Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Foley aims for consistency by running once again

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Carroll County Board of Education President Cynthia Foley of Westminster said one of the reasons she is seeking another term is to bring consistency to a board that has seen several member changes since she joined the board.

‘‘Part of my desire is to hold some stability to the board,” she said. ‘‘I’ve enjoyed the job tremendously; it’s a big learning curve.”

Foley, 51, is one of six candidates running for two seats on the nonpartisan school board. The top four vote-getters in the Feb. 12 primary will move onto the Nov. 4 General Election.

She also said that she would like to see through some of the projects that she has been involved with since she began on the board three years ago.

‘‘One of them is the reading program,” she said. ‘‘It’s an extremely important program...a lot of time was put in it by a lot of people.”

She helped ‘‘get that ball rolling” on the fine arts wing addition project at South Carroll High School. She said one of the first graduations she went to as a board member was for the graduation of the Career and Technology Center at South Carroll High and being there showed her the need for a new auditorium.

‘‘Right off the bat it was in my face,” she said. ‘‘So that has been a particular interest.”

Another area of interest concerns increasing communication, which she calls an ‘‘endless battle” across the country.

‘‘It was a concern...trying to keep parents informed — and the public — involved,” Foley said.

One way people can stay informed and up to date regarding what is happening in schools and with the school system is by registering for the EschoolNewsletter electronic message program, she said. ‘‘I wish everyone would sign up for it.”

County schools have been regularly using the method to disperse information specific to their communities and Foley said she has been an advocate of getting the county to use it more to put information out when the school system is holding budget meetings, for example.

‘‘Before it was random, I’ve been pushing to get more consistency,” said Foley.

She would also want to get more consistency with letting the community know about town meetings that are held in different areas of the county. These style meetings are good for people to be aware of because it is one of the few occasions that the board has a back and forth dialogue with the public, which they don’t do at regular board meetings, she said.

She said the board Web site is also being used as a means of offering information by identifying on agendas which meetings are regular board meetings and which are administrative and though are open to the public, don’t take citizen participation.

Resident participation and feedback is helpful as board members make decisions, Foley said, ‘‘just to be sure that this is what they want...it’s so helpful to get input.”

She said she realizes that not everyone can always make it to a meeting and she would like to see efforts continue to have copies of the documents that are presented at meetings available for those in the public who are interested, but cannot attend.

Since she has been on the board, Foley said she has seen e-mail communication improve. She said board members used to just get tallies and summaries of what people were commenting about, whereas now, board members receive the actual comments.

Foley participated in a work session last year in which school safety was a topic. ‘‘We’ve looked at that,” she said. ‘‘We don’t see it as a major issue.” She said ‘‘the school system has and are taking measures to keep our schools safe and secure” and would want to get feedback from the public before taking further steps that the community might not want.

‘‘It’s difficult because you don’t want it to feel like jails,” she said. ‘‘It’s a difficult thing to address.” To contact Foley, send e-mails to clfoley@k12.carr.org.

Other candidates include incumbent Jeff Morse of Taneytown, Draper Phelps of Westminster, Barry Potts of Manchester, Jennifer Seidel of Mount Airy and Jeff Sheehan of Westminster. Interviews with the other candidates were published in the Jan. 24 issue of The Gazette.