French, Vaillancourt re-elected to Howard board of education

Cindy Vaillancourt greets a voter outside of Mount View Middle School Tuesday. She added balloons to her campaign literature.
Cindy Vaillancourt greets a voter outside of Mount View Middle School Tuesday. She added balloons to her campaign literature. (By Blair Ames)

Howard County Board of Education members may not approve of Cindy Vaillancourt, but Howard County voters do.

Vaillancourt, who twice has been chastised by her colleagues in recent months for actions they characterized as inappropriate, was re-elected for a second term Tuesday. She received more votes than any other candidate running for school board.


Vaillancourt received 42,666 votes, or 15.9 percent of the total, with 100 percent of the precincts reporting Tuesday night.

Fellow incumbent Sandie French was also elected to serve another term; it will be her fifth. She received the second most votes, 41,254 or 15.3 percent.


Newcomers Bess Altwerger, a Towson University professor, and Christine O'Connor, PTSA President of Howard High School, will join French and Vaillancourt on the board as they received the third and fourth most votes, respectively.

Dan Furman, Dr. Zaneb Beams, Allen Dyer and Mike Smith finished in fifth through eighth, in that order.

French said she was "very grateful for the opportunity" to continue serving on the board.

"I owe my success to the success of our school system, our dedicated teachers, administrators and the superintendents that I've worked with," she said in a phone interview.


In her next term, French said she would like to see the board continue its commitment to Superintendent Renee Foose's Vision 2018 — a five-year strategic plan — while expanding pre kindergarten services and world language throughout the elementary level.

Vaillancourt, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday night, was in a jovial mood at Mount View Middle School in the afternoon, greeting voters with balloons as they passed by.

Twice in a span on five months, Vaillancourt has found herself at odds with colleagues as the board of education approved two resolutions that expressed displeasure with her.

In May, the board approved a resolution that accused Vaillancourt of twice breaching the confidentiality of closed sessions within the past year. Then in September, the board reprimanded Vaillancourt for asking a recent high school graduate if he knew a local Giant grocery store had been asking for identification of people purchasing condoms.

The school system's Office of Equity Assurance found Vaillancourt's actions had violated the board's sexual harassment policy by "making a sexually offensive comment to a male student that was unwelcome and inappropriate."

Altwerger, one of the four candidates recommended by the Howard County Education Association, said she was pleased to be elected to represent Howard County students and teachers, although she expressed disappointment that more HCEA candidates were not elected.

The Howard County Education Association, the county teachers union, had recommended its 5,000 members support Altwerger, Beams, Furman and Vaillancourt.

In a phone interview Tuesday night, Altwerger said she will be an "independent voice" on the board.

"I will continue to work to the best of my ability for the kids and educators of Howard County," she said. "I assure you that I will be a strong voice and very open about my views."

O'Connor, one of three candidates recommended by the Howard County Administrators Association, has said throughout the campaign she will treat her position on the board as a full-time job.

On Tuesday, she said she believes that message, along with her involvement in county schools as a volunteer and PTSA president, resonated with voters.

"I'm able to relate to what's actually happening in our schools," she said.

HCAA, which represents 300 school-based and central office administrators, had recommended French, O'Connor and Smith for the board.

It was the first time in the organization's 16 years that it recommended candidates for school board.

New board members will be sworn into their positions Dec.1.

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