Voter Guide 2018: Board of Education At-Large

The Wicomico Board of Education — for the first time — will be publicly elected this year. This is a brief narrative summarizing the contenders’ experience and positions. A PAC 14 “One On One” interview is attached through YouTube.

Board of Education At-Large

(Four people are running for two seats.)

Donald L. Fitzgerald

•donfitz64@comcast.net

Fitzgerald is the current school board president, a post he relishes and has been forceful while occupying. First appointed in 2009, he is a Vietnam War Army veteran.

Don Fitzgerald.

He retired from the DuPont Co. in 2002, where he worked as a mechanic. He is a 1964 graduate of Wicomico High School.

“It’s a passion for me. I come from a family where my mother only had an eighth grade education and she always said ‘Son, you’re going to graduate’ — and that stuck with me,” he said.

“I didn’t have the money to go to college and I went to work at E.I DuPont in 1965, served in Vietnam, and returned home wanting to give back to this community that’s been so good to me. ”

Fitzgerald is well known for his community involvement, especially in youth sports.

“My real involvement with the youth of community came when I joined Optimist in 1980,” he said.

Fitzgerald, who as board president is expected to maintain dialogue with county leaders, said the relationships have improved.

“The last two years have been a 180 (degree shift),” he said. “The County Executive, the County Council, they don’t always give us what we want or need, but they are willing to listen. It’s not about them or us, it’s about the kids.”

Fitzgerald has long maintained the county could find more money if it wanted.

“We don’t have the money? Fine and dandy! But there’s some money sitting there (in the reserve and rainy day fund) that we should be using.”

He said the school system is needed to shape the population.

(About) 67 percent of our students are considered ‘at risk,’” he said. “There’s a lot of work to do, a lot of challenges.”

Michael G. Murray

•mgm27153@aol.com

A retired, lifelong educator in Sussex County, Murray is a 1976 Wicomico High School graduate who was appointed to the school board in August 2017.

Michael Murray.

Beginning as a classroom teacher at Delmar Junior-Senior High School, he served as a department head, vice principal and principal.

“The difference (by being on the board) is that you’re able to help all children.”

Murray said despite a career in schools “I’ve learned a lot” on the board.

“I think one of the big things any school board member should know and learn is that you support your superintendent,” he said. “You also have to be of an open mind about things.

“People are always asking you questions about things, so you have to be a great listener,” he said. “I believe in an open-door policy and I’ve always been a great listener.”

Murray saluted the efforts of local business leaders to shine a spotlight on schools funding.

“Our community has really stepped up and supported our educational system here in Wicomico County,” he said. “Small steps make big steps. The city and county governments are starting to realize the importance.”

Talena D. Watson

•tdwfirstlady@yahoo.com

Watson is well known in the Salisbury community for her work in First Baptist Church and the Lewis N. Watson Funeral Home.

Talena D. Watson.

She is married to the Rev. Lewis N. Watson and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration with a Management Concentration from Salisbury University.

Like her opponent Murray, she is a 1976 graduate of Wicomico High School.

Watson is a fervent supporter of the school system but sees persistent issues that she would like to help solve.

“Instruction-wise, I believe there are things we can do that don’t necessarily involve funding,” she said.

“On the graduation rate, Wicomico County is working hard to improve that, but there’s an additional piece for me — I feel that when they graduate they should have achieved a 12th grade proficiency, so that when they take an entrance exam for a college or university — or just to learn a skill — they can pass it. And that is not happening right now,” she sid.

Watson is heartened by the recent efforts from community leaders to support education.

“There’s a part of our community that wants to become involved, that wants to be part of student achievement,” she said. “People know that if our students are successful then our entire community will benefit.

“We all have the same goals — see our children succeed,” she said. “The foundation that’s laid determines how we end up. I support universal Pre-K, because we have to make sure the foundation is solid.”

Tyrone Cooper

•tc04236@yahoo.com

Tyrone Cooper was unreachable and didn’t participate in our PAC 14 candidate interviews.

Tyrone Cooper.

A business owner and minister who serves as a firefighter and EMT, he previously applied for a school board opening that was filled last year by the County Council.

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