Howard County's school board has had moments of dysfunction for several years. Whether it was the board's standoff with Allan Dyer or the recent and more questionable dust up with board member Cynthia Vaillancourt, the board and its leadership has been known to drift off the point of educating children and into the more base political in-fighting that can sometimes poison any public body, elected or not.
For a county so focused on educational priorities, several of the board's members have done anything but choose civility. So with four of the seven board seats open this election, voters have the chance to have an impact on more than half of the board seats.
As in most school board races in Howard, there is no shortage of candidates. Thirteen candidates will be on the ballot. Voters will have the chance to select four candidates with the top eight moving ahead to the general election in this nonpartisan race.
Two incumbents running, 20-year board veteran Sandra French and the aforementioned Cynthia Vaillancourt deserve a chance to return to the board. French, a retired teacher, has often been a soft-spoken and common sense leader on the board. She has been an advocate for parents and has acknowledged that the implementation of the Common Core may have been "too much, too soon, too fast." We agree. Vaillancourt has never been part of the board's power base and has used her role more as an ombudsman during her term. It's in this role that she was admonished when the board approved a resolution accusing her of disclosing confidential matters discussed in a closed session of the board. The board did so without presenting any evidence and prompting Vaillancourt to decry it as "nasty politics" just over a month from the primary election. We found the timing specious as well and have found Vaillancourt's goal of board accountability a good one.
For our other two endorsements, we suggest Bess Altwerger and Zaneb Beams. Altwerger is a retired Towson University professor and the founder of Save Our Schools, a national public education advocacy program. She cites achieving equity in school resources, services and facilities as a goal should she be elected as well lessen the impact on standardized testing on teachers and students. Beams, a Columbia pediatrician, wants to create a stronger wellness and nutrition policy as well as work on anti-bullying initiatives.