Six Candidates Vie For Three Open School Board Seats

Six Candidates Vie For Three Open School Board Seats
File photo

NEWARK – Seven candidates are seeking election to four open seats on the Worcester County Board of Education.

As voters head to the polls Nov. 8, they’ll see a variety of names on the ballot for the school board. While in District 7 incumbent Todd Ferrante is unopposed, there are contested races in District 1, District 4 and District 6. In District 1, incumbent Bill Buchanan faces challenger John Abbott. In District 4, incumbent Bill Gordy is being challenged by Jamie Rice and in District 6, the seat held by incumbent Nate Passwaters is being sought by Katie Addis.

As it has in the past, The Dispatch sent candidates in the contested districts each three questions related to serving on the school board. Their responses are printed here verbatim in hopes that they’ll give voters a better idea of each candidate’s positions as the election nears.

District 1

Q. Why are you running for this position? Please provide at least two reasons.


John Abbott

Abbott: As a parent of two recent Worcester County graduates, I have witnessed a decline in our education system over the last 20 years. We have significantly increased school funding with little or no educational benefit. With the support of family, neighbors, and teachers, I am running to restore the educational greatness our schools were known for. I am also running because of the great disconnect between parents, teachers, taxpayers, and the board of education. Working parents have limited access to be heard at board meetings, which are held in the middle of the workday. Parents and teachers fear retaliation for themselves or students for voicing their opinions. I am running to be a liaison between citizens and the board and to give them a voice.

Buchanan: I spent my career as an educator, teaching for 40 years as a classroom teacher in Worcester County schools, the last 34 years at Pocomoke High School. Using my educational background and knowledge, I wanted to continue my involvement in the education of the students of Worcester County.

I have a Master’s Degree in Education, with a focus on Supervision and Administration. The combination of my direct classroom experience and my understanding of curriculum and school management enables me to be an effective School Board member.

Q. What are the key challenges facing the school system and how would you address them?

Abbott: I believe the biggest challenge facing our school system right now is getting our students up to grade level in reading and math after COVID-19 and the consequences of virtual learning. As students move forward, they are not proficient in their grade-level subject matter in Worcester County. As a board member, I would address this challenge by introducing practical learning resolutions within the executive, legislative, and judicial powers of the board to make necessary changes in the school day.


Bill Buchanan

Buchanan: The main challenge is, and will be in the immediate future, funding. Some may say that money does not fix everything, but the investment of providing current technology must be made for our students. Advances in modern technology need to be available in our schools for our students. It is paramount to ensure that our students have the skills to compete in a national and global arena. It is with this realization that our lives and careers are technology driven and will continue to be into the future. The question of how to address funding requires a re-evaluation on the state level of the formula used for the funding of education. At this time, Worcester County receives the least funding compared to all the other counties in Maryland.

Q. How do you view your role as a school board member and your relationship with the administration?

Abbott: I view my role as a board member and relationship with the administration as being one of the governing entities, which is responsible for providing educational policies, bylaws, rules, and regulations (consistent with state law). We have an obligation to craft a quality educational curriculum that provides equal opportunity for all students that will be carried out by administration.

Buchanan: The role of a school board member is non-partisan. The concerns of all parents, grandparents and citizens should be listened to regarding questions they have. The personal opinion of a board member does not represent the objective consensus of the whole board and when political agendas are added, you have a one-sided system of school oversight.

The board’s relationship to the superintendent and administration is again oversight. The day-to-day running of the school system is the responsibility of the superintendent and his administrative team. The board’s primary responsibility is regarding following Board of Education policy as outlined in the policy manual and the creation of a budget which meets the needs of the school system. The relationship is one of confidence and mutual respect. This is what has placed Worcester County schools in the top tier of programs and educational excellence in the state.

District 4

Q. Why are you running for this position? Please provide at least two reasons.


Bill Gordy

Gordy: I am running for this position to help sustain all of the positive achievements of the past eight years and to seek and implement improvements as needed. I am proud to have been a member of the Board of Education for the past eight years.  During that time, I served as president of the board for three years. We have guided the highly regarded school system through good times and trying times.

When reelected, it is my goal to work tirelessly to continue to provide a quality education for all Worcester County students. As outlined in the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, one of our major goals is to support educational equity for all students. Equality refers to each student being given the exact same resources, while equity requires that we recognize that each student has differing educational needs.

I will also strive to ensure that we continue to recruit and retain highly qualified staff members and to provide a professional working environment for all employees. The business of educating our youth is becoming more complex with each passing day and my past experiences will help provide answers to future needs.

Rice: There is no larger issue facing our planet than the education of our offspring. I am running for school board as a concerned parent and American.

Our world is changing at a rapid pace, and our education system has been facing many significant challenges for decades.

Q. What are the key challenges facing the school system and how would you address them?

Gordy:   I believe the key challenge facing the school system is implementation of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. This is legislation that was passed in 2021 that, for the first time in two decades, revises the state school funding formula. Over the next 13 years the formula calls for billions of dollars in new investments. These new investments would increase educator pay; hire more educators with a focus on diversity; increase resources for students of poverty and with special needs; more career and technology programs; and create a new more rigorous accountability system.

The state will be providing funding to help meet these goals. The local Board of Education will have a significant role in implementation of the Blueprint, including future funding. Since over 80 percent of our budget comes from the Worcester County Commissioners, we must continue to work closely with them to reach the goals as outlined in the Blueprint. This will indeed be a major undertaking for all involved.

Another major challenge is to continue efforts to close the educational gaps. A major step forward will be to move our entire school system towards equity for each student. Equality for every student means that all students have the same resources. Equity means to recognize that every student has specific needs to be able to be successful. The inclusion of equity recognition as a school wide effort will result in major gains in reducing the educational gaps.

SIx Jamie Rice

SIx Jamie Rice

Rice: From the perspective of all things being relative to what the education system says they’re trying to accomplish; compared to the actual results, it appears we’re failing our children across the board. As board members we need to stop debating the finer details, and develop a unified perspective based solely on results and outcomes. We have the ability to achieve this by focusing our attention solely on the reality that has been created. When you focus your attention at the level of outcome there is never a reason to argue, defend or debate anything, because the proof is always in the pudding.

When you understand the global; economic, social, and political issues we are facing, you can begin to understand what has lead to the dumbing down of America. It’s no secret that money, politics, greed, and power are the controlling influences in the public school system.

Q. How do you view your role as a school board member and your relationship with the administration?

Gordy: My role as a school board member is that of governance. Governance, as it applies to the school board can be defined as determining the “what” and the “why” rather than the “how”. In other words, we establish policy. We select a superintendent to administer the how part of the equation. It is the board’s role to approve a budget that is prepared by the superintendent. The board must set goals and evaluate the progress and performance of the superintendent. It is to everyone’s benefit to maintain a harmonious working relationship with the superintendent in order to move in a positive direction with our priorities.

Rice: I am by nature a truth seeker, and I view my role on the board as someone who is on a mission. A mission to advocate for the transparency of all funding, curriculums, programs, systems and procedures to restore balance back to our education system.

My relationship with the administration will be built upon my intentions, words, and actions being in alignment with an education that supports the development of well rounded, confident and responsible individuals who aspire to achieve their full potential. I believe all current board members and administration feel the same way, but money and politics have made it impossible to go against the corrupt influences that are currently in place.

District 6

Q. Why are you running for this position? Please provide at least two reasons.


Katie Addis

Addis: I am running to get politics out of schools, so schools can focus on their main job which is providing a quality education to the children of Worcester County and prepare them for college or skilled vocational employment. Currently 55% of students leaving Worcester County schools required remedial classes before participating in college level courses at Wor-Wic Community College. We need to focus on teaching the core subjects again and get rid of toxic social programs such as Social Emotional Learning. I am running to be a voice for not only the parents and taxpayers of my district, but the teachers and students as well. Teachers and parents should not be fearful to speak out against the system in fear of retribution. In order to fix a broken system, we must hear from those on the “front lines” in order to understand the true issues.

Passwaters: As a parent and serving our community, each day is a constant reminder of the responsibility we have as adults to create opportunities for our children to become good stewards of the world we leave to them. When past Board Member President Eric Cropper passed away, I was honored to be appointed to complete his term. Throughout my law enforcement career, I have seen the positive impact that WCPS has had on our youth and I want to ensure that we continue to provide our youth with the tools to be successful and productive citizens. I am running for election because I believe that I have the knowledge and experience to represent my constituents in ways that best support our students. I have also developed relationships with community members and fellow board members, which have and will result in productive discourse and decision making for our students and staff.

Q. What are the key challenges facing the school system and how would you address them?

Addis: Transparency in the classrooms is a concern. Worcester County prides themselves on being at the forefront of the digital age, yet are unable to provide online links to curriculum being used. I will recommend this to be updated.

– The lack of discipline in the classroom which leads to teacher burnout is another challenge. Administration must do better with supporting teachers. Students must know there are consequences for their actions.

– Politics in school has become one of the most prevalent and divisive issues because it is taking place in all schools, especially in the upper grades and creating a social divide amongst our students.


Nate Passwaters

Passwaters: One of the key challenges facing schools in the next four years will be developing a budget that is financially responsible, while continuing to be competitive with teacher and support staff salaries. During budget development and despite these challenges, I am confident that Mr. Taylor and his executive leadership team, in concert with the board, will develop a budget that meets the needs of our students, educators and staff. I also believe that our excellent, continued partnership with our County Commissioners will make this process, while challenging, successful.

I also think that mental health continues to be a challenge throughout our school system. Meeting and supporting the needs of our staff and students with various mental health resources is paramount in order to maintain a productive and safe learning environment.

Q. How do you view your role as a school board member and your relationship with the administration?

Addis: As a school board member, my first priority is making sure I am serving my district. I do not answer to the school administration, superintendent or the teacher’s unions, I answer to the people of Worcester County. I look forward to working with the administration with the understanding that the administration is accountable to the elected school board and not to the teacher’s unions or special interest groups. Currently, it appears that the school board is accountable not to the voters but to the administration and unions.

Passwaters: As a school board member in Worcester County, our roles are defined by policy which include appointing/supervising the superintendent, implementing educational policies, and adopt an operating budget. Also, as a board member, we must be cognizant of community needs to ensure that WCPS meets those needs. Our relationship with not only district level administration but with our County Commissioners must be a collaborative one, where students and staff are our top priority.