Marcelino Bedolla is making his fourth run for Howard County Board of Education. If elected, Bedolla will "ask the why's," he said. "Why do you need this? Has it been tried before? What's the data that shows we need it? How much does it cost? How will it effect the kids?"
Marcelino Bedolla is making his fourth run for Howard County Board of Education. If elected, Bedolla will "ask the why's," he said. "Why do you need this? Has it been tried before? What's the data that shows we need it? How much does it cost? How will it effect the kids?" (Nicole Martyn / Patuxent Publishing)

In recent months, parents and elected officials have accused five of the Howard County Board of Education's seven members of rubber stamping Superintendent Renee Foose's decisions.

But Marcelino Bedolla, who is making his fourth run for the school board, believes the board has been a rubber stamp for much longer than its current members have been in place.

Advertisement

"From my perspective, it has been that way since the turn of the century," said Bedolla, who has lived in Howard County since 1970.

The school board has too little discussion at its meetings, said the former Marine, and members don't question decisions.

"If the staff or superintendent wants to change a program or introduce a new program, they say, 'yes, go ahead,' without any inquiry as to what outcomes are expected, has this been tried before, what data supports it, why do you need it?" he said. "They just say, 'yeah, go ahead, whatever the cost.'"

Bedolla, who taught in a Baltimore City high school for 13 years after working for federal drug enforcement agencies for 27 years, said that change on the board would take time, but that he would initiate it by asking questions.

"I will ask the why's," said the Columbia resident. "Why do you need this? Has it been tried before? What's the data that shows we need it? How much does it cost? How will it effect the kids?"

As a member of the board, Bedolla said he would also work to increase communication between school principals and their communities, and to address inequities in suspensions among racial groups.

Bedolla, 79, first ran for the board in 1998, he said, because he saw discrepancies in the county's educational system for Hispanic students.

He was defeated, but in the process got to know the co-founder of Conexiones, a nonprofit serving Hispanic students in Howard County. He became closely involved with the group, which pushed for annual recognition ceremonies for Hispanic students who completed high school.

Bedolla's interactions with the school system, through his position with Conexiones, as well as his service on school system policy committees and its Operating Budget Review Committee, cemented his view of the board as a rubber stamp and his belief that school officials operate without openness.

"When I was on the OBRC, every time you asked a question [school officials] would say, well that's not available, or you can't have it," he said.

The school board has since disbanded the committee based on allegations that it was ineffective, but Bedolla believes it was disbanded because its members were asking too many questions.

Transparency and accountability in the school system are issues that Bedolla said he brought up during the 2010 school board race, which marked his third campaign for the office.

"Except now, everybody recognizes it," he said. "Back then, you know, you were blowing in the wind."

Then, Bedolla also had the endorsement of the Howard County Education Association, which chose not to endorse the Columbia resident during the 2016 election cycle. The union is instead endorsing Kirsten Coombs, Mavis Ellis and Christina Delmont-Small.

Advertisement

Despite this and a lack of campaign funds, which he is quick to divulge, Bedolla remains optimistic about the election.

By running, he said, he hopes to at least add to the conversation.

Bedolla faces seven other challengers and three incumbents in the April 26 primary, which will narrow the field to six candidates. Three seats on the school board are up for grabs in the Nov. 7 general election.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement