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Nominating commission interviews candidates for school board seat

Cindy Huang
The school board nominating commission interviews applicants Monday

The School Board Nominating Commission on Monday interviewed five of the 10 applicants for the District 33 seat on the county Board of Education.

The commission is expected to interview the other applicants and vote to recommend candidates to Gov. Larry Hogan during its next meeting on March 28. The person who is appointed would start July 1.

On Monday night, the commission interviewed Allison Pickard, a board member who is seeking reappointment; William Fromme, who retired from a consulting and technology company; Jill Whitley, an attorney; Diana Peckham, a retired teacher; and Kerry Petz, who works for a education nonprofit.

Many of the 10 applicants are active parent volunteers, according to their posted applications. Some of them are former county students.

The applicants share goals for the school system, such as reducing the construction backlog, eliminating the achievement gap and building community relationships to improve schools.

Some said they wanted to help high-achieving students and evaluate school programs.

During her interview, Pickard said she wants to invest money in pre-kindergarten, but does not believe the program needs to be mandatory. She said there aren't resources available for everyone to attend pre-kindergarten because the state does not fund the program.

Her goals for the school board include maintaining a high-functioning board and talking to the community about the board's educational priorities.

A former Parent Teacher Association president at Oakwood Elementary school, Pickard won awards for her volunteer work. She has three children who attend county schools.

Fromme, who retired from Calibre Systems Inc., said his goals are to improve school safety, increase math and reading proficiency scores, and raise graduation rates for all students. He said in his application the school system has to support its top students, as well as those who are struggling.

"Otherwise we are going to drive the top students to private schools, which is in no one's best interest," he wrote.

Petz said she wants to reduce the school system's maintenance backlog and build smaller schools. She also wants to increase charter schools and magnet programs, according to her posted application.

She said the school board's priority should be building relationships with the community.

She also wants to support parents in their education interests and needs.

"My approach is to meet parents where they're at," she said.

Whitley said her goals are to eliminate the opportunity gap and create strong partnerships between families, businesses and schools.

Like Petz, She said the school board needs to improve its public perception.

Peckham said her goal is evaluate programs and textbook budgets, to change high school start times so students are ready to learn in the morning and balance physical and mental learning with academic achievement.

During her interview, she said young learners need less academic work and more "play time." She also said 90 minutes is too long for class.

As a recently retired teacher, she said she can help bring her perspective to the board.

The other five candidates are Eric Grannon, of Davidsonville; Rebecca Mckee, of Annapolis; Dawn Myers, of Annapolis; Claudia O'Keeffe, of Crownsville; and Mariko Bennett, of Gambrills.

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