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Vicky Cutroneo, creator of the “Mold in Howard County Schools-Information for Parents” Facebook page, and Christina Delmont-Small, former president of the PTA Council of Howard County are running a joint campaign for the Howard County Board of Education. Both parents believe they’ve done as much as they could from the outside to improve the county’s school system, and now want to make change from the inside.
Vicky Cutroneo, creator of the “Mold in Howard County Schools-Information for Parents” Facebook page, and Christina Delmont-Small, former president of the PTA Council of Howard County are running a joint campaign for the Howard County Board of Education. Both parents believe they’ve done as much as they could from the outside to improve the county’s school system, and now want to make change from the inside. (Submitted photo)

Christina Delmont-Small, former president of the PTA Council of Howard County, and Vicky Cutroneo, creator of the "Mold in Howard County Schools-Information for Parents" Facebook page, are running a joint campaign for the Howard County Board of Education.

Both parents believe they've done as much as they could from the outside to improve the county's school system, and now want to make change from the inside.

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"We just feel like there's more work to do," said Cutroneo.

Even though they will be on separate tickets, the two parents decided to run on a slate together, they said, because they are "passionate about the same things: accountability, transparency, parental involvement and having a Board of Education that listens to and collaborates with parents, students, educators and other stakeholders."

In recent months, the board has increasingly been criticized by parents, community members and elected officials for allegedly turning a deaf ear toward public input.

Most recently, at a work session of the Howard County Delegation Feb. 10, state Del. Terri Hill said, "It seems to me that they treat the public with absolute disdain, and then they go back to try to figure out how to manipulate within the system to treat them with disdain again."

These circumstances are what drove Cutroneo and Delmont-Small, four days before the Feb. 3 filing deadline, to submit their candidacies. Both seek to make the school system more transparent and accountable to the community, and more open to public input.

"The board is elected by people and have a responsibility to represent their constituents," Delmont-Small said. "The board is only seven people, and we're fortunate in this community to have engaged parents and wonderful teachers. The board can do a better job of harnessing those resources."

Delmont-Small, 52, and Cutroneo, 48, join a field of nine other candidates in the April 26 primary vying for six spots in the general election, to fill three open seats on the board currently held by members Ann De Lacy, Ellen Flynn Giles and Janet Siddiqui. All three incumbents are running for re-election as their four-year terms expire.

As members of the board, both Cutroneo and Delmont-Small would provide as much information as possible to parents, they said, because parents are in the best position to make decisions about their children's educations, and need to be informed to do so.

They would also find different pathways for parents, students and teachers to have a voice in the school system's decision-making, they said, including periodic town hall meetings.

"We have to be open to people's concerns," said Delmont-Small, who has a son in eighth grade and a daughter in fourth grade. "Because you don't know where the next best idea is going to come from."

Delmont-Small has been an educational advocate, she said, since her son started school. She worked her way up PTA leadership to serve as president of the PTA Council of Howard County from 2012 to 2015, as well as the Council's representative to the now-disbanded Operating Budget Review Committee. She still serves on the Council's board.

It was in her last three weeks as president of the PTA Council that Delmont-Small met Cutroneo, who said that she has volunteered in her children's schools for years but didn't begin her advocacy efforts in earnest until last summer. That was when she found out about ongoing mold issues at Glenwood Middle School, where her youngest daughter is currently in seventh grade.

"Before that, my kids were doing well and I was living in a bubble, like a lot of parents in Howard County," said Cutroneo, who has three daughters who are in seventh, ninth and 11th grade.

She approached Delmont-Small with concerns about how school officials were handling the situation, including their decision not to inform the Glenwood community about mold growth as soon as it was discovered to be a problem.

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"Christina validated my concerns," Cutroneo said.

Her concerns over the county school system's lack of communication prompted Cutroneo to create the "Mold in Howard County Schools- Information for Parents" Facebook page, which has more than 1,200 likes, and also to testify at public forums and contact local officials — anything to raise awareness of indoor air quality and health issues at Glenwood.

"I was so impressed with what Vicky did as a mom, even though her kids weren't impacted," Delmont-Small said.

"It's empathy," Cutroneo said. "Every student is like your child. And what's more important than their health?"

In the meantime, Delmont-Small asked then-Board Chairwoman Janet Siddiqui and Superintendent Renee Foose to provide any relevant information to parents, she said, and made sure that her fellow Council board members were "on the same page" about the situation at Glenwood.

Eight months after the two parents met and initiated these efforts, the state's highest elected office took notice. After receiving letters of concern from several Howard County parents — including Cutroneo — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and state Comptroller Peter Franchot questioned Foose at a Jan. 27 meeting about how she and other school officials handled both the communication and the solution of indoor air quality problems at Glenwood Middle.

"There's a palpable loss of trust between many parents and the county school system," Hogan said at the meeting, "and in particular with the superintendent."

This trust is what Cutroneo and Delmont-Small hope to rebuild by running for the Board of Education.

Both see their campaign as a natural extension of their previous efforts to improve the county's schools, which they said revealed how the board needs to change.

"Everybody has the same platform," Cutroneo said about the group of 11 school board candidates, "because we all know what we need."

For more information on Cutroneo and Delmont-Small and their campaign for Howard County Board of Education, go to https://christinaandvicky.com/.

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