The Howard County school board needs a transfusion, new blood that will begin to repair a corrosive relationship that has developed between the superintendent and school board members and their constituents, including parents, students, teachers and staff.
As testament to the state of things, a robust field of challengers has emerged for this month's primary in which the six top vote-getters will advance to the general election. Voters in November will then select three finalists for seats opening on the seven-member board.
Incumbents Ann DeLacy, Ellen Flynn Giles and Janet Siddiqui want to return. All have been part of a body that has been dismissive of a range of concerns, from addressing needs of special-education students to whether the air in some classrooms is safe to breathe.
There are stronger candidates possessing the skill, credentials, energy, experience and charisma to bring a fresh dynamic to the board and become active listeners, and learners, when faced with the challenges of managing a high-performing school district.
Three standouts with the spines to stand firmly, providing the checks-and-balances needed to begin restoring confidence and sustaining quality schools, are worthy of our endorsement. They are Kirsten Coombs, Christina Delmont-Small and Mavis Ellis.
Their resumes attest to deep commitment to quality education, serving countless hours as volunteers, advisers and advocates on school committees. Coombs and Delmont-Small bring experience with budget and finance to the table, knowledge helpful when dealing with limited resources and increasing demands. Ellis has a lengthy career in classroom and administrative roles, relevant in the nuts-and-bolts management of programs and services, including special education. All champion the fundamentals of a quality school system and pledge to be active listeners.
One of the top reasons cited by newcomers for jumping into the race is to improve transparency and communications, areas where the current board has received low, if not failing, grades.
How often has the state's governor publicly called out a sitting superintendent over management and communication skills and "a palpable loss of trust" between parents and school leaders? It happened this year. How often does the Maryland legislature approve unprecedented legislation mandating a state review of whether the school system broke the law in the way it handled some requests for the release of public information? It happened this year.
By picking new board members, voters can telegraph that something has to change.
Early voting starts today and continues until April 21 at three locations — the Bain 50 + Center in Columbia, the Miller Branch library in Ellicott City and Ridgely's Run Community Center in Jessup.
On primary election day, April 26, the polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
This year's school board election is one of the most important in a generation and voters have an obligation to do their homework on all the candidates. A new approach is essential for the oversight of school programs, services and management. Fresh minds in the three seats will start the process of change.