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Teacher salaries, school safety among priorities for Carroll school board candidates

Teacher salaries, school safety among priorities for Carroll school board candidates
Nine of 10 Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education candidates participated at the Community Media Center Thursday April 19, 2018. (Emily Chappell/STAFF PHOTO)

Over two hours, nine of the 10 Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education candidates tackled topics from school safety to redistricting and closures to teacher salaries to equitable education in the first forum leading up to the June primaries.

Thursday's forum included Cathey Allison, Tara Battaglia, Patricia Ann Dorsey, Muri Dueppen, Jason Helton, Doug Howard, Kenneth A. Kiler, Mary Kowalski and Bob Lord. Don Garmer, another candidate, could not attend because of a prior obligation.

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After opening speeches, candidates worked to show their strengths over some of the largest issues the CCPS system has been facing over the last few years. The primaries for the 2018 election will be June 26.

One of the biggest themes revolved around school budgets, especially when it comes to teacher salaries. The majority of the candidates supported making sure teachers are paid fairly and competitively, though they differed on what degree there should be raises and where the money should come from.

Battaglia said she thought there should be raises, though she said they can't be done by closing schools, and that it can't always be a guarantee that they will happen.

"It does need to be done, but honestly I can't promise a teacher that yes, I'm going to give you a raise," she said.

For others, the issue was a top priority. Dorsey said the quality of teachers affects instruction, and to have those quality teachers, the school system needs to offer competitive salaries.

Dueppen echoed those thoughts, and said while teachers don't get into the profession for the money, it's hard to stay there if there isn't adequate compensation.

"Carroll County has got to put all of that in perspective and come up with a plan to make the compensation more effective," she said.

Helton also spoke about how hard teachers struggle financially without competitive salaries, something he said is "just wrong."

"They have to work a second job just to make ends meet," he said.

Howard, a current county commissioner, took a different approach to the question. He said they can't fix the problem without more funding from the state.

"Our delegation brought us no money this year," he said.

He also spoke about the importance of having the three funding parties — the school system, the county and the delegation at the same table for discussions.

Another big topic, one that has been a conversation for weeks now across the state, is school safety, especially in light of legislation mandating School Resource Officer programs in the Maryland jurisdictions in coming years.

Allison said with the recent legislation, it will be important to follow what comes down from the state.

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"We are committed to following our regulations and our statutes," she said.

Kowalski said school safety is one of the top issues, especially with the shooting in Florida that left 17 dead. She said while she supports the second amendment, there needs to be some "common sense parameters," especially in regulating AR-15s.

Kowalski said these issues are not new issues, but that it's one the school system needs to continue to focus on.

"We need to keep it on the front burner," she said, adding "we need to find the money to get this done."

Kiler said he supported resource officers, though he said Carroll County Public Schools are relatively safe.

He advocated putting people in place to help kids before a problem arises.

"We need behavioral specialists … working with these kids," he said, an idea that Lord echoed.

Lord, the current school board president, said he supports the SRO plan, and said CCPS has been lucky to have a "wonderful relationship with our local government and our police force."

Lord said CCPS has been lucky to not have major problems in the school system, but said the time has come to ramp up security. But with that, he said, there also needs to be a multi-pronged approach, and also bring back crisis counselors and add additional behavioral specialists.

"We need to take a proactive approach," he said.

Thursday's forum was broadcast live on both cable channels 19 and 23, and will be rebroadcast on those channels multiple times through the primary in June.

The Community Media Center also streamed the coverage on their website at www.carrollmediacenter.org.



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