With the general election less than 50 days away, on Nov. 6, the League of Women Voters of Washington County held a candidate forum for the Board of Education on Wednesday night.
There were approximately 15 people in the audience at St. John’s Episcopal Church on South Prospect Street. About five of those people were league members.
Richard Willson, the league’s president, said he hopes attendees share their knowledge with others. The league sent announcements about Wednesday’s candidate forum to local media, but did not purchase advertising to promote the forum.
All five candidates attended. Four seats on the seven-member board are up for election.
In response to a request for candidates to describe transparency in terms of the school system, candidate Melissa Williams said the school board could do a better job explaining things at public meetings. Too much jargon is used, she said.
School Board President Wayne Ridenour said the notion that school system officials are trying to hide things is erroneous and unfair. The school system has a variety of ways to disseminate information, including its website, which could be better, he said. Ridenour said it seems that unless an issue hits someone closely, like redistricting, people tend to be less interested.
Candidates were asked how the Strategic Community Impact Plan’s goal to increase the graduation rate by 1 percent a year until 100 percent is reached can be attained.
Board member Justin Hartings said children at risk of not graduating need to be identified early. Then school system officials need to reach those students and their families, and make sure schools are something the families are not afraid of, but a place that feels safe.
Board member Donna Brightman said a good teacher can tell by the fifth grade whether a student is going to be successful in secondary school or be at risk. Many youngsters read below grade level, and more needs to be done to educate young students about reading so they can keep learning other subjects as well, she said.
Candidate Travis Poole said he disagreed with the notion that it can be determined by fifth grade whether a child will be successful. Poole said there are other reasons children don’t finish high school.
He said it’s important a risk assessment be done at an early age.
The league is hosting a forum for the Congressional 6th District race at 7 p.m. on Oct. 17 at Hagerstown Community College’s Kepler Theater. All three candidates are expected to attend.