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Champion for early-childhood education enters Washington County school board race

Champion for early-childhood education enters Washington County school board race
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About a decade ago, after spending some time working in the finance industry, Terri Gwizdala came back to what she loves most: Early-childhood education.

Gwizdala, 53, said her husband’s work took the couple to Virginia and Louisiana for a while before they moved back to the area in 2009.

The Williamsport-area resident previously worked for Henrico County Public Schools just outside Richmond, Va. She then left education for a time to work for a subsidiary of CitiMortgage.

After returning to Washington County, Gwizdala went back to school and earned a master’s degree in early-childhood education. That led to opening a preschool, which she ran for a few years before taking her current position as coordinator of the Washington County Early Childhood Advisory Council in 2015.

“It’s kind of been an evolution,” she said. “Obviously, I’m very, very passionate about early-childhood education.”

Gwizdala is one of five candidates who has filed for one of three open seats on the Washington County Board of Education in November.

She joins incumbents Jacqueline Fischer, Mike Guessford and Linda Murray, who was appointed last summer, as well as fellow political newcomer John Krowka.

Gwizdala said the county is “very fortunate” to have a schools superintendent like Boyd Michael, who “has innovative ideas to expand pre-K and provide more real-life opportunities for students.”

“I’m very interested in supporting that and how we can expand on those opportunities,” she said. “Part of that, I think, is through family and community engagement. I know those are kind of buzzwords that we’re hearing right now, but what does that really look like? I think in order to get that engagement, we have some responsibility to educate the public.”

Being involved in the local OnTrack Washington County education initiative, Gwizdala, whose son attends Washington County Technical High School, said she also learned about the challenges faced by students at the secondary level.

That, along with her recent participation in Leadership Washington County, has brought new connections and an appreciation for different perspectives on issues that she said would be beneficial to the public-education community.

“We do need to step up if we want to see a change,” Gwizdala said. “That’s not a criticism of anybody in office. I just think fresh perspectives are needed if we want to take our county to the next level.”

Maryland primaries are set for June 26, but the school board race will not appear on the ballot because there aren’t enough candidates for a primary. All five will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

Starting with those elected later this year, board members will earn a salary of $12,000, while the president will earn $12,500.

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