The Howard County Educators Association has announced that its Government Relations Committee will not wait until the February 2016 filing deadline to interview candidates for the Board of Education, as it has in years past, but instead will begin interviewing candidates immediately.
"We believe that the candidates who are serious about building a Board of Education that is responsive to educators and the community will begin campaigning earlier than Feb. 3," Stephanie Masters, a member of the Association's Government Relations Committee, stated in a press release.
The four-year terms of Board of Education Chairwoman Janet Siddiqui, Vice Chairwoman Ann De Lacy, and member Ellen Giles will expire in 2016, leaving three openings to be voted on during the 2016 election cycle.
In order to run for these positions, candidates must be registered voters and residents of Howard County, and must file with the county's Board of Elections by Feb. 3, 2016. The general election will take place on Nov. 8, 2016.
During every election cycle, HCEA recommends school board candidates to voters who, from the perspectives of educators, will best serve Howard County public schools, according to a press release. However, for the 2016 election, HCEA is starting the candidate approval process earlier in order to have more time to build support for its recommended candidates.
"HCEA wants to work with serious candidates as soon as possible to build a coalition of teachers, parents, and others who want the best school system in the country to live up to their potential," Masters said.
Over the past several months, parents have criticized the Howard County Public School System, including the school board and Superintendent Renee Foose, for its lack of communication and openness with regards to the growth of mold in several county schools, including Glenwood Middle, Centennial High, Glenelg High, and Pointers Run Elementary.
During a board meeting on Oct. 8, Glenwood Middle School parent Vicky Cutroneo testified that the school system had lost the trust of the community through its dismissal of parent concerns about school air quality.
"On June 25, an email was sent by PTACHC board of directors to Dr. Foose and all of the Board of Ed [sic] members asking that our community be notified of mold issues," she said. "The email was never acknowledged by Dr. Foose or the Board of Ed [sic]. This was the first of many times our concerns in the community have been dismissed by the school system."
After financial struggles forced Janet Spillan to sell her Columbia home, she lived in her car on and off for six months. Spillan shared her story with students at Ellicott Mills Middle School on Friday during its Change Matters kickoff, to raise the students' awareness of homelessness.
HCEA's recommendations for school board candidates are first approved by the Association's Government Relations Committee, then its Board of Directors, and ultimately the organization's Representative Council, which is made up of educators from each school building in the county.
"It is a transparent and democratic process and we are proud of it," HCEA President Paul Lemle stated in a press release.