Christine O'Connor

Christine O'Connor, 44, is a candidate for the Howard County Board of Education. (Courtesy Photo / April 30, 2014)

Christine O'Connor says she isn't trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to her run for the Howard County Board of Education.

But she believes it's time to shake things up a bit.

"An involved parent, who is inside our schools, would be beneficial to the school board," she said.

O'Connor, a Hanover resident, currently serves as PTSA president for Howard High School and also is a substitute teacher in elementary schools around the county.

The New Jersey native has been involved with school PTAs since her children began attending Elkridge Elementary School.

"I've been a community activist for 18 years and I'm ready to expand my reach to the whole county," she said.

When asked about the issues she is interested in, there is one big one.

Communication to and from parents.

"I want people to know that I'm the person they can relate with," she said.

To improve communication, O'Connor is proposing more interactions between board members and school PTSAs since the start time of some school board meetings are not realistic for working parents.

"That's the best place to start," she said. "It's underutilized."

If elected, O'Connor would need to step down as president of the Howard PTSA.

O'Connor, 44, has three children attending Howard schools, two in Howard High and one in Elkridge Landing Middle School.

She has thought about a run for the board 13 years ago when she was president of the PTA at Elkridge Elementary School, but as a mother of three then-young children, she decided to wait.

"Now that my kids are older, I have the time," she said. "I have a lot of time to give to this issue."

Prior to moving to Hanover, O'Connor taught sixth-grade students in Jersey City. She said she entered the teaching profession because she loves kids.

Currently, as a substitute in Howard County, O'Connor said she sees everything throughout the school day, from students getting off the bus, to eating lunch, playing at recess, the instruction in special education classrooms and everything in between.

"Everything from the very, very, very beginning of the school day to the very, very, very end, I've seen it," she said.

O'Connor said her children have received a "great" education from the Howard County Public School System, but she believes more can be done for non-college bound students by expanding offerings at the Applications and Research Lab.

"Not everybody is college bound," O'Connor said.

Although O'Connor believes communication can be improved throughout the school system with more face-to-face interactions, she said Superintendent Renee Foose and the Board of Education have been doing a "great job."

"It's hard to be a board member in Howard County," she said.

Regarding the Common Core State Standards, O'Connor said the school system needs to take a closer look at how it's being implemented because everything is moving too fast and some teachers are burned out.

"We have to make it work and make teachers happy," she said.

She believes students with learning disabilities could be lost by the wayside.

"When you get a group of kids who aren't keeping up, they get bored and start distracting other students," she said.

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