Education in Washington County has come a long way in the past decade — in the past two or three decades, really, as the community learned it no longer was enough to count on a manufacturing job for life.
The faster you travel, the more you feel the bumps, of course, and change here hasn’t always been welcome. Some still yearn for the days of the three Rs and a hickory switch, and while the joys of a simpler time might have their appeal, education is nothing like it was a half-century ago.
Throughout our educational journey, Washington County has been blessed with some good leaders, both in the schools and in the Central Office.
Most recently, past-Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan has rewritten a lot of the rules, creating specialized instruction so high school students can get a jump on their chosen careers, overhauling the trade school to better reflect today’s job market and shredding the notion that students from rural school districts cannot go toe-to-toe with kids who benefit from metropolitan educational machines.
Now, we welcome Morgan’s replacement, Clayton M. Wilcox, an executive at Scholastic Inc., a major publisher of children’s books and educational materials. Wilcox also served as superintendent in Florida and Louisiana school districts, and his experience can be traced all the way back to classroom teaching.
In a Herald-Mail interview, Wilcox said he was drawn to Washington County because of the area’s quality of life and the positive direction in which the school system is headed.
We would agree, and would urge the new superintendent to protect and build upon Morgan’s legacy as he takes local education to the next level. Morgan’s greatest fear, perhaps, was that upon her exit some or much of her work might be undone. She was well aware that there are elements within the community that are displeased by change, and no doubt Wilcox will hear voices advocating for a return to “the good old days.”
As a past superintendent, we assume Wilcox is no stranger to regressive forces in all shapes and sizes, but we would reiterate our support for the great majority of Morgan’s work and urge that it be for the most part added to and not subtracted from.
We also would suggest that Wilcox continue to use the bully pulpit of the superintendent’s position to serve as education’s No. 1 cheerleader in Washington County. We say this because education had not always been valued locally, and there remains a need to remind people that schools today exist in an entirely new universe and demand an unwavering commitment. Hagerstown was built on trains, planes, automobiles and trucks, and it hasn’t been all that long ago that blue-collar jobs outpaid those of college-educated professionals. Sometimes, our people and even our own local elected officials still need to hear the educational gospel — that without learning, bright futures are few.
Sometimes, it also seems as if there is a fear that our kids will get too smart, or get too far ahead of those who have gone before them. Perhaps this is an insecurity, perhaps it is just human nature, but a good educational cheerleader will continue to hit on the desirability for our students to be able to spread their wings and fly to new heights.
And finally, we would admit to the reality that not all children will fly — for many, the ability to write a clear sentence and to manage finances are worthy and productive goals. As we push those students at the top ever higher, we would ask that all students be provided for in terms of viable career and life skills.
We would look forward to the day that every graduating high school senior would be able to write a decent community college English paper and master practical mathematics without the need for remedial classwork.
We have come a long way to be sure, but as with any endeavor, there is always opportunity for improvement. We wish Wilcox every success as he takes the helm, for as he succeeds, so does every man, woman and, most importantly, child in Washington County.
New Washington County Public Schools superintendent will hold future in his hands
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