Every school board election is important, of course, but this year's in Howard County is especially so.
The new board will have to work with a new superintendent, maintain the school system's excellence in troubled economic times and, on top of that, overcome the divisiveness that has at times threatened to blunt the board's effectiveness. In addition, voters might want to consider the importance of diversifying the board's racial and geographic makeup, depending on their views of the importance of such considerations. Clearly, the next board needs to be a good mix of experience and fresh, forward-looking ideas.
Fortunately, as previously noted in this space, a bumper crop of qualified and diverse people is running, 14 candidates that include teachers and parents, lawyers and business persons, community activists and more, all vying for three open seats on the board.
Voters will vote for three candidates in the April 3 primary election, and the top six finishers will move on to the November general election. For the primary, we are endorsing the six candidates we would like to see survive the first cut.
Olga Butler is one of five challengers we hope moves on to the general election. Sensible and well-spoken, Butler is a product of the Howard County school system and has a son in the system. She strikes us as a thoughtful advocate for the careful consideration of issues, and for what is best for students and for individual communities like her home community of Elkridge, which is suffering as much as any from school overcrowding.
Ann De Lacy's deep roots in Howard County, including decades as a teacher and years as head of the Howard County Education Association, are admirable qualities in a school board candidate – and member. She is not afraid to be a voice of dissent or to provide a contrary view, and she has long fought for a more open school board. She would be a forceful school board member.
This is David Gertler's second run for the board (he lost rather badly in 2010), but this time around he has picked up the endorsement of the Howard County Education Association. He has our endorsement as well. We are impressed by his background, as a college professor and business executive, his ideas, such as making better use of technology in the schools, and his energy.
Incumbent Ellen Giles is the sole incumbent we are endorsing. Giles, a two-term board member and active with county education groups before that, is experienced, steady and competent. She has remained mostly above the fray on the occasional squabbles that have mired the board, and demonstrated an intelligent brand of leadership.
Leslie Kornreich is running for the second time (like Gertler, she lost in 2010). A former teacher and a stay-at-home mom with a son who is a special-needs student, Kornreich is practical and down-to-earth. She has a good grasp of the issues that matter to many parents (the need for better planning and more public input, for example) and a perspective that would serve the board well.
Newcomer Jackie Scott has emerged as an endorsement favorite, already supported not only by the teachers union but by the African American Coalition of Howard County and the Thurgood Marshall Democratic Club of Howard County. There are good reasons for this. Scott, a lawyer who works in public policy, is engaging, focused and appears to know the importance of involving the community in decisions and in long-term planning.