At 21, Corey Andrews has more experience running for the Howard County Board of Education than most of the 10 other, and older, candidates.
"I've learned that yard signs don't win you as many votes as meeting people," said the Elkridge resident.
The 2016 election marks Andrews's third campaign for school board. He is facing three incumbents in addition to seven newcomers. Voters will narrow the field to six candidates in the April 26 primary.
The last time Andrews ran, in 2014, he briefly suspended his candidacy, citing the use of "unethical" campaign tactics by sitting board members, before rejoining the race and losing in the primary.
Andrews said that he has been interested in county school politics since 2009, when he watched board members on public access television discuss whether to officially apologize for past segregation in schools, which was maintained for years after it had been declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court.
"It seemed like something they didn't want to do," said Andrews, who is 19 years younger than the next youngest candidate, Kirsten Coombs, "and so I went and testified at the board's public forum."
He's been involved in public education in the county ever since, he said, as a member of school system policy committees or as a candidate for school board.
The dually enrolled junior at Howard Community College and University of Maryland-Baltimore County describes his candidacy almost as a duty.
"I went to Howard County schools, and my theory is that everything I essentially have to this point is because of them," said Andrews, who graduated from Howard High School in 2012. "I owe it to give back to the community, and I think have a unique perspective."
As the candidate who most recently graduated from Howard County public schools, Andrews said, he has insight into the "other side," or ground-level workings of the school system.
Teachers, Andrews said, are the most important employees in the school system and need to be made a budget priority by the board — meaning, he said, they should be given annual salary step and consistent cost-of-living increases.
For the benefit of Howard County students, Andrews said, the school board needs to ensure that funds are distributed equitably among schools.
"I think there is a disparity in resources from school to school," he said. "If you look at Oakland Mills High School or Wilde Lake, and compare it to River Hill or Glenelg or Howard [high schools], the students there aren't getting the same opportunities."
Andrews believes that this disparity, in addition to the "discipline gap," as he calls it, are contributing to the achievement gap.
"When you have African-American students being suspended at seven times the rate of white students, that is an equity issue," he said.
Black students in the school system were suspended seven times more often than white students during the 2013-14 school year, according to data gathered by school officials.
Beyond serving his community, supporting teachers and promoting equity, Andrews wants to change the current course of the board.
"I think they've ignored or disregarded the plight of teachers, parents and the community," he said. "Teachers, the parents, community, students – they come before the board, where they state their opinions, their positions on things. And the board might listen to it, but they don't take into account when they make their decisions. Or at least, five board members don't."
When asked about how he will make these changes, Andrews responded, "I can't do anything alone."
"Individual board members don't have any power," he said. "The first step is working with what I hope is a new board in November, with a new board majority."
Parents and elected officials have accused five of the seven current school board members – Ann DeLacy, Ellen Flynn Giles, Janet Siddiqui, Chirstine O'Connor and Sandra French – of turning a deaf ear towards the public and blindly following Superintendent Renee Foose's leadership.
Several of the non-incumbent candidates have spoken in interviews and forums about how this is reflected in the board's frequent 5-to-2 voting pattern, and how they will change this pattern once elected to the board.