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Aegis school board voter recommendations [Editorial]

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Anyone who needed further convincing that there is substantial interest in having a board of education that includes elected members need only take a look at the list of school board candidates.

This is the first election cycle in which a majority of school board members will be selected by the voters - six of nine members will be chosen by the voters with the other three appointed by the governor - and all six races are contested.

That contrasts starkly with other equally vital public offices. In two cases, there is no election as the incumbents are unchallenged in both the party primary and the general election. In too many others, the primary elections are uncontested. Such a lack of choice is, likely as not, a reason why voters choose not to participate.

The degree to which school board positions are regarded as worthwhile by those seeking office is further amplified by a key distinction between being elected to the board of education, and being elected to the other offices: board members are unpaid; all other county and state elected officials draw salaries and are eligible for benefits.

With regard to the bright spot of the school board races, the school board has been in a state of flux as the board has transitioned from all appointed to mostly elected. As a result, the board has relatively little in the way of institutional memory, so there's a measure of logic behind supporting incumbents, at least in general.

As is the case for the county council races, school board members are elected only by the people in the council districts those members represent. Because the post is non-partisan, the top two vote getters will square off in the general election.

Here are our recommendations:

• In the Edgewood-Joppatowne District A, Fred Mullis, a leader in the local Republican Party, and Jansen Robinson, a member of the Edgewood Joppa Community Council, are running for a seat where no incumbent is running and will square off in November.

• In the Fallston-Joppa District B race, Bob Frische, one of the first three people elected to the board during the transitional period, is challenged by Laura Runyeon, a PTA activist pushing for the rebuilding of Youth's Benefit Elementary School, and Greg Johnson, who has run unsuccessfully for Republican Central Committee.

While all three candidates have qualifications that make them suitable for the job, Frische's experience and his willingness to step up and be heard as a board member make him the strongest choice. The Aegis recommends voters in District B support Bob Frische.

• In Bel Air District C, incumbent Allyson Krchnavy, who has served since being appointed in 2008, faces opposition from retired Bel Air High School principal Joseph Voskuhl, as well as Bel Air resident John Anker. Both Krchnavy and Voskuhl can be expected to represent the district well, but Krchnavy - who works in the private sector but was active in school system issues as a parent - has proven herself to be both willing to put in the time needed to become familiar with the issues and to offer alternative viewpoints during board discussions.

The Aegis recommends voters in District C support Allyson Krchnavy.

• In North Harford District D, incumbent appointee Nancy Reynolds, a retired school system employee who served as principal at Bel Air Middle School, is challenged by Chris Scholz, a technology education teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools, Mike Simon, a North Harford High School graduate, who is a project manager with Empire Corrugated Machinery, and Tishan Weerasooriya, a Towson University student who is studying psychology and political science.

While all four have decent qualifications, Reynolds' life experience, board experience and institutional knowledge of the school system make her the best candidate this time around.

The Aegis recommends voters in District D support Nancy Reynolds.

• In Aberdeen-Churchville District E, incumbent appointee Arthur Kaff, a civilian employee of the Department of the Army in Washington, D.C., and an officer in the Army Reserves, is challenged by Rachel Gauthier, a counselor at Stemmers Run Middle School in Baltimore County, as well as Barney Michel, a retired civil service and defense employee.

All three candidates have strong credentials in their respective fields, but Kaff's military background, coupled with his board experience, make him the strongest choice.

In District E, The Aegis recommends voters support Arthur Kaff.

(In District E, a fourth candidate, Stephen Macko, is on the ballot, but has announced his departure from the race, which came too late to have his name removed from the ballot.)

• In the Havre de Grace-Abingdon District F, incumbent appointee Thomas Fitzpatrick, who holds an MBA from the University of Baltimore and is East Coast sales manager for Modular Wetlands Inc., is challenged by Joseph Fleckenstein, a defense contractor employee at Aberdeen Proving Ground, and Michael Hitchings, a civilian project and program manager at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Again the field is strong, and all three could be expected to work hard representing the district, but Fitzpatrick's board experience give him an edge.

The Aegis recommends voters in District F support Thomas Fitzpatrick.

Voters who want to have a say with regard to who is running the government entity that arguably has the greatest impact on the greatest number of people should be sure to cast ballots June 24 during the primary election, or between June 12 and 19 during the primary early voting period.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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