De Lacy, Kornreich to vie for school board seats

Former Howard County teachers union President Ann De Lacy and Leslie Kornreich, who ran unsuccessfully in the last election, have filed to run for the Howard County school board, joining incumbents Janet Siddiqui and Ellen Flynn Giles.

Their candidacies come months after Howard County officials tried unsuccessfully to alter the makeup of the board to address some residents' concerns about its racial and geographic diversity. If elected, De Lacy, who is African-American, and Kornreich, who is from Hanover — an area where residents have complained about lack of board representation — might quell some of those concerns.

De Lacy and Kornreich, who both opposed a proposal by Del. Frank Turner to place appointed members on the board but favored a move to vote by County Council districts, say that their decisions to run are not tied to Turner's proposal.

They say they were pondering runs for the board long before Turner's efforts, citing concerns about the current board's makeup that go beyond diversity.

"Recent board decisions to put a middle school potentially on the truck path to a freight rail facility and not prioritizing the condition of our school buildings helped me make my decision," said Kornreich. "I am also very concerned about the potential decision to eliminate the stand-alone reading class in middle school."

Three board seats will be up for election during April's primary and November's election. Siddiqui and Giles hold two of those seats.

The third is held by board member Allen Dyer, who is battling attempts by his fellow members to oust him from the panel. He has yet to formally enter the race, but on Thursday morning he said he intends to do so. Those who wish to run have until 9 p.m. Jan. 11 to file their candidacy.

"Basically, I see this as a pivotal election. This is a race to pay attention to. I found that there is a strong, hard core on the board that attempts to prevent active participation by board members," said Dyer.

Board members have filed a request with the Maryland State Board of Education to have him removed, accusing him of, among other things, breaching confidentiality rules. Siddiqui and Giles are among those on the board who voted for his ouster.

"I do not feel we have a completely transparent operation, and there is a tremendous amount of improvement that could occur if a couple of board members are replaced with new members that would bring an independent perspective on the board," Dyer said.

De Lacy, a Columbia resident who has worked in the Howard school system for more than 30 years, said that she also believes the board has problems with transparency and added, "I believe the current elected Board of Education is pretty dysfunctional and that there is more than one person to blame.

"I believe the Board of Education should provide greater oversight over the superintendent and ask more questions about staff at the central-office level," De Lacy added. "It is also time to look at the format of Board of Education meetings and allow for greater citizen involvement."

De Lacy, 61 served as union president for six years, with her term ending in August.

De Lacy said that she would also address a concern that was mentioned during last year's attempted overhaul of the board: the achievement gap.

"I would like to see a greater focus on schools as individual sites with individual needs," De Lacy said. "I'd like to know the specific metrics used in deciding how needs are met and how the determination is made to implement programs and resources in individual schools.

"We use the term 'equity' a lot, but what exactly do we mean?" De Lacy added. "I hear the term 'research says' used a great deal, but rarely is the specific research cited or is the research based on data here in Howard County or Maryland."

Kornreich, who said that she believes that certain board members are "steering the school system in the direction of one-size-fits-all education," added that she hopes the current election will allow her to visit more of the county and meet more people than during her previous candidacy.

Kornreich, 40, is a former Spanish teacher and current substitute teacher for Howard County schools. She has two children in the school system.

"I plan to walk as many communities as possible and listen to voters' concerns, attend PTA meetings, and communicate and converse with voters and supporters," Kornreich said.

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