Board's new face ready for role

The Baltimore Sun

A new face will join the dais where the Carroll County Board of Education sits for public meetings Wednesday.

For the first time, Barbara Shreeve, the board's newest member, will vote on budget adjustments and contracts, construction policies and bid awards.

Shreeve may be sitting in a more prominent seat, but she said she's not nervous about her role.

"Because I've been so involved, I don't feel like a new person," said Shreeve, who substitute teaches, volunteers and has served as the PTA president. "I'm ready to go."

Although this year's board election had little in the way of major, looming issues, Shreeve and her fellow members have some idea of what they'd like to tackle.

Shreeve, of Manchester, said she'd like to stay on top of curriculum and facilities, including the new elementary and high schools planned in her neighborhood: Ebb Valley Elementary and a northeast-area high school.

Thomas Hiltz, board president, said the board keeps in mind an overarching goal.

"We want every student to be able to succeed, and we want every student to reach their potential," Hiltz said.

But while the group hasn't made any collective decisions on its plans, Hiltz said he does believe recent questions about how the district determines its construction priorities showed the need to improve the planning process.

The board has questioned why some school construction projects -- the fine arts addition at South Carroll High School among them -- have been shifted around on the priority list for the capital improvement program, which details budget requests for county and state funding.

South Carroll High parents followed suit, asking why that school's projects have been delayed in past years, while a number of others were completed during the same period.

"We need to be accountable for those changes that we make, and we need to be accountable year to year," Hiltz said.

Sometimes it seems as though priorities are changed based on "where we think we could get funding from the state," Hiltz added.

Improving the process would probably entail better communication and public, visible explanations of why projects are moved, and when they'll be revisited, Hiltz added.

Board Vice President Gary Bauer, who was re-elected this year, emphasized his interest in the fine arts addition at South Carroll High, as well as focusing on curriculum and preparing students for education beyond high school.

"We need to make sure that they have the skills so that they can go into the classroom at any time and pick up ... wherever they left off," Bauer said.

Patricia Gadberry, who was elected to her seat in November, has personal goals. In addition to following the system's reading and math curricula, she said she'd like to delve into finances to achieve a "better understanding of that whole budget process." That deeper understanding would come in handy as she strives for an increase in teacher salaries.

Board member Cynthia Foley could not be reached for comment.

Whatever direction the board takes, Hiltz said he'd like to see more attention paid to student achievement.

The group spends a lot of time discussing facilities, budgets and operating costs, he said, while other, student-centered matters are often limited to 20-minute presentations or work sessions.

"We need to make sure our house is in order, but we also can't lose focus on student achievement," Hiltz said.

Another priority, he added, should be making sure staff, parents and schools have "the tools to drive the decision-making down to the individual student level and really effect educational changes that improve the education for that student."

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