher and administrator in the county school system. A fourth-grade teacher at Fountaindale Elementary School from 1991 to 1994, Williams spent most of her years with the school system serving as a teacher who focuses on specific student populations, such as students who need help reading, and talented and gifted students, or assisting teachers with training, including demonstrating lessons.

Last spring she did part-time contractual work for the Maryland State Department of Education, observing and interviewing teachers and administrators in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County schools as part of a team that makes recommendations for improvement.

In September, she became an adjunct faculty member at Frostburg State University.

Williams said she was prompted to file her candidacy on Sept. 9, 2011, after hearing Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox speak on two occasions. She was a member of a committee of parents and community members who interviewed Wilcox when he was applying to be superintendent in the spring of 2011, and she saw him speak at a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce event in July 2011.

“I knew he’d be bringing to Washington County what I feel we need at this time and I want to be a part of that,” Williams said. That includes Wilcox’s interest in using technology to help students learn, she said.

Williams said she has a sincere desire to serve Washington County and “put to use my expertise and talents to better things in Washington County” for students.

Williams questioned the decision to open an arts school in 2009, saying it’s hard to justify spending for an arts school even in the best of fiscal times and questioning whether Barbara Ingram School for the Arts is “really providing the best high school education.”

Williams said she wasn’t calling for the closing of Ingram, but when budget cuts need to be made, “all things are on the table for discussion.”

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

The general election is Nov. 6.

Also running for school board are Travis W. Poole and incumbents Donna L. Brightman, Justin Hartings and Wayne Ridenour.

Asked in what areas she would make budget cuts, if needed, Williams said that would require a “great deal of consideration” and she would want to look at the budget line item by line item.

She noted areas of financial need, such as updating technology and deferred maintenance. As far as what she would give a lower priority for funding in those areas, Williams said she would need to sit with budget and senior staff to “pore over those things.”

She said she would begin by looking at areas furthest from affecting students. Asked what areas she considers that to be, she said Central Office staffing.

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 increase kicked in starting with board members elected in 2010.

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

Williams’ husband, David, is the library media specialist at Williamsport High School. They have three grown children who graduated from Washington County Public Schools.

Williams has a website about her candidacy at

Name: Melissa Williams
Age: 62
Address: 11 W. Water St., Smithsburg
Education: North Hagerstown High graduate. Earned an associate degree in education from Hagerstown Junior College, a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Shepherd College, a master’s in reading with certification as a K-12 reading specialist from Hood College. Took postgraduate classes in reading, and in curriculum and instruction at the University of Maryland, College Park, and through a satellite program at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown.
Occupation: Is an adjunct faculty member for Frostburg State University’s Department of Educational Professions, supervising interns in the master of teaching program. Retired in 2009 after working for Washington County Public Schools for 35 years.
Party affiliation: Republican
Political experience: None

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