Friday, March 30, 2012

UNPREDICTABLE: Montgomery County Board of Education Primary Election // Candidates Divide Endorsements

Montgomery County voters face a low-profile April 3rd Primary Election for three of their seven Board of Education seats. Maryland Juice is going to attempt to provide a summary of the dynamics at play in these unpredictable races.

About the Montgomery County Board of Education:
The Board consists of seven county residents elected by voters for a four-year term and a student elected by secondary school students for a one-year term. Board members are elected countywide but run at large, or from the Board district in which they reside.
Specifically, there are two at-large members that can reside anywhere in Montgomery County, and there are five members that must reside within a specified school board district. Nevertheless, all seven members are elected by all voters countywide. The candidates first run in a non-partisan primary election (currently being held on Tuesday, April 3rd), and the top two candidates proceed to the November General Election, where the ultimate victor is chosen.

DISTRICT 2 & AT-LARGE SEATS ARE HOTLY CONTESTED: Notably, every four years only half of the board members are up for re-election; they alternate facing the voters every election cycle, to create staggered representation. This year Board of Education primary elections are being held for the District 2 and District 4 seats, along with only one of the two at-large seats. The District 4 seat is essentially uncontested, since only two candidates are running. Both incumbent Chris Barclay and challenger Annita Seckinger will automatically proceed to the November General Election. 

Unlike the yawner in District 4, the District 2 and At-Large races are being hotly contested.  Below we present the candidates and note a few key endorsements in their races:

District 2 Board of Education Open Seat (Vote for One)

Candidates (click on their names to visit campaign websites):

At-Large Board of Education (Vote for One)

Candidates (click on their names to visit campaign websites):

KEY FACTORS: First, these races are non-partisan, which means that the contested Republican Presidential Primary may drive larger than normal GOP turnout for the BOE races. Even taking that into account, the early vote numbers still show a predominance of Democrats (and women) at the polls. Bear in mind, however, that in what is already predicted to be a low-turnout election, Montgomery County's early vote numbers are almost guaranteeing low turnout will be a reality on Tuesday, April 3rd. All of this makes for an unpredictable race where endorsements, name recognition and campaigning will matter:

Notable Endorsements for Board of Education

Rep. Donna Edwards Endorses 
Saqib Ali for BOE District 2:

The Washington Post & MCGEO (MoCo Public Employees)
Endorse Rebecca Smondrowski for BOE District 2:

MCGEO Endorses Rebecca Smondrowski
WASHINGTON POST:  But the most appealing candidate, by virtue of her hands-on work in the schools and community over the last decade, is Rebecca K. Smondrowski. A leader with the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations, Ms. Smondrowski has keen insights into the issues that affect students and teachers and, as the mother of a child with special needs, particular knowledge of special education and a special interest in stopping bullying. Her work as a legislative aide in Annapolis gives her valuable perspective on fiscal matters and could help the board repair tattered relations with county officials. She promises to be an independent voice.

 MCEA (MoCo Teachers Union) Endorses
Fred Evans, Jeanne Ellinport & Phil Kauffman for BOE: 

MCEA Newspaper Ad // Board of Education Primary

The Gazette Endorses Fred Evans for BOE District 2:

GAZETTE: In District 2, which after last year’s redistricting includes Gaithersburg, Germantown and Rockville, member Laura V. Berthiaume is not seeking a second term and five well-qualified candidates are trying for the seat.

Fred Evans — a former high school principal — stands out in this race.

Evans has been away from the day-to-day operations in Montgomery County schools for 12 years, but has children in county schools: Two children are enrolled in high school and a third is an assistant principal.

Among his priorities are undertaking a comprehensive analysis of the school system based on best practices from other school systems, affording more teacher training and earlier identification for students who need extra assistance to initiate what he calls “the leg up.”

The other candidates offer educated and thoughtful perspectives as parents of and advocates for children in the school system. But Evans has an edge as an educator, parent and versatile learner.

Washington Post Endorses Morris Panner for BOE At-Large:

WASHINGTON POST: ...we are endorsing Morris Panner because his clear-eyed view of the system’s structural budget deficit is needed.... An entrepreneur and lawyer, Mr. Panner understands how innovation can improve organizations; he argues for more discretion and accountability at the school level. With four children in public school, Mr. Panner would bring valuable perspective as a parent.

More on the Montgomery County Board of Education races soon!

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