Two front-runners from the June primary were among the winners for four open seats on the eight-member Howard County Board of Education, according to unofficial results from the State Board of Elections.
Vicky Cutroneo, Chao Wu, front-runners in the primary, as well as Jen Mallo and Sabina Taj took the seats with all 118 precincts reporting.
Cutroneo tallied 55,137 votes; Wu, 51,743 votes, Mallo, 50,731 votes and Taj, 48,926 votes.
With less than 4,500 votes separating the fourth and fifth-place vote-getters, however, absentee ballots could change the final outcome of the election.
Elected at large, the nonpartisan school board has seven members with an additional seat for a student member. Nine candidates were running for the four seats. Kirsten Coombs, Christina Delmont-Small and Mavis Ellis retain their seats.
Bob Glascock came in fifth with 44,502 votes followed by Robert Miller with 41,479 votes, Anita Pandey with 35,651 votes and Danny Mackey with 34,730 votes.
Results for Mavourene Robinson, the official write-in candidate, were not reported on the State Board of Elections website Tuesday night.
None of the four incumbents whose terms are expiring sought re-election.
Key issues facing the school board include classroom crowding, achievement gaps, school funding and further investing in social and emotional safety measures for students.
Howard County is the state’s sixth-largest school system and one of the highest achieving in the nation based on test scores.
‘Tough decisions ahead’
Cutroneo, who lost in the 2016 school board race, said “It’s good I didn’t win two years ago because I’m more qualified now.”
“I’m thankful that I’ve been able to connect with people all over the county … [having] a wider base of support,” Cutroneo said.
Cutroneo is looking forward to addressing school crowding and working on the school system’s budgets.
On his win, Wu said he’s excited and “I’m grateful to my great volunteer team, without their help I don’t think I could have won.”
“We want to make sure we provide a quality education for our students in the county,” Wu said.
A top priority for Wu is continuing to shrink the school system’s $37 million deficit, which is rooted in an imbalance of the school system’s employee health and dental fund since 2011.
Mallo credited her volunteers who helped make her win possible Tuesday night.
“Without their help I’m not sure I would have gotten my name out,” Mallo said.
Mallo is excited to serve on the school board and help move the board forward “with some tough decisions we got ahead of us.”
“It looks like like the new board of education will be a great diverse team,” Mallo said. “We have nowhere but to go up from here.”
Taj said her campaign ran on a platform of equity, health and representation which “obviously resonated with Howard County residents.”
“We worked, we listened … we wanted to know what people were concerned about and what issues affected their children,” Taj said. “We started a conversation …. that conversation will continue, the fact we get to do it as a team now, a team of board members that were elected and the ones that are there is exciting.”
This story has been updated to include comments from candidate Sabina Taj.