The Howard County Education Association has announced its endorsements for the four open seats on the school board.
The teachers union has endorsed incumbent Frank Aquino, retired Baltimore City teacher Marcelino Bedolla, Baltimore County school administrator David Proudfoot and Brian Meshkin, an executive with a bioscience company.
Bedolla, who works as a substitute teacher in Howard County schools, impressed the union's endorsement committee because of his firsthand knowledge of schools.
"He's wonderful," said Ann DeLacy, head of the union. "He is thoughtful. He doesn't say a lot, but when he says something it is very powerful. He is the voice for children of poverty. … He is the other piece of the puzzle that we need on the Board of Education."
Bedolla said he was pleased with the union's decision.
"I think the endorsement is an important endorsement for anyone who is running for the board," he said, adding that the union's focus of educating kids aligns with his.
Aquino was endorsed by the committee because he is "probably our best friend on the board at this time," DeLacy said.
"He and [school board member] Allen Dyer tend to not march locked step with the rest of them," she said. "There has to be some checks and balances over the folks in central office."
The seats of four board members — Aquino, Sandra French, Pat Gordon and Larry Cohen — are on the ballot this year. French, who is entering her 16th year on the board, plans to seek re-election, as does Aquino, who is seeking a second term. Gordon, who has served on the board for the past 10 years, has said she will not seek re-election, and Cohen has yet to announce his intentions.
In addition, Larry Walker, a parent who has been active in the school system for decades; David Thalheimer, an engineer and family business owner from Columbia; and Cindy Vaillancourt, a Clarksville mother of two who unsuccessfully ran for the school board in 2004, have filed the required paperwork with the Howard County Board of Elections stating their intention to run. Candidates have until July 6 to file. A primary will be held Sept. 14; the general election is Nov. 2.
Aquino said the teachers' endorsement means a lot to him.
"It is very nice to have their support — that is the bottom line," he said. "They do the everyday work with the kids. And their dedication helps the system immensely."
Proudfoot came highly recommended to the committee by the teachers union in Baltimore County, according to DeLacy.
Proudfoot was the first candidate to receive the endorsement of the HCEA, according to DeLacy.
"He is aware of all levels of education reform," DeLacy said.
Having firsthand knowledge of the inner workings of the school system is an added bonus for Proudfoot, according to DeLacy.
"I think that we have been derelict in the fact that we are appointing people to manage nearly a billion-dollar budget who have no idea how the school system works," she said. "I think folks need to have an idea of how to manage school systems."
Meshkin was also pleased to receive the support of the HCEA.
"As we promote innovative solutions, I am honored to have our teachers' support in making our good schools even better," he said.
"In speaking with our local teachers' union, I have found them open to out-of-the-box thinking and innovative approaches to improve education," Meshkin said.
DeLacy described Meshkin as an "absolutely brilliant, intuitive person who is not afraid to speak out."
She added that he is a well-informed visionary.
"He has an ability to collaborate and sway opinions," she said.
DeLacy did not sit on the union's endorsement committee because of a conflict of interest with Meshkin. She served on Meshkin's campaign committee before he announced his candidacy in April. As a result, she removed herself from both Meshkin's campaign and the union's endorsement committee.
DeLacy said she will return to helping Meshkin campaign as well as the other candidates endorsed by the union now that the endorsement process is done, she said.
"I'll work with all their campaigns," she said. "I'm hoping they will work together."