Involved parent fills seat on school board

Former special ed teacher will finish Rhodes' term



As a child, Patricia W. Gadberry wanted two things out of life: to become a teacher and to be a good mother one day.

Believing that she had accomplished both goals, she decided to step up her efforts to improve the lives of her own children and others' when she became one of at least 14 candidates seeking to fill a vacant position on Carroll County's five-member school board.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. last week appointed Gadberry, 41, a longtime school volunteer and substitute teacher, to serve out the term of Laura K. Rhodes, who resigned in July. The term ends in December 2006.

"When I was teaching school full time or volunteering in the schools or substitute teaching, the most exciting part was the joy you get when you see something click [for a child who is learning]," she said. Serving on the board "is just a different way of making that contribution."

Her chief goal on the board will be to improve student achievement, she said. While she has been pleased with the progress of Carroll's students, she sees room for improvement.

"We need to be putting good policies in place that will help improve student achievement," Gadberry said. She said raising student scores on the state's standardized tests is a priority.

"Test scores are not policy, but they are one way to gauge how well the school system is doing," she said. "We can use that data to make recommendations and changes."

Gadberry, who has been a substitute teacher at Piney Ridge Elementary in Sykesville since 2001, became a special education teacher in 1987 in the Prince George's County schools. In the late 1990s, she taught at a school for children of military families in Germany through the Department of Defense.

She has been a school volunteer since her oldest child - Tom, 14, a 10th-grader at Century High - started kindergarten in 1995, pitching in at Waterloo Elementary in Howard County and later at schools in Carroll.

She and her husband, Brent, have two other children: Amy, 9, a fourth-grader at Piney Ridge Elementary in Sykesville, and Joey, 11, a sixth-grader at Sykesville Middle. They moved to Sykesville five years ago.

With a child each in elementary, middle and high, she said she felt well-suited to serve on the board.

"With a child at every level, I've got my finger on the pulse of what's going on in the schools," she said.

Gadberry, who must quit substitute teaching to avoid conflicts of interest, said she planned to maintain ties to the PTA at Piney Ridge as well as the Parent-Teacher-Student Organization at Century.

She has served as vice president of Piney Ridge's PTA and has been its representative on the district's curriculum council as well as Piney Ridge's School Improvement Team.

"She's ... always willing to help out," said Jenny Candland, past president and secretary of Piney Ridge's PTA. "She's very responsible and very thorough in what she does."

Gadberry joins the board "not just as a parent, but as an educated parent," Candland said.

Board members recently named Gadberry as their preferred candidate largely because of her involvement.

"She'll be a great addition to the board," said Cynthia L. Foley, who was elected last year and is the only other woman on the panel.

Foley, who lives in the Silver Run community near the Pennsylvania line, pointed to Gadberry's residence in the southern part of the county as another asset.

"I appreciate the fact that she has children in a different part of the county," Foley said. "I also think it's interesting that one of her areas [of experience] is special education," which was one of Rhodes' specialties.

Gadberry said her family was excited that she was joining the board.

"My husband has been very supportive, which is a good thing because he'll have to pick up more of the after-school [duties] when I'm at board meetings," she said.

Gadberry, who said she "would definitely consider" seeking a full term in next year's election, is expected to be sworn into office at the board's Oct. 12 meeting.

She said she would like parents, students, teachers and administrators to see her as an approachable ally.

"If people have something to say, I want to hear it," she said.

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