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Northern Harford school board candidates agree teachers need more money

Harford County Board of Education President Nancy Reynolds, right, announces the hiring of Superintendent Barbara Canavan, left, last Febrary. Reynolds is a candidate for the board's District D seat in the Nov. 4 General Election.
Harford County Board of Education President Nancy Reynolds, right, announces the hiring of Superintendent Barbara Canavan, left, last Febrary. Reynolds is a candidate for the board's District D seat in the Nov. 4 General Election. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

While Mike Simon acknowledges he does not have the education credentials of Nancy Reynolds, his opponent for the District D seat on the Harford County Board of Education, he still considers himself a worthy candidate.

"I was asked by concerned community members if I would run for this position and give a voice to their concerns, as far as the direction the public education system seems to be headed," the 30-year-old Street resident said.

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"I firmly believe that I have been able to advocate successfully for children throughout my career, and my focus is to continue that advocacy," said Reynolds, the current school board president, who is a retired teacher and principal in the Harford school system.

Reynolds was appointed to an at-large seat on the school board in 2011 by Gov. Martin O'Malley; fellow board members chose her as president in 2013.

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The District D board seat, covering the county's northern tier from Norrisville to Darlington, has been an elected seat since 2010, but the incumbent, Francis "Rick" Grambo decided not to run for re-election. The board has a third northern Harford resident, Joseph Hau, who lost to Grambo in 2010, but was later appointed to vacant at-large seat. He also didn't run for the District D seat this year.

There are six elected seats on the board, all being filled this year, and three remaining appointed at-large seats, that can be refilled by the governor following the election.

Neither Reynolds nor Simon have run for elected office. In a four-way primary, in which the top two finishers moved on to the Nov. 4 general election, Reynolds finished well ahead of Simon, 55 percent to 20 percent, albeit with a low turnout.

Simon is a project manager with Empire Corrugated Machinery in Glen Arm and an active member of Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church in Dublin.

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Simon said northern Harford residents tell him they are concerned about what some call the "impending teacher crisis," if Harford teachers do not receive salary increases, and the implementation of Common Core standards.

"With teachers not receiving any raises, we are losing a lot of teaching talent out of Harford County," he said.

Reynolds also stressed the need to improve teacher salaries, as have all 12 candidates for the six elected board seats this campaign.

"It is so critical to the success of our educational system and for the health and well being of our community that a long-term solution to the compensation issue is found, not only for HCPS staff, but for all of our county employees," she said.

Simon does not have any children and is not married, but said he has a long-term girlfriend. He is a 2002 graduate of North Harford High School and received an associate's degree in business administration, with a concentration in economics, from Harford Community College in August.

Simon said he wants to have children eventually and ensure the public schools remain acceptable for them.

"I am passionate about this, and I would really like for the public school system to be a place where I could send my children and have them receive an exceptional education, so I have a vested interest in the future of the school system," he said.

Reynolds, 71, a Forest Hill resident, is married with two daughters and two grandchildren.

Her daughters are Joppatowne High School graduates. Her grandson attends Hickory Elementary School, and her granddaughter is in the International Baccalaureate magnet program at Edgewood High School.

"I believe that the greatest gift we can give to our kids is quality education," she said.

Reynolds was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and began her Harford County Public Schools career in the late 1970s or early 1980s, as a middle school language arts teacher and reading specialist.

She taught at Havre de Grace, Aberdeen and Edgewood middle schools, served as an assistant principal at Edgewood Middle and Southampton Middle in Bel Air and became principal of Bel Air Middle School in 1998. She retired as principal in 2008 and also has worked for HCPS as a principal mentor.

Reynolds said her "unique set of skills and experiences that I bring to this position," including relationships she has built with parents, community members, business leaders and elected officials.

"I feel strongly that we all need to work together to create a shared vision and a strategic plan for the future of Harford County Public Schools," she said.

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