Columbia pediatrician seeks seat on school board

When asked about her platform in running for the Howard County Board of Education, Zaneb Beams' response doesn't include the issues most commonly discussed by candidates.

Instead, her response is simple.


"My platform is what do people need," she said. "I don't see public office or public service, whether you're appointed or elected, as doing what you want to do, but doing what people are telling you they need."

Beams is one of 12 candidates running for four open seats on the school board. The primary election is June 24, and eight candidates will advance to November's election.


This campaign isn't Beams' first foray into politics.

In 2010, she ran as the Democratic candidate for County Council in District 5, where she received 32 percent of the vote, falling to Republican incumbent Greg Fox.

A Columbia pediatrician, Beams said her run for the school board follows her career path, which has been filled with helping children.

She began considering a run for the school board after ongoing conversations with parents and interactions with the school system on behalf of her patients.

"I find myself engaging the school system very regularly and have parents coming to me with concerns about school issues," she said.

Beams added that she also has numerous new patients saying they moved to Howard County for the schools.

"I hear a lot of great things about our schools and I hear a lot of areas where I feel that I can advocate, not just for the kids I take care of, but all of our children," she said.

Beams, a Columbia native, is one of four candidates endorsed by the Howard County Education Association in the election.


She called the endorsement "a great honor."

"They and I have a shared mission," she said of educators and pediatricians. "We are both a group of people who have committed our lives to helping young people and building the brightest possible future for all of us through optimizing young people's social, emotional and physical outcomes."

Traveling to many schools throughout the county on her patients' behalf, Beams is concerned with the disparity between resources at county schools.

"I think we can do a better job there and that's said with an absolute admiration for the quality of the experience that all four of our kids are having," she said.

As a pediatrician, Beams believes her work experience will be beneficial as a board member since the school system and her practice draw from the same clientele.

One issue that has arisen in separate conversations with her patients is bullying.


"I hear about bullying every day," she said, adding that it's predominantly from elementary and middle school patients.

In assessing the job of Superintendent Renee Foose, Beams said the jury is still out.

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"A lot of the projects that she is tasked with are long-term," she said. "You can't measure how the wellness policy is working in a short amount of time."

Regarding the recently approved school wellness policy, Beams said it was a "good start."

"While a lot was done and a lot can be done, we've made a very good start and the graduated plan to slowly improve over time is, I think, a wise one," she said. "I think that it would be nice to put some more teeth in the policy over time, but it's also not wise to expect that you can go from the wellness policy of yesteryear to the wellness policy of the future all in one big bang."

Beams has four children: a seventh-grader and sixth-grader at Folly Quarter Middle School and twins in second grade at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School.


When moving back to Howard County from Indianapolis in 2008, Beams said she and her husband considered sending their children to private schools, but decided the Howard County Public School System would be best.

"We have been nothing but impressed overall with the absolutely world class education that our kids are getting," she said.

This is part of a series of profiles of Howard County School Board candidates.