Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Candidate says schools can go from good to great

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Jeff Sheehan of Westminster wants to help turn Carroll County’s good school system into a great school system.

If elected to the Board of Education, Sheehan said he intends to make it easier for the community to become involved in education issues, and he thinks he could help achieve that by making it clearer to the public the best ways to communicate with the board.

‘‘[There] needs to be more dialogue,” said Sheehan, 44. ‘‘You want people involved all the time.”

Sheehan is one of six people who are running for two seats on the Carroll County Board of Education. Candidates will run nonpartisan in the Feb. 12 primary; four of whom will move on to the General Election on Nov. 4.

Other candidates include incumbents Cynthia Foley of Westminster and Jeff Morse of Taneytown, and challengers Barry Potts of Manchester, and Jennifer Seidel of Mount Airy.

Draper Phelps of Westminster will appear on the ballot, but unofficially dropped out of the race after the deadline to withdraw.

Sheehan said he has attended board meetings where people offer comments to the board, and expect a response but get none because it is not the appropriate time.

In addition to helping people identify which meetings will take public comments and at which ones board members will give responses, Sheehan said he would like to help people understand how topics become items on the agenda.

‘‘There needs to be a constructive process back and forth,” he said, adding that board decisions shouldn’t be a surprise.

If elected, Sheehan said he would like to focus on the mission of Carroll County Public Schools of teaching children while in the system in order for them to not only be able to pass a test in school, but also for them ‘‘basically to have enough education to function” once they leave.

This can be achieved by having in place for students’ college prep classes, certification programs at the Career and Technology Center, language programs and classes where they learn life skills such as balancing a checkbook, he said.

The operational aspects of the school system is another area he would like to improve, specifically the areas of class size and teacher retention.

He said simply saying classes are too large is too much a generalization, and would like to involve administrators and teachers in identifying which particular classes in which schools are not of a manageable size before attempting to address the situation.

The same goes for keeping and attracting new teachers. ‘‘I just think there needs to be more qualitative data,” he said, regarding identifying reasons for teachers leaving the system.

One way to attract teachers is by promoting that Carroll County is a great place to work and live, and he would like to see the school system ‘‘taking advantage of all the resources in the county” as incentives for teachers.

Another resource he would want to work on strengthening is the relationship between students studying education in local colleges and being able to offer them teaching contracts before graduation.

He is a proponent of getting students involved in school safety issues and making them aware of concerns such as cyber bullying and identifying warning signs in classmates.

‘‘There needs to be vigilance in a lot of different levels,” he said.

‘‘It’s a hugely important issue,” he said, and deals with issues at school buildings as well as transportation to and from them, and said he would want the school system to ‘‘constantly not be satisfied with the fact that nothing’s happened today.”

He said his job as a Motorola salesman where he encounters questions dealing with whether to outsource a product or build it within the company would be an asset if he is elected to serve on the board.

To contact Sheehan, e-mail JFS@jeffsheehan.net.