Baltimore County voters on Tuesday elected their first school board members in seven County Council districts, a change that advocates hope will make the board more accountable to the community.
Three of the current 12 board members — Julie Henn, Kathleen Causey and student Haleemat Adekoya, a senior at Milford Mill Academy — will continue on the board. The election guaranteed that at least two members of the board will be minorities.
Henn ran unopposed in the 5th District after former Baltimore health commissioner Peter Beilenson moved out of the county. She, Causey and two other board members had worked to challenge the school system’s administration and its currently supportive board majority.
The new 12-member board will convene in December with the seven newly elected members, four others the governor will appoint and the student member.
The hybrid board is the culmination of an effort launched years ago by a group of parents, education advocates and legislators frustrated by what they felt was a board that too often rubber stamped the superintendent and failed to represent the community’s educational concerns. The group finally convinced the General Assembly to pass legislation in 2014 to allow the county to have a partially elected board.
The board will immediately confront a decision about how to search for a new school superintendent after the resignation of superintendent Dallas Dance in April 2017. Dance was convicted of four counts of perjury and served four months in jail in Virginia.
The current school board named Verletta White, who was serving as an interim superintendent, to be the permanent replacement for Dance. However, Maryland State School Superintendent Karen Salmon blocked her appointment.
By state law, a new superintendent must be in place by July 1, a timetable that leaves little room for the new board to get settled in before a search begins.
1st district (Southwest Baltimore County)
Lisa Mack, 60, a retired Verizon executive and former community college English teacher, beat Matt Gresick, a 38-year-old Howard County high school social studies teacher.
Mack has said every student does not need a laptop and that students should not be passed to the next grade unless they have mastered the material.
2nd District (Northwest Baltimore County)
Cheryl Pasteur, 69, a retired Randallstown High School principal, won her contest against Tony Glasser, 56, an optometrist.
Pasteur’s campaign focused on classroom instruction and discipline.
3rd District (Northern Baltimore County)
Causey, 53, a parent activist, won easily against Paul Konka, 67, a retired accountant, adjunct professor and county substitute teacher, in the 3rd council district in northern Baltimore County.
First appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan, Causey joined Henn and others in the board’s dissenting minority voting bloc. Causey often chastised the school system’s administration for not being transparent and fought unsuccessfully against the laptop contract.
4th District (Western Baltimore County)
The fourth district was the only one with two black candidates, assuring minority representation on the board.
Some community members had expressed fears that the number of minority board members, which is currently three, would decline if the board became an elected panel.
Makeda Scott, 46, a PTA leader who works in information technology, beat Kathleen White, a longtime educator.
Scott, who held a slim lead, vowed to fight for smaller class sizes, more social workers in schools and to ensure that students have adequate resources.
6th District (Northeast Baltimore County)
Lily Rowe, 43, a parent activist, won over Edward Kitlowski, 60, a retired Baltimore County teacher.
Rowe is a longtime critic of the district, advocating for it to invest in window air-conditioners when dozens of schools still had no central air. She also wants to more quickly address transportation issues.
7th District (Southeast Baltimore County)
Rod McMillion, 65, a county high school teacher who would have to retire if elected, beat leading William Feuer, 37, a tax adviser.
Feuer and McMillion agreed that hiring a new superintendent is the board’s top priority. But while McMillion would consider choosing Verletta White for the post, Feuer has said the superintendent “has no respect for accountability and transparency.”