Andrews said he would like to see a renewed focus on career education, or what is traditionally known as vo-tech. There aren't enough options for students who want to take that path, he said.

"More can be based out of the individual school, instead of the (Applications and Research Lab in Ellicott City)," Andrews said. "More basic classes can be school-based, like the culinary arts, which would free up space at ARL for things like automotive ports."

Andrews criticized the culture of teaching to the test, saying teachers should focus more on students fully comprehending what they're being taught.

"We should set our own goals for ourselves," he said. "Bring in educators and administrators to figure out how to evaluate ourselves without using test scores."

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Bob Ballinger

45, Ellicott City, congressional staffer for Rep. Joe Pitts, a Republican from Pennsylvania; two-time former board candidate, Special Education Citizen Advisory Council member, Howard County Autism Society member, Operating Budget Review Committee member

Making sure every student receives a quality education is at the top of Bob Ballinger's list of priorities, along with fiscal responsibility and making sure parents' and teachers' concerns are heard.

Ballinger, who ran in 2004 and 2010, said he had no plans to run for the board again. But he was prompted by what he considers the current board's dysfunction, and its unwillingness to allow parents and teachers to be more involved in decisions..

"For some reason, our board today believes that the central staff and the direction of the superintendent is the way things should go," he said. "They seem to believe in their recommendations over those of the teachers in the classrooms."

There is also a growing need to be more fiscally responsible, Ballinger said, especially considering an anticipated revenue problem and the possible shift of teacher pension costs to the county level.

"We cannot have a budget that spends more money each year than what the average citizen's rise in income is, or a budget that's more than what the county government can afford," Ballinger said. "I'm not saying 'cut, cut, cut,' but we have to evaluate our programs and make decisions of what's best for the students."

The board needs to work better together, Ballinger said, and that can be done through compromise and cooperation.

"I'm willing and able to give and take, as long as I believe that the outcome is good for all," he said. "You have to understand that compromise is important."

Ballinger said that if he's elected he will seek input from all stakeholders before making a decision.

"I listen first, and make a decision based on the information given me," he said.

Olga Butler

35, Elkridge, Long Reach High School Booster president, Long Reach High School PTA member, Inter-Scholastic Athletic Advisory Council member

The need for collaboration and cohesion on the school board is one of the reasons Olga Butler decided to run for the Howard County Board of Education.

"The board needs to work together as a team," she said. "We all have a common goal for the students of Howard County. Working together is a big challenge because if we can do that, we can then talk about all the other issues, like instituting effective policies and programs. Those things can be done with better working relationships, between the board and the system, and educators and parents."

Input from the community is also important, Butler said.