Anne Arundel County Board of Education member Maria Sasso resigned Thursday to take care of some health issues after serving on the board for more than two years of her five-year term.
Sasso has worked as a businesswoman, teacher and a high school principal. She’s been active in the Hispanic community, having served as the president of the Organization of Hispanics & Latin Americans, director of the Association of Latinos of Maryland and president of the Hispanic Republicans.
During her time on the board, she fought for higher teacher pay and student equity and listened to the needs of the Hispanic community. Sasso, a Republican, was appointed to the board during a politically turbulent time but voted independently, said school board president Julie Hummer.
In May, Sasso defended the school board against Republican County Executive Steve Schuh’s criticisms in a Capital Gazette column.
“As both a proud Republican and Board of Education member, I was appalled by County Executive Steve Schuh’s description of the board’s budget as embellished to “the point of absurdity” and more about “politics than practicality,” she wrote in the Letter to the Editor.
Lisa Rodvien, an Arundel Middle School teacher running for County Council, said Sasso has surprisingly been one of the strongest advocates for increasing teacher pay.
“I was afraid she was going to be in a political lockstep with Steve Schuh,” she said.
She worked hard, visited schools, attended events, studied the issues and earned the respect to speak her mind, said Lisa Shore, a member of the Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs who closely follows the school board.
Sasso had guts and gumption, Shore said.
“She would call people out when they needed to be called out,” she said.
Sasso, born in Puerto Rico, took calls from Spanish-speaking parents who share their worries about their children missing school or getting into trouble. And she hopes that whoever replaces her will add to the diversity of the school board.
Sasso’s connections to the Hispanic community added a lot to the school board, said Hummer.
“She was a great voice for them,” Hummer said. “I can’t stress enough how valuable it was to have a native Spanish speaker on the board who could reach out to communities and … connect with families in a different way than we could.”
Equity was also important to Sasso.
She wanted to see schools in low-income areas get more money than those in wealthier areas, Sasso said. Because they needed it more.
“One dollar for Tyler Heights is different than one dollar for Severna Park,” she said.
The school system has numerous programs for high-achieving students, but not enough for the struggling ones.
“What are we doing for the bottom?” she said.
The school board will continue Sasso’s outreach to low-income and minority families following her departure, Hummer said.
The School Board Appointment Commission of Anne Arundel County will pick someone to finish Sasso’s term.
“I really would have loved to stay until 2020,” Sasso said. “It was a pretty hard decision.”
Staff Writer Colin Cambpell contributed to this story @Bhuang2012