Harford County will begin its transition from a fully appointed school board with the Sept 14 primary election, as county voters begin choosing representatives on the panel.
The change will be partial this year, affecting three of six County Council districts. But after the 2014 election, the seven-member board will expand to nine seats; six will be elective and three appointed by the governor. Parents strongly advocated for the change, arguing that it would give them more of a voice in their children's education.
The primary will pare the list of candidates to two in each of the three districts. A total of 14 candidates are running for nomination. The school board vote is not a partisan election, said county elections director James Massey, so candidates won't be identified as Democrats, Republicans or otherwise.
While most primary contests are limited by party, any registered voter, regardless of affiliation, can cast a ballot in the school board race.
The General Assembly, spurred by strong community pressure, enacted legislation last year calling for a partially elected school board rather than one appointed by the governor. Many residents complained that the elected board was tied to Annapolis and not responsive to the needs and wants of the local community.
Instead of an entirely new — and possibly inexperienced — board, the legislation calls for the election of half the members this year. The successful candidates will represent District A, which includes Joppa and Edgewood; District B, which includes Fallston and Abingdon and District D, which consists of the northern, more rural areas of the county.
Districts B and D have each drawn five candidates to the primary. District A voters will choose two from among four candidates.
The candidates range in age from 27 to 62. Several are current or retired teachers. A few are retired military personnel. One is a minister, another is a stay-at-home mother and another is a stand-up comedian. Eleven of the 14 candidates are men.
The three winners in the Nov. 2 general election will take their seats on the school board next July and serve a four-year term. At the same time, the terms of three appointed members will expire.
All sitting members' terms will expire by 2015, when the board expands to nine seats. Three of the board members will be appointed by the governor, and the other six will be elected by County Council district in the 2014 election.
The bipartisan school board race and several tight Republican contests that will ultimately decide the winner could help push Harford's primary turnout above the typical 50 percent, said Massey. County Democrats have not fielded candidates in several key campaigns, including county executive and council president, conceding those posts to the winner of the Republican primary.