Summit school board picks longtime educator Bonnie Ward for open seat
The Summit School District recently named Bonnie Ward to its Board of Education, and, for the Summit Cove resident, the new appointment feels a lot like a return home.
Ward, who had been visiting Keystone since the early-‘70s and owned a home in the county since 2006 before making the full-time move three years later, was previously a 40-year educator in Maryland before retirement. A decade of that time was spent as a chief administrator of Frederick County’s school system as well as superintendent of Kent County’s schools on the state’s eastern shore. That followed 30 years as a high school math and computer science teacher and curriculum specialist.
“Kent County was very similar to our district here in Summit,” said Ward, “size-wise, and demographics and organization. I think that gives me a good perspective. But for the past seven years, I’ve worked as a community volunteer, and that gives me a different perspective with the school district.”
She may have left her professional career back on the East Coast, but, since coming to Summit, she’s maintained her longtime passion for education by working as a mentor coordinator with the Pre-Collegiate Program, which assists kids who are the first in their families to attend college, since its inception in 2010. The University of Maryland educational administration doctorate recipient has also fulfilled the role of vice chair for the Education Foundation of the Summit, and been a member of the district’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) committee. The recent resignation of J Kent McHose from the school board provided yet another way to stay involved with the area’s public schools.
“It’s an opportunity to make sure that I’m a contributing member of the community,” said Ward, “and that the public school system continues to thrive. That’s really, really important to me. I don’t think that in any community there’s anything more important than public education. It’s almost a marker of the health of that community.”
The school district couldn’t be happier than to bring someone on with such an extensive background in so many aspects of education — from policy to data analysis and assessment, to curriculum development.
“We are extremely fortunate to have somebody like Bonnie step into this position and be able to hit the ground running,” board president Margaret Carlson said through a statement. “She already understands the work of our district and has been one of our strongest advocates, giving countless hours of time volunteering for school programs and fundraising.”
“Bonnie is a proven leader,” added superintendent Kerry Buhler, “who can help us move our vision forward with her expertise and passion for STEM.”
But for Ward, who has a granddaughter at the middle school, it’s simply about doing whatever she can to help preserve the academic feats Summit has reached in the last several years. As of 2015, the district ranked No. 16 among the state’s 178 public school territories, up from 89th just five years prior.
She plans to do so by sustaining support of forthcoming initiatives such as the One2World technology plan that will increase access and implementation of devices in the classroom, in addition to both advanced scholastic and intervention programming to cater to the needs of each and every district student. Getting more high schoolers to begin taking post-secondary courses at Colorado Mountain College while wrapping up their diplomas remains high on her list. It’s all with the goal of preparing youngsters for university sooner and setting them up for an existence dedicated to education rather than merely within the walls of a classroom.
“We know that learning doesn’t stop at high school or the end of college anymore,” said Ward. “So what we’re trying to do is help children become what we call lifelong learners, ready to take on new challenges and new experiences. And to be optimistic about change — not to be fearful of change, but to welcome it.”
Her appointment — which will last 14 months to finish McHose’s elected term, and, from there, she’ll decide whether or not to run — leaves the school board without a male among its seven members. Women also possess the district’s other two leading executive jobs — Buhler as superintendent and Cathy Beck in the assistant position. Ward said she takes great pride in assuming a supervising and mentoring capacity for both students and young teachers, particularly as females have in the past faced obstacles in the STEM fields and functions.
“When I was a superintendent, I was concerned that I didn’t see boys on the stage as much for National Honor Society and scholarships, for academic achievement,” she explained. “Girls today have lots of opportunities, and we want to encourage them, but … we need to keep the expectations high for both boys and girls. Even though it’s an all-female board, and it’s a female superintendent, I think that they’ll be working really hard to make sure that they understand all of the needs of the children.”
So long as school board decisions are made with the students in mind, Ward believes that, like Maryland before it, she’ll continue to feel right at home here in Summit.
“Our bottom line is, how do we support students and the teachers and principals who work with the students every single day?” she said. “Are we as a board — and as a school system and as a community — open to new ideas and new ways of doing things? The strength of a school district comes from the community. We are only going to succeed if we have the support of the parents, the community members, who view these students in our school system as the citizens of tomorrow — they are.”
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