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baltimoresun.com

Ellicott City resident seeks spot on school board

By Blair Ames, bames@tribune.com

11:05 AM EDT, May 28, 2014

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As an Oakland Mills High School graduate and a student at Howard Community College before transferring nearly 60 credits to American University, Maureen Evans Arthurs believes she is a prime example of what can result from community investment in education.

That's why the Ellicott City resident is one of 12 candidates seeking four open seats on the seven-member Board of Education.

"I feel like I am a representation of what community investment looks like," she said. "I want every child at every school to have the exact same opportunity that I was able to have here in Howard County."

Evans Arthurs, 28, is in the midst of her first run for public office. The mother of a first-grader at Waterloo Elementary School, said she has always kept an eye on education issues in the county, but sees this as an opportunity to give back to her hometown.

She added that she believes it is past time for new voices on the board since some of the current members have served since she graduated high school in 2004.

"I really don't feel that our current leadership reflects that diversity [of Howard County]," she said.

In discussing her run for the board, Evans Arthurs said she sees a clear disparity in resources at schools on opposite ends of the county.

"You can look at schools in the east and look at schools in the west and see that there are clear differences," she said.

At a recent weekend Board of Education meet-and-greet, Evans Arthurs said the tension between members was noticeable.

Evans Arthurs believes additional community dialogue and transparency within the Board of Education is needed to address the contention between the teachers' union, school board and the community.

"It was frustrating to watch because I thought. 'We shouldn't be at each other's throats like this. Where did the respect go? Where is the respectful discourse that we're supposing to be teaching our children,'" she said. "At the end of the day, our kids deserve better than this."

Evans Arthurs is "definitely in favor of stability for educators," with regard to the multi-year pact sought by the Howard County Education Association.

"It's not something we can't do," she said. "We have the ability to do it."

Evans Arthurs said Superintendent Renee Foose, who is finishing up her second year, deserves a chance and that some of the community's criticism can be traced to a lack of transparency when she was hired.

"With the challenges that she has been given, she has been able to address them," she said.

In implementing the Common Core State Standards, Evans Arthurs said it has been a big challenge.

"We're definitely going to experience some growing pains, but if we give our educators the tools that they need, we can in fact make this work," she said.

Evans Arthurs says her son has been doing excellent at Waterloo and that she has no worries about her son going through the school system under common core standards, as long as teachers are given appropriate support to implement changes.

While her son has had a good experience with the new curriculum, she acknowldged her nephew is not having the same experience.

"I know that not all of all the situations reflect that of my son's," she said.

Evans Arthurs, who works part-time as the Howard Community College wellness coordinator, plans to continue her education in the spring of 2015, seeking a master's degree in public policy, specifically education policy.

This is part of a series of profiles of Howard County School Board candidates.