Two of the seven Howard County Board of Education seats are on the ballot this year, and eight candidates have filed to run.
School board members are elected to four-year terms on a staggered basis in even-numbered years. Beginning in June 2020, the way that Howard County residents vote for school board members changed. Now, five of the seven school board members are elected by voters in their respective County Council districts. The remaining two members are elected at-large, meaning any registered voter can vote for them.
This year, the two at-large seats are up for election.
School board members Chao Wu and Vicky Cutroneo, who currently hold those seats are not running for reelection. Wu, of Clarksville, has filed to run as a Democrat for a Maryland State Delegate seat in District 9A. Cutroneo announced last July that she would not seek another term.
The primary election is set for July 19 and the general election is set for Nov. 8.
The four top vote-getters will proceed from the primary to the general election. The top two vote-getters in that election will win the seats.
Candidates Tudy Adler, Linfeng Chen, and Dan Newberger filed for candidacy earlier this year and were profiled in an article in early March. Candidates Susan Dreisch and Jacky McCoy were not available to respond to requests for information about their campaigns.
Julie Hotopp, 46, of Columbia, has lived in Howard County for 14 years and works as a professor of microbiology and genome science at the University of Maryland.
Hotopp is running for a seat on the Howard County Public School System Board of Education because she is passionate about public school education.
“We need more board members that are really passionate about education and [are] really focused on multiple issues, not just wedge issues or single-item focus,” she said.
She aims to use a position on the board to focus on matters such as delaying school start times and improving science education.
If elected, she said she hopes to encourage the board to advocate for increased school construction.
“I hope we can get a seat for every kid in a brick-and-mortar classroom, start schools at reasonable times and address the significant issues we have with special education,” she said.
She and her husband have two sons who are in the first grade at Bryant Woods Elementary School and eighth grade at Wilde Lake Middle School.
Monique Richards, 44, has lived in the county for nearly one year and works in the pharmaceutical industry.
She is running for the school board in order to play a role in improving the school system, to promote equity in education and focus on issues such as redistricting.
“I’m aware of the concerns about the redistricting that recently occurred and of which I’ve heard talks for more to come,” she said. “I want my children to have some sense of security and stability in where they attend school and that the schools that they attend have all the resources that they need to ensure the best education for them.”
If elected, she said she hopes to collaborate with the current board members to find the best solutions for the good of the children.
“I hope to influence the people that I work with that it’s important for the children to feel safe and have a sense of belonging and a healthy sense of self,” she said. “It’s important for us as adults to champion those needs of the students in addition to the core curriculum or whatever basic studies that they are engaged in.”
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Richards lives with her husband and three children in Ellicott City. One of her children is a second grader at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School.
Meg Ricks, 41, of Elkridge, has been a resident of Howard County for 17 years and is a teacher’s assistant at East Columbia Preschool.
She and her husband have three children who attend Elkridge Elementary School, Elkridge Landing Middle School and Howard High School.
Her run for the board of education is a way to continue her advocacy for alleviating overcrowding in schools. Ricks aims to use her position to focus on finding a way to share school system information with families in a variety of languages. She also hopes to focus on improving students’ mental health.
“[I want] to make sure that we’re helping every kid to get what they need,” she said. “Working together is essential [and] a lot of the times we get kind of focused on the things where we don’t agree and we can’t accomplish the things that we do agree on.”
If elected, she said she hopes to work collaboratively with the other members of the board and the community.
“I know there’s been a lot of division over various issues within the school system and nationally, a lot of negative focus on school boards,” she said. “I’m still hopeful that bipartisanship isn’t dead and that we can have nonpartisan organizations so we can put the kids first, not just in words, but in our actions and in our priorities.”