Howard County voters will help decide some momentous issues this fall, such as who will be the next president of the United States and whether gay marriage should be legal in Maryland.
But there's one momentous matter Howard voters will decide on their own: who will serve on the county school board for the next four years.
The makeup of a local school board matters everywhere, of course. But nowhere does it matter more than in Howard County, where the high quality of the school system is a source of great pride — the bedrock of the county's reputation as an attractive place to live and raise a family.
You also could argue that this year's election is more important than usual, given the bickering that has divided the board over the past couple of years and the need, with a new superintendent at the helm, for a steady, watchful school board.
Six people are running for the three open seats on the board, including two incumbents. To varying degrees, they are a talented, energetic group, up to the task of moving the school system forward. But three of the six, we believe, stand out above the others and deserve your vote.
Challenger David Gertler has a somewhat unusual resume for a school board candidate: master's degrees in electrical engineering and in business administration, a career steeped in technology (He has worked as a software executive and as program director for a communications company).
Unusual or not, the board could use someone with that background, someone with the skills and expertise to help guide the school system as it pushes to stay abreast of the latest technological advances in education, and to make sure students have the skills they will need in this fast-changing world. The fact that Gertler not only has that expertise but also comes across as forthright and sincere makes him well worth your vote.
Incumbent Ellen Giles is another easy choice. For the past quarter-century Giles has been immersed in Howard County education, serving on a variety of committees, PTAs, councils and, for the past six years, on the school board, including stints as chairwoman and vice chairwoman. She is able and smart, aware of the issues and well-versed in the minutiae of Howard County schools.
Giles's steadiness and experience make her a valuable member of the board, one voters would be wise to return for another four years.
Jackie Scott, like Gertler, would be a newcomer on the board, but like Gertler, she is an appealing candidate. An attorney and adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, Scott describes herself at candidate forums as passionate about education and "laser-focused" on results.
If you've attended any of the candidate forums over the past few weeks, or even before the primary election in April, you believe her. More often than not, Scott offers the most succinct, thoughtful and focused answers to just about any question. We believe she would be a terrific addition to the board.