Voters to narrow a wide field for Howard school board

Jess Nocera
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

Thirteen candidates are running for four open seats on the Howard County Board of Education which will be grappling in the months ahead with issues ranging from improving student achievement, school crowding, mental-health support programs and closing a gap in a health-insurance fund.

Tuesday’s non-partisan primary will narrow the field of candidates eight. In the November general election, voters will select four to fill seats being vacated by incumbents.

None of the incumbents are seeking re-election.

The candidates are Vicky Cutroneo, Bob Glascock, Timothy Hodgson Hamilton, Christopher Michael Hilfiger, Danny Mackey, Jen Mallo, Robert Wayne Miller, Anita Pandey, Carleen Pena, Saif Rehman, Mavourene Robinson, Sabina Taj and Chao Wu.

In the 2016 school board race, three new members were elected, ousting incumbents who sought re-election. The outgoing members, Janet Siddiqui, Ellen Flynn Giles and Anne DeLacy, often sided with former Superintendent Renee Foose on sometimes controversial policy decisions.

The county has a seven-member school board, with an additional non-voting student member.

Eleven of the 13 candidates responded to the Baltimore Sun’s Voter Guide questionnaire. The candidates answered questions ranging from school safety to the school system’s budget.

Vicky Cutroneo, 50, of Woodbine, who is the outgoing president of the PTA Council of Howard County, supports the school board taking on a more proactive and collaborative role when addressing school crowding. Cutroeno believes that redistricting is a “band-aid solution” and that a stronger adequate public facilities ordinance should be in place. She is focused on improving school culture to address school safety and doesn’t believe increasing class sizes should be used when balancing the yearly budget. One of her daughters graduated from county schools and her two other daughters are in high school, according to her campaign website. Cutroneo has spent parts of her career as a pediatric nurse and a clinical research associate for a pharmaceuticals company. Cutroneo holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland.

Bob Glascock, 66, is a former county social studies teacher and Ellicott City resident. An educator and administrator for 38 years, Glascock said that the key in addressing achievement gaps is having everyone involved accept responsibility. He coordinated the development of The Comprehensive Plan for Accelerated School Improvement to address achievement for all students and provide focus and support for schools with the largest achievement gaps in the county. Glascock believes that redistricting is an effective method to reduce overcrowding but also thinks that modifying the school system’s open enrollment policy to allow students to transfer to schools with available seats could also be effective. He has served as an executive director at the Maryland State Department of Education, assistant superintendent in the county and other roles. Glascock holds a bachelor’s degree from Towson University, a master’s from Loyola University.

Timothy Hodgson Hamilton did not respond to the voter guide editorial questionnaire. His website hamiltonforboe.com cannot be reached and it appears he doesn’t have a Facebook campaign page. Hamilton does have a Twitter account, @hamiltonforboe, where he tweeted once on Feb. 24 and wrote “much more to come - looking forward to serving our county.”

Christopher Michael Hilfiger, did not respond to the Sun’s questionnaire. His website, hilfigerforboe.com does not work and he doesn’t appear to have a campaign Facebook page or Twitter account.

Danny Mackey, 24, of Ellicott City, is a product of the county school system, graduating from Wilde Lake High School in 2012. School safety is a top priority of Mackey’s campaign but he opposes any measures that will contribute to a false sense of security and “rob our schools of their positive positive learning atmosphere.” Mackey was disappointed that the current school board did not undertake significant redistricting in 2017. A top priority is to have the new school board must initiate the process for redistricting. Mackey’s approach to tackling the county achievement gap is having the school board “be fierce advocates for defending equity.” and turning its focus on the “most vulnerable youth.” Mackey received a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland. He works for a commercial construction company as a superintendent.

Jen Mallo, 48, has served as the chair and vice chair of the school system’s Community Advisory Council, the liaison organization between the school board and community. Mallo, a Columbia resident, believes that the school’s physical security measures, such as doors and buzzers, need to be strengthened but at the same time the school system should “avoid turning our schools into jails.” In addressing school crowding, Mallo believes “sensible redistricting” should be considered as well as constructing new buildings. A mother of three, two of her children are in college and one child is a student at Wilde Lake High School, according to her campaign website. Mallo received a bachelor’s from Wittenberg University and a master’s from George Washington University. She has previously served as Swansfield Elementary school’s PTA president and secretary.

Robert Wayne Miller, 61, of Columbia, retired from the school system in 2015 after being a band director at the elementary, middle and high school levels for 34 years. Miller believes that the school system’s approach to close achievement gaps among students has been “insufficient.” He thinks that providing more staffing and equipment in schools that face extra challenges, as well as prioritizing one-on-one assistance for students who are struggling with basic skills, will bring progress. When addressing the yearly budget, Miler said that the increase in class size “is very troubling” and that hopefully funds from the county can prevent the increase from occurring. His son and daughter attended county schools from kindergarten to high school graduation, according to his campaign website. Miller received both a bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Maryland. He continues to teach private music lessons and is a substitute teacher in the school system.

Anita Pandey, 48, of Ellicott City, has been teaching for 28 years, with the latter 17 focused on teacher education, including as a professor at Morgan State University. Pandey said that for the moment, redistricting is “the most viable method” for addressing school crowding. In addressing school safety, Pandey believes that investing in mental health identification and intervention and wellness sessions, such as yoga, and healthier meal options “would go a long way.” Pandey has two children who attend county schools, according to her campaign website. She received a doctorate and master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Pandey also received a master’s degree from a university in Chicago and her completed her undergraduate studies abroad, but she did provide the names of those colleges.

Carleen Pena, 51, supports the school system’s plan to increase restorative practices in the county to close achievement gaps. Pena, a Columbia resident, believes that punitive forms of discipline leads to greater inequities of discipline for special needs students, students of color and students of lower socioeconomic backgrounds. A priority for Pena is to increase mental health services in the school. She believes the schools are the “front lines” for addressing mental health with children. Pena has spent the past 16 years as a small business owner providing child care as well as providing group home management for severely emotionally disturbed adolescents and human resources counseling. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology but did not provide where she attended college.

Saif Rehman, 52, of Glenelg, is campaigning for collaboration between the Howard County Council and the school board when making decisions regarding redistricting. He believes previous school boards have failed to make necessary decisions regarding overcrowding after yearly feasibility studies showed population growth projections. When having to balance the budget, Rehman does not agree with increasing class sizes in order to do. He believes that the increased class sizes has a negative effect on teachers providing their full attention to all of their students. A father of three, all of his children attend county schools, according to his campaign website. Rehman has a Ph.D. from Northcentral University, a master’s degree from the University of Baltimore and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Missouri. He has been a information technology analyst and executive for more than 25 years.

Mavourene Robinson, 46, who has served as the vice chair and policy representative on the Community Advisory Council, is focused on the county moving forward and showcasing commitment to smart growth when addressing overcrowding in schools. Robinson, a Columbia resident, believes that continuing to depend on redistricting is “unreasonable and unsustainable.” She said there should be improved adequate public facilities regulations. Robinson is advocating for performance measures and data-driven staffing plans to address the need for additional social workers, psychologists, trauma-care specialists, behavioral specialists and certified special education teachers in the school system. She has a child in the school system, according to her campaign website. Robinson has a master’s degree from The King’s University and a bachelor’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She has more than 20 years of experience in strategic planning, risk management, diversity and inclusion program design and more.

Sabina Taj, 44, of Ellicott City, is a longtime adviser for a foundation that supports initiatives in kindergarten-to-12th grade education. Taj believes that the most effective way to address overcrowding in the county is to build more schools, but for now redistricting “seems like a necessary course of action.” In addressing school safety, Taj said that the school board should take research-based approaches that create safe schools rather than “feel-good measures,” that give off a false sense of security. A mother of two, her children attend county elementary and middle schools, according to her campaign website. For the past year, Taj has served on the Centennial Lane Elementary School PTA as chair of a committee focused on diversity, inclusion and equity. Taj has a master’s degree from George Washington University and a bachelor’s from California Lutheran University. She is an adjunct professor at Howard Community College.

Chao Wu, 40, an engineer, does not want massive school redistricting for county. Wu, a Clarksville resident, believes that more schools need to be at the right location — where student population growth is shown. Wu believes improving the adequate public facilities ordinance is an important aspect in this redistricting dialogue. His approach to closing achievement gaps within the county is to promote more vocational and technological training as an alternative career path as well as focusing on each student and creating a success plan for each of them. Wu received his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, a master's degree from the National University of Singapore and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Science and Technology of China. He is a senior engineer and works in areas of artificial intelligence research, computer programming, data analysis and more.

jnocera@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jessmnocera

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