Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Veteran journalist hopes to secure board post

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Since he registered to run for the Frederick County Board of Education, Joe Volz has been treating his candidacy the way he used to treat his school board assignments when he worked as a reporter — he’s researching the background. Volz is working to understand the board’s challenges by attending school board meetings and talking to current board members.

‘‘The next step will be to go to the schools and see if the programs are effective,” said Volz, who promises to treat his work on the school board as a full-time job if he gets elected.

‘‘I plan to do my homework,” Volz said. ‘‘... I am retired, I have the time and I don’t need the money.”

Volz is one of 12 candidates running for the Board of Education in the Feb. 12 primary. After the primary, six candidates will proceed to the general election in November to compete for three open seats on the school board.

A retired journalist, Volz, 72, is well known in Frederick County for his work as a newspaper columnist at The Frederick News-Post. In the past, he has also written for the New York Daily News, Washington Star, Washington Daily News and Newark News, covering anything from school boards across New Jersey to the mafia. He wrote a book called ‘‘Mafia Talks” and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for investigative reporting on military preparedness at Pearl Harbor.

Today, Volz wants to bring his communications experience to the Frederick County Board of Education.

‘‘I think the Board of Education should be a mix of people,” he said. ‘‘What we don’t have is a professional communicator. We need a board member who can go out and tell the story of education in a simple and easy to understand way.”

As a board candidate, Volz has three main priorities: rewarding teachers, providing students with a challenging curriculum and maintaining adequate and safe schools.

In terms of school facilities, he said the system should find a way to eliminate portable classrooms and continue efforts to renovate old school buildings.

Volz, who has taught writing classes at different colleges across and outside of Maryland, believes one of the Frederick County school system’s main priorities should be supporting teachers with competitive salaries, bonuses and incentives.

‘‘We need to find the best teachers and keep them,” he said. ‘‘You can have the best buildings in the world but you can’t do anything if you have incompetent teachers.”

Above all, the school board’s main goal should be to ensure that Frederick County provides students with a curriculum that meets the challenges that students face today, Volz said.

Though as a columnist he may have criticized the school board for decisions it made, Volz said overall, the school board has steered the school system in the right direction.

‘‘I don’t want to come in and blow up the school system,” he said. ‘‘I think the school board does an outstanding job. ... My motto is ‘let’s all work together.’ We all have the same goal — how to get the best education for our students.”

Joe Volz

Age: 72

Residence: Frederick

Family status: married; five children; 10 grandchildren

Education: Bachelor’s in history, Rutgers University

Professional background: Retired newspaper reporter and columnist.

Teaching background: Taught writing classes at the University of Maryland, George Washington University, Frederick Community College and the Frederick County Insitute of Learning in Retirement