"It starts in the classroom," Gordon said. "Take an interest in the students, and they will take an interest in you. Especially in the elementary school, (teacher interest) forms a basis of mutual understanding and respect."

Owen Hanratty

BIO: 35, Ellicott City, former candidate for Baltimore City Council, Ellicott City Business Association member, Cacao Lane Restaurant owner

If elected to the Board of Education, Owen Hanratty said he would like to see a focus on special education and a better economics curriculum.

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Hanratty said one of his biggest priorities would be establishing a stand-alone high school financial literacy class that would be required for graduation, and focusing on such instruction throughout elementary and middle school as well.

"Financial literacy is so important," Hanratty said. "It's helped me my entire life, it's what's on the news every day, and it's so important to understand."

Hanratty said he'd also like help improve interaction between the board and the community.

"The largest program the board is facing right now is that of public perception," he said. "That's the number one thing I hear from voters, and I would like to help change that. No one should fight like that in public."

The system needs to prepare itself better for the Common Core standards being mandated by the state, Hanratty said, which are supposed to take effect this upcoming school year.

"There haven't been programs to address that," he said. "We need to focus on the deadline for things we know are coming. ... I think the core is a good thing, overall, but it's something different, and we don't know how to react to it yet. It's like getting used to anything new: We have to figure it out."

Striking a compromise between individualized learning and ensuring student success on mandated tests may be a long process, Hanratty said, if it's a matter of keeping every student on the same level — even those falling behind and those going beyond expectations. However, Hanratty said, the right educators can strike the correct balance to make sure every student succeeds.

"There are creative teachers and creative administrators who can teach to the test and cover their own curriculum," he said. "It's a compromise, but you can do both."

Leslie Kornreich

39, Hanover, former Board of Education candidate, former Spanish teacher, served on Elementary World Language Committee

The central theme of Leslie Kornreich's candidacy for the Board of Education is personalizing education.

"The board has to have a long-term vision for how to best serve the student," Kornreich said.

Kornreich said she would like to the see the system move away from teaching to the test and bring back a more well-rounded curriculum.

"We should give our kids choices as to what they're focusing their studies on, to include vocational education and specialty programs," Kornreich said. "Programs that don't require prerequisites, programs that aren't labeled as G/T, would expand the menu of choices."

Schools are moving in the direction of "one-size-fits-all" education, Kornreich said, as more and more standardized tests are mandated. Personalized education is key, and technology can help, Kornreich said.

"Individual applications, mobile devices in classrooms can move us from the model we're stuck in," Kornreich said. "Let students use the media they learn best with."