Driving home last night, I was thinking about how important this election could be. The news stories of small local government bodies being taken over by fringe interests and ruining aspects of the community that had been taken for granted are legion. With regard to school boards, textbooks have been re-written, funds emptied, and four-star superintendents run out of town. There's no need to be alarmist here, but have no doubt that there are enough candidates on the current ballot to drastically change our Board of Education and, from this lowly blogger's perspective, potentially ruin our schools.
Seeing as much, it is quite a cop out to say that I have not had time to educate myself on the candidates. I've attempted to do so and have included my analysis below. All disclaimers attach. These are my views based on what information was available to me. If you don't like it, please file a complaint.
First, my votes:
Ellen Flynn Giles
I've previously noted my intention to vote for Ellen, but it bears repeating. I completely disagree with the "baby out with the bathwater" approach advocated by the HCEA (Teacher's Union). The current Board's problems are not equally attributed amongst its members. Those saying otherwise have most likely not considered what it is like to be in a work environment where your name has been affixed to legal process, your conversations are recorded without your knowledge, and the business of the Board is delayed for hours due to self-promotion and grand-standing. Throughout all of this, I think Ms. Giles has handled herself with professionalism and determination. The last word is the main reason I am voting for Ms. Giles. While this Board could have devolved into a paralyzed band of "involved citizens", Board members such as Ms. Giles have pushed forward the business of the Board of Education and made sure that it was addressed without delay.
For parents, have no doubt that Ms. Giles is interested in your concerns. This is one of the most unfair criticisms I've heard about Ellen, ignoring the fact that she became involved in the BoE as a concerned parent and has spent time in leadership positions with numerous parent boards and advisory councils.
Don't let the anti-incumbent fervor fool you. Vote for Ellen Flynn Giles.
I recently said to a friend that David Gertler is a good test for whether electoral politics is effective at selecting the "best man for the job." We are at a precipice of "technology in learning" for which the smallest delay or misunderstanding could set our students back decades. Some have suggested that David is just some technocrat that would make a great CIO, but a mediocre Board member. Hog Wash. The one thing that has impressed me most about David is his humility and interest in incorporating the views and interests of others. He is a magnet for input, whether it is about his campaign or the matters of the Board. All the while, he has concrete ideas for how to take a good product and make it better.
David has been free with his criticisms of the current Board, as he should as a challenger. This has put him in the overlap between me and those who want "change." But most important to me is that he is not looking to make change at the expense of what is working.
If you want to be excited about what Howard County schools are doing over the next two years, Vote Gertler. (And if you vote at the Howard County Senior Center this afternoon, you'll see me with my sign asking the same).
One of the things that has delayed my post about BoE candidates is that I've only been persuaded to vote for two (thus far at least). I respect the other candidates and see a lot that I like, but I take voting as seriously as others may take a hiring decision. In these types of votes, a few hundred misguided presses of the button can put the wrong person in office. I will continue to read up throughout the day, and may find someone else to vote for, but I'm just not there yet.
Impressions of Other Candidates:
Before I go into my amateur review, here is the League of Women Voters Voter Guide (PDF).
Jim Adams -- I like Jim and I think he is a sincere person running for the right reasons. I just did not hear much of a vision or distinguishing qualifications that would make him a good Board member. Jim has significant experience with the Howard County Democratic Party and running for office (facing Allan Kittleman for State Senate in 2010). This may have been a draft candidate that decided to see it through to the end. Thank you for running, Jim.
Corey Andrews -- At the beginning of this race, I spoke with another local commentator about "how to handle the Andrews candidacy." Corey was just barely at the age of majority and it didn't seem right to subject him to the same rough and tumble analysis as the other candidates. Since that time, I've realized how wrong we were. Corey has done a fantastic job representing his views at debates and on online forums. He has been nothing short of impressive and I regret underestimating him. That said, I have significant concerns about Corey's temperament and his impulsive reactions, as shown on those same online forums. Thank you for running, Corey.
Bob Ballinger -- Bob is a friend of mine (and hopefully still a friend after writing this post). I supported him in 2010 when he ran for BoE and was interested in seeing how he would focus on the needs of special education children in our schools. For reasons unknown, Bob took a much more radical approach to this election and has used the word "dysfunctional" at just about every public forum to describe the current board, at least four of which he will have to work with should he win. Bob is a good man with a good heart. I just can't predict what he will do once he finds a seat at the "dysfunctional" table. Thank you for running, Bob.
Olga Butler -- Olga was recommended to me by a friend in the Howard County government. She has significant grassroots experience both on the PTA and with her local community association (obviously important to me). Similar to Jim Adams, I just have not seen much to show me what Ms. Butler will bring to the Board. She has utilized a number of platitudes about what she wishes to accomplish, but those fall away once the practical matters of the Board are at hand. I may consider voting for Ms. Butler, but I need a reason why. Thank you for running, Olga.
Ann DeLacy -- Ann has significant experience with our school system as previous president of the HCEA. She also is heavily involved in Columbia, which will bring a needed perspective to the Board. My largest concern is just how volatile Ms. DeLacy has appeared in public forums. Added to that the fact that Ms. DeLacy spent a significant amount of time during the campaign, as late as last night, attacking other candidates for the position. Her candidacy spells trouble for me and I do not plan to vote for her. We have enough of this on the current Board. Thank you for running, Ann.
Allen Dyer -- I would refer to this post about my thoughts on Mr. Dyer.
Patricia Gordon -- Ms. Gordon is a distinguished and respected former Board member. Her institutional knowledge will give her the benefit of being able to hit the ground running. I'm just not sure that this is the same Board as the one she is familiar with. I also am concerned that there will be a measure of "This is how things used to be" if she were elected. This Board needs to move forward to meet the new dynamics of education. I think Ms. Gordon would make a good Board member, but am not sure she gets my vote in 2012. Thank you for running, Patricia.
Owen Hanratty -- This is another candidate whose heart is in the right place, but not much to back that up. He has significant business experience, which is a plus, but the remainder of his qualifications appear to be in politics. I appreciated his answers at a number of the public forums in terms of humility and the interest in service, but other than increased financial literacy, I don't know what he wants from Board service. Thank you for running, Owen.
Leslie Kornreich -- Leslie is one of the most motivated candidates running and even approached me at the last Blogger Happy Hour to discuss her candidacy. She has a significant focus on Elkridge and special needs students, derived from her own frustrations as a parent. My greatest concern is that she is so focused on the "school site" issue in Elkridge that she will make herself an "agenda candidate." The folks in Elkridge deserve a voice and I would strongly encourage them to vote for Leslie. For the rest of us, I think we need to take pause. Parochialism can do bad things to this Board and was one of the biggest considerations weighing against a districted Board of Education. I would much rather have seen Elkridge issues wrapped in with a larger vision for Howard County. Thank you for running, Leslie.
Mary Jo Neil -- I have been very impressed with Ms. Neil at the public forums and think she has a very parent-focused approach to the Board, as shown by her long-term involvement with the PTA. She has been overlooked for a number of endorsements along the way for reasons I can't quite determine. Mary Jo may get my vote this afternoon, but I need to do a little more research. Thank you for running, Mary Jo.
Jackie Scott -- Jackie most likely will get my vote, but I still need to learn more about her. What I do know is that she is very well educated and works at my alma mater, Georgetown University Law Center. She will elevate the conversation and bring a great mind to the issues our school board faces. I just would have liked to have seen a little more from Ms. Scott in the primary season (signs, events, etc.) to show that she is not taking this election for granted. Thank you for running, Jackie.
Janet Siddiqui -- When I said that the dysfunction of the Board cannot be attributable to all the members, I meant it. I just don't know enough about Ms. Siddiqui to say that her time on the Board has been productive or that she has plans to address the conflict that has permeated the past four years. Thank you for running, Janet.
Now I am spent. I hope this was helpful and that my comments did not offend any of those who were brave, self-less, and determined enough to run for office. I respect you a great deal and appreciate your sacrifice.
Have a great Tuesday doing what you love.