With all votes accounted for in Howard County, two incumbents and one first-time challenger took their places as winners of the Board of Education race.
At 1 a.m. Wednesday morning with all 111 precincts reporting, incumbent Janet Siddiqui took the top spot with 63,949 votes, far ahead of first-time candidate Ann De Lacy, who had 48,308 votes in second place. The other incumbent, Ellen Giles, had 47,704 votes.
Siddiqui said she was "very pleased and very humbled" by her sizable win.
"It's been a long campaign, but it's the children in Howard County, the parents and the community that won tonight," she said. "I'm going to continue to do my work on the board for the next four years, continue to look at ways to eliminate the achievement gap and move forward."
Giles said she was "grateful for the faith of people in Howard County," and promised to "continue to listen, and do my homework, and do the best for the kids in the county."
Both incumbents said they were excited to work with De Lacy, a long-time Howard County teacher and past president of the Howard County Education Association.
"She brings a wealth of experience in the county, and in the classroom, as well as the leadership within the union," Giles said. "That's a perspective we haven't necessarily had before, and I think we'll gain from it."
De Lacy said her win means that for "the first time in many years," the board has a former Howard County teacher as one of its members.
"It means ... they have someone who knows the system extremely well, from a broad perspective, and someone who's going to ask tough questions and expect honest answers," De Lacy said. "My whole goal is to ensure the Howard County public schools offer a world-class education to all of its students, and that our focus is no longer on test scores as the major barometer for determining how well our students are doing."
De Lacy said she would be asking for audits of the board's policies and school programs, to see what works and what doesn't "in regards to student achievement."
She said she would also be asking "tough questions of the County Council in respect to housing, and affordable housing, and its placement" in the county.
Meanwhile, Jackie Scott, who emerged early as a challenger to Giles and De Lacy, came in last with 41,334 votes. Bob Ballinger came in fourth with 44,571 votes, and David Gertler had 43,403 votes.
Still, at 12:30 a.m., Scott said that although she was disappointed, she had no regrets.
"I was so fortunate to have so many people believe in me. ... I worked hard and I will continue to work hard, and continue to work for the kids no matter what happens," she said.
When early voting results were posted 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, the leaders were the same: Siddiqui was leading the race with 14,627 votes. De Lacy was second with 11,289 votes, while Giles was in third with 11,190.
Early voting in Howard County ran Saturday, Oct. 27 through Friday, Nov. 2 — extended because of Superstorm Sandy, which caused two days of early voting to be canceled.
Earlier in on election day, with just a couple hours left to vote in the general election, candidates expressed optimism as they reflected on their campaigns.
"I think (voters) want to build on the success we've made," said Giles, as she greeted voters at Mount View Middle School late Tuesday afternoon. "They want to make sure our children are taken care of and their money is well spent, and that we're working for the future."
Giles, who has served on the board since 2006, said she was encouraged by voter turnout, and felt good about her chances of re-election.
Other candidates also said they felt good about their chances.
"I'm excited for tomorrow, and excited for our children," said first-time candidate Scott, adding that she was "really, really optimistic and totally energized" about the election.
At Murray Hill Middle, Scott said having the support of both Howard and Prince's George's county executives, Ken Ulman and Rushern Baker, as well as County Council members Calvin Ball and Courtney Watson is humbling.
"I am so deeply appreciative of people who have supported me by encouraging me and providing advice and guidance," Scott said. "That they think enough of me to lend their help is heartwarming."
At Lisbon Elementary, Ballinger too said he was happy with the turnout, and grateful for the support of his friends throughout the campaign. He said he too felt good about his chances.
"People are looking for positive hope and change on the board, and I bring a bold vision, clear leadership and a passion for our children and giving them the best education possible," said Ballinger, who has run for the board twice before. "I have a firm sense of fiscal responsibility, so people can know we're spending their money correctly. ... (Voters) want someone who will listen to them."
Gertler, at Clarksville Middle, said people want a school board that includes "cooperation, collaboration, and people open to hearing the issues and working intelligently to solve the issues."
Gertler has run for the board before, in 2010. This time, he said he felt more well-informed about the issues, likely because of the various ballot questions, and were "doing their homework."
Gertler said he was running for the board to give back to the community.
"If you look at the challenges and opportunities we face for our kids, I have the right skills and expertise we need at this time to excel when we're looking at redistricting, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) awareness, and infusing technology into the future of education," Gertler said.
At Swansfield Elementary, De Lacy said she felt her chances were "as good as anyone's."
"(I have a) deep understanding of public education, specifically Howard County education," De Lacy said. "That perspective would serve the children well. ... People are surprised when they realize I'm the only teacher on the ballot. I worked for a long period of my career in a school where student were identified as socio-economically challenged, and I can deal with diverse children — ethnically, socioeconomically. For me, it transcends race and (political) party."
Also at Swansfield, Siddiqui said she was pleased with voter turnout, and happy with the positive response she had gotten from people at the polls.
But she said she was not taking anything for granted.
"I think for the most part, people are satisfied with the education their children are getting," Siddiqui said. "But that's not to say more can't be done for their children. ... I think (voters) are looking for people who create a good balance on the board, who are advocating for their children, and that's what I do every day: I advocate for children."
Those six — Ballinger, De Lacy, Gertler, Giles, Scott and Siddiqui — were whittled down from an original field of 14 candidates in the April primary. During the primary, Siddiqui led the candidates, garnering 11,732 votes — f40 percent more thanDe Lacy, who earned the second-highest at 8,415. The votes ebbed down from there: Giles came in third with 7,612, followed by Scott with 7,326, Gertler with 7,286, and Ballinger with 6,232.
The primary field also included former board member Patricia Gordon, who retired in 2010, and board member Allen Dyer, who came in eighth place, falling short in his bid for a second term on the board.
Dyer has a long, contentious history with the board, either suing the body or representing people involved in litigation against it several times before his term began in 2008. His legal actions continued even while he was serving on the board, as he fought for greater transparency and protection of records. Ethics complaints were filed against him in 2010, but those charges were quietly dismissed in spring 2011.
Often at odds with Dyer, the board voted in June 2011 to request the Maryland State Board of Education remove him from his seat. That process has stretched out to over a year, as the case went before an administrative law judge, who has yet to make a recommendation to the state board. Such a recommendation, and a decision, is unlikely to be made before Dyer's term ends in December.