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New Washington County school board filled with former educators

November 07, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

With retired Washington County Public Schools educator Melissa Williams winning the seat on the Board of Education from member W. Edward Forrest — a pharmacist who did not run for re-election, five of the seven board members will be former school system educators.

Some board members said Wednesday it’s good to have diversity on the board, though that diversity can come within varied education careers. None of the people who will be sitting on the board after the Dec. 4 swearing-in were overly concerned about career diversity among the board’s members.

“I do think we need diversity and what I call critical thinking. I’m hoping that, as a board, we can get better as critical thinkers,” said board member Donna Brightman, who is a landscape designer and project manager.

“The way I define critical thinker is the ability to ask the right question in the right way, and to question the answers. I think that’s our role, is to be critical thinkers, independent thinkers, to not just accept information, but to really look at it and question it,” Brightman said.

Incumbents Brightman, Wayne Ridenour and Justin Hartings won re-election and will be joined by Williams, a political newcomer, on the seven-member school board.

“Even though there are five educators, we all have very different experiences and background,” said Williams, a school system retiree who is now an adjunct faculty member for Frostburg State University.

Williams said she believes that once she joins the board, she will be the only member with experience teaching in elementary school, whereas other board members have experience working in middle and high schools.

“So, I think there is breadth and depth represented with those five careers,” Williams said.

Williams and board member Karen Harshman also said the time periods the five educators worked for the school system vary.

“I think that’s helpful in that you have that perspective across the continuum, if you will, to know where the school system has been, where it is now, and where it needs to go,” Williams said.

Harshman, a retired teacher, said she thinks it’s “excellent” that five of the board members have worked as educators.

“No one knows the school system the way educators do,” Harshman said.

“I really am inclined to believe the greatest number of members should be associated or somehow connected with the board,” or the process of the education system, Harshman said.

Williams said the board also is fortunate to have the experience that Hartings and Brightman bring.

Hartings said the public picks who the board members are. He said he believes each of the seven members will add something “unique” and bring “incredible value” to the board.

“I look forward to working with all of them,” said Hartings, who is president and sole owner of Biaera Technologies, an aerobiology-related technology company.

Board Vice President Jacqueline Fischer said it’s probably good to have some people who weren’t educators on the board.

“I think there are some people who have specific skills other than education that would be good on the board,” said Fischer, a retired teacher. Asked what type of skills, she mentioned financial or legal skills as examples.

Ridenour, who taught for about 30 years at Boonsboro High School and is now a real estate appraiser, said the bottom line is board members should be looking out for the kids.

“If people go in and do what you’re elected to do, which is to represent the children of Washington County and look out and try to do what’s best for them, then I don’t really think it matters what you do (for a living) as long as you put the children first,” said Ridenour, board president.

Board member Paul Bailey said he didn’t see anything wrong with having five former school system educators on the board. Bailey spent his entire career as an educator working for the school system, retiring in 1996 as director of middle schools.

“Personally, I think we’re all kid-oriented and we look at the big picture. We don’t look at things selfishly, or in our interests, and I’m sure that’s the way we’ll continue to operate,” Bailey said.

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