It took Ariane Grubb Kelly moving thousands of miles across the country to recognize how special Harford County was to her, and she hopes to keep it moving forward as a newly appointed member of the Harford County Board of Education.
The Harford County Council appointed Kelly to a vacant school board seat in a unanimous vote Tuesday night.
Kelly, 40, was born in Harford County and attended North Harford elementary, middle and high schools before getting her undergraduate degree from University of Delaware. She moved to California to take a job at at San Diego State University but wanted to raise her daughter in a supportive environment like Harford.
“I think it took me 3,000 miles to really understand and appreciate how special Harford County is,” she said.
After spending 15 years away, she moved back to Harford County about 5 years ago, and now lives in Pylesville, Kelly said. Her daughter attends Harford County Public Schools and her son will, too, in the fall.
Her decision to apply for the open school board position was spurred by the educational challenges she sees students and teachers facing in the future and her desire to help.
As the Director of Academic Support at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Kelly works with college students to acclimate them to the university environment. Before that, she worked with first-generation or lower-income students to make post-graduation plans and inform them that college was an option.
Kelly knows that virtual learning has been a stress for students and parents, and warned that an educational gap is likely as a result. Because kids were made to learn for themselves, she said it is possible that they will not all be on the same level moving into the next school year.
Her goals are to shorten that gap as much as possible and bolster any post-graduation preparation programs, which is in line with her current work Hopkins.
“Everyone is not going to start off, I guess, with the same background going into the next grade,” she said. “It is something the county needs to be aware of and planning for.”
The Board of Education seat has been vacant since Jan. 25, created when elected board member Tamera Rush announced her resignation because she was moving out of the northern Harford County Councilmanic District D to Havre de Grace.
School board members are required to live in the district in which they are elected, as did candidates to fill the vacancy. District D is the county’s largest geographically, and includes the communities of Jarrettsville, Norrisville, Whiteford, Street, Dublin, Darlington, Level and Forest Hill, among others.
Kelly will finish out Rush’s term, which ends in 2023. She has not thought about running for election when her term is up, but she said she would be interested in continuing if it works for her and her family.
Harford County Council President Patrick Vincenti said four candidates applied to fill the vacancy in Rush’s former district. The deadline to apply was extended 30 days to allow more candidates to join in.
Vincenti said Kelly was the most qualified applicant, between her background in education and her familiarity with Harford schools. He also said Kelly was invested in the school systems’ success, because her children attend or will be attending schools here.
Tuesday’s appointment was the second time the council had to replace an elected school board member in a little over a year, after never having had to do so before.
Legislation approved over a decade ago changed the make-up of the Harford County Board of Education from a nine-member board appointed entirely by the governor to a hybrid board consisting of six elected members representing a specific geographic district and three appointed members. Included in that legislation was a provision that charged the county council with filling vacancies on the school board.
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Board member Kathryn “Kathy” Carmello died in December 2019, necessitating a replacement was named. The council appointed retired Harford Community College teacher Carol Mueller to Carmello’s District C seat in February 2020.