Please check here for the Maryland Board of Education's voter guide. Here you can view the information on candidates running for the Board of Education of their county. 

Montgomery County:

At Large:

Karla Silvestre

Email: karlasilvestre2018@gmail.com

Website: https://www.karlasilvestre.com/

Age: 50

Employment:  Director of Community Engagement, Montgomery College

Education: Master’s of Education, University of Pennsylvania

Why are you running for the school board? 

I am running for reelection to the Board of Education because I can use my experience having served on the board the last three years to help our school system learn from the lessons of the pandemic and be an even better school system than ever before. I am running to ensure that all of our students, regardless of where they live, are truly ready for college, the workforce, and community. I work in higher education and this gives me a unique perspective to see the full educational spectrum from pre-K to post-secondary education to the workforce. Finally, as the only immigrant and Latina on the board, it is important that this large segment of the student population is represented.

What makes you a good candidate for the board? 

I am the current vice president of the Board of Education and serve as the chair of the Strategic Planning Committee. I have two decades of experience in community engagement, workforce development, education and youth development. I hold a master’s degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania, with a focus on teaching English to speakers of other languages (ESOL). I have two daughters. One is a graduate of MCPS in 2020 and one is in 10th grade. I work in higher education and this gives me a unique perspective to see the full educational spectrum from pre-K to post-secondary education to the workforce. I also know Montgomery County community issues very well.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why. 

Former (Montgomery) County Executive Ike Leggett. Mr. Leggett has been a role model for me and inspired me to run for office. He is a humble leader committed to doing the best for our community. I worked in the Leggett administration for five years, and I observed his leadership style. He was not the stereotypical politician. He was introverted, which I could relate to. I realized that I, too, could be an authentic leader, as he was. At the same time, he was effective in managing county government and bringing people together toward a common goal. Mr. Leggett continues to serve our community through his leadership role in the Blueprint For Maryland's Future.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected? 

Recruiting and retaining the best talent. We had a national teacher crisis before the pandemic, which has now been exacerbated. We  have to recruit and retain the best talent to work with our students. Great teachers and principals change lives and transform schools. Because of the teacher shortage in this country, we have to be proactive to recruit the best talent. We also must strive to have a workforce that reflects our community. We can do that by growing our teacher workforce from the current MCPS student population, which is diverse and multilingual.  We must also work to ensure that our students with the greatest needs have experienced and effective teachers and school leaders.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it? 

Two commonly cited issues around school safety include serious incidents at schools like weapons, as well as fighting/behavior. Our school system has initiated many wellness programs from restorative justice, wellness centers in every high school, telehealth, social workers in every high school and other wellness practices. All of these efforts are designed to address root causes of negative behaviors and create positive school cultures. Our work on the board is ensuring that these resources are being implemented well and are reaching the students that need them the most. The issue of guns in our schools is a larger community concern that must be worked on with our local elected leaders.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they? 

The history curriculum follows state standards and for decades has integrated multiple perspectives from historically marginalized voices. In addition, teachers receive support to deliver anti-bias and anti-racist curriculum that engages students in inquiry focused on learning historical truths, developing critical literacy skills and taking informed action. The school system is working on ensuring that students from all backgrounds can see themselves reflected in what they are learning. I am in full support of these practices.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed? 

Montgomery County Public Schools has a team of professional staff that review materials that are purchased for school libraries. In the event that a parent or staff question the appropriateness of a book, an ad hoc evaluation committee is convened to reevaluate materials whose appropriateness has been questioned. These staff are experts in their field with years of experience. This is a robust process that has worked well for our school system.

Another candidate for Montgomery County at large, Mike Erickson, did not respond for the voter guide.

District 1:

Esther L. Wells

Campaign emailVoteForEsther@gmail.com

Websitewww.voteforesther.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Esther4BOE

Age: 35

Employment: Certified public accountant and senior tax manager for Washington Gas Light Co.

Education: Master’s in Taxation from D’Amore McKim School of Business, Northeastern University

Why are you running for the school board?  

I am running to provide needed accountability to the $3 billion budget, ensure oversight of spending is in the best interest of the community, and return MCPS to excellence and a system where all students feel welcome.  

I am the proud mother of two boys, a 4-year-old and a 9-year-old who has autism spectrum disorder, who attends MCPS. 

As your next board member, I would prioritize ensuring that we address learning loss and the mental health crisis. Ignoring or glossing over these important issues is a disservice to our entire community and I commit to supporting our community through holding the system accountable for positive outcomes. 

I will work to rebuild trust between the community and MCPS.

What makes you a good candidate for the board?  

I am a servant leader & a role model for students in MCPS. I am the only candidate with professional financial statement experience & can provide adequate financial oversight of MCPS’ operating budget & financial statement audits. I will provide needed financial oversight of MCPS’ $3 billion budget & communicate about the finances of MCPS school system clearly with the community. 

I am the only candidate in my race with any teaching experience. I’ve taught Junior Achievement in MCPS, tutored college students in advance level math courses & accounting courses at the University of Maryland.

I will elevate the voice of the most vulnerable populations as a Black, immigrant, female, mother of a disabled son.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.  

Thurgood Marshall was the first black Supreme Court Justice. As a Black mother to a disabled son, I admire Justice Marshall’s contribution to the disability rights movement & special education laws. 

Brown v. Board of Education laid the foundation for educating people of color & ensuring access to a quality public education. This same framework was used for the creation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, ensuring that students with disabilities receive a free & appropriate public education.

 “Separate but equal” led to Black & disabled students being excluded from public education. Because of Justice Marshall, my disabled Black son has the right to a quality education in MCPS.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected?  

The most important issue facing the school board is addressing the impact of school closures & remote learning on students’ education & proficiency rates in math & reading. Data analysis should show performance & opportunity gaps by race, disability, etc. 

I would work toward ensuring that our system is fiscally healthy to provide needed programs & expand services such as universal pre-K, tutoring & other programs to help close the academic achievement gap. None of these priorities will succeed without ensuring that we have a fiscally healthy system when federal pandemic relief dollars expire. Allow teachers more time to teach & reduce the level of testing that we currently offer our students.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it? 

2022 brought the first shooting in an MCPS building & community tensions remain high with increased violence in our community. Returning our schools to be safe & secure for students/teachers remains a top priority. With my focus on accountability & transparency, I will remain steadfast in ensuring that the community is informed & involved in safety improvements made in light of these incidents of violence & that we analyze policy changes for impact on safety.

School safety supports learning. I am very concerned about school safety, particularly as it relates to communication with parents during emergencies on school property, pedestrian safety and security at school sporting events.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they?  

I am concerned about the way the new social studies curriculum is being implemented without adequate community engagement sessions with parents. Parents & teachers should be provided adequate information about curricular changes & updates for feedback. It’s important for teachers to have the ability to be creative in their lesson plan to keep students engaged. Maintaining consistency and historical accuracy throughout the school system is of the utmost importance for a quality education system.

MCPS is fortunate to be within driving distance of many historical museums, statues & landmarks. I support our teachers in helping our students make deep & meaningful connection to the curriculum.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed? 

MCPS has existing procedures for the evaluation & selection of library books to support the curriculum & goals of education on a countywide basis. Specifically, there is an established procedure for stakeholders to request a reconsideration of newly approved & previously approved books being used in MCPS. 

When the appropriateness of library books is questioned by a stakeholder, resolution begins at the school level. Reconsideration & appeals to the superintendent & Board of Education is also available. 

I remain focused on ensuring that all our students become lifelong learners & readers by ensuring educators are equipped to support all students in becoming fluent readers.

 

Another candidate for Montgomery County District 1, Grace Rivera Oven, did not respond for the voter guide.

 

District 3:

Scott Joftus

Campaign email: scott@fourpointeducation.com

Websitehttps://joftus4boe.com/about/

Age: 54

Employment: Member, Board of Education; founder & president, FourPoint Education Partners; adjunct professor, George Washington University

Education: Doctorate of Education Policy and Leadership, George Washington University

Why are you running for the school board? 

MCPS is at a critical juncture as we are (hopefully) coming out of the pandemic and transitioning to a new superintendent and leadership team. I'm running because my experience in advising school boards and superintendents across the country and teaching education leadership to future education leaders is critical to ensuring the systemic improvement we need. No one else on the board or running for the board has the system-level experience and perspective needed for effective transformation.

What makes you a good candidate for the board? 

I have been dedicated to improving outcomes for all students—but especially those who have been traditionally underserved — my entire career as a teacher, public education advocate, researcher and evaluator, professor, adviser to school boards and superintendents, and—most recently — school board member. This experience and my perspective makes me uniquely qualified for the Montgomery County Board of Education.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why. 

Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-Takoma Park) is my political hero. He has the intelligence, people skills, and tenacity needed to protect against our current threats to democracy. And here is what he said about my campaign: “Scott is doing a great job for us on the Montgomery County Board of Education. We are benefiting from his work with school districts across the country and his significant insight as a professor of educational leadership. We’re lucky to have him where he is using his expertise on behalf of our students and our schools.”

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected?  

As I teach my graduate students, coherence is the foundation of any effective school district. Coherence is the alignment of strategy, systems, resources and culture to a clear philosophy about how student outcomes will improve. Without coherence, MCPS has struggled to provide high-quality supports to school leaders and to effectively engage community stakeholders.

To address this, I have:

•Emphasized the need for coherence in improving student outcomes with the board  and  administration.

•Offered ideas to promote coherence. 

•Asked questions at the board table to reinforce the move toward greater coherence across the system.

 

If elected, this will be the ongoing focus of my work. 

 

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it? 

Ensuring the safety of students, families and  staff is the top priority for schools, the administration and board. We must also ensure that BIPOC students are not unfairly disciplined or arrested, which has been the case in MCPS and across the country. Therefore, I support:

•Maintaining a close, coordinated relationship with MCPD but removing police offers from having a permanent presence in schools. The key will be to carefully monitor the CEO 2.0 program.

•Additional (unarmed) security personnel. As a current member of the board, I supported funding for 12 additional positions that can be allocated to schools based on need.

•Significant budget increases for mental health services.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they?

In general, I believe that the teaching of history too frequently fails to address the experience and perspectives of races and cultures other than White males. The board will soon be receiving a draft of an anti-racism audit, which will address this topic, and the board and administration are ready to consider recommendations for changes.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed?

My general stance is that books should be included in the library and students should be taught to make decisions about what they read based on their interest, reading ability and values. That said, there is a process by which students, parents or staff can submit concerns about and request removal of a particular book. I think this process is important but needs careful supervision by the board to prevent overuse and abuse.

 

Julie Yang

Campaign emailYang4education@gmail.com

Websitewww.Julieyang.org

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/julieyang4boe

Age: 52

Employment: I am a full-time candidate who serves on the board of The Arc Montgomery County. I was an MCPS high school college & career counselor prior.

Education: Master of Education, University of Hawaii

Why are you running for the school board?

I want every student to have a chance to succeed. My vision is to empower students, parents, and staff, restore trust between the community and the school system, and lead efforts that ensure all students are college/career ready. I can make a difference given my extensive background directly serving students and their families in the school system. My plan includes:

Increasing mental health support by making mental health a standing agenda item at the board. 

Expanding opportunities by connecting our students to various career pathways. 

Preparing students for future jobs by expanding STEAM and career programs. 

Providing universal Pre-K education to ensure children are ready to learn. 

 

What makes you a good candidate for the board?  

As a former teacher, data analyst  and college/career counselor, my track record includes serving three MCPS school clusters, removing barriers for students to access opportunities, working in high-poverty schools, and increasing engagement between immigrant families and schools. In my decade of advocating for students, I have served in leadership roles as a PTSA activist, chaired the Asian Pacific American Student Achievement Action Group, and founded the Village Initiative, which serves special education families. My established relationships with the community, county government, non-profit entities and families are key to developing policies to better meet the needs of the entire community.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.  

I admire Pasty Mink, the first woman of color elected to Congress (from Hawaii). She successfully introduced the first child care bill and legislation establishing bilingual education, special education, and Head Start. One of her great legislative triumphs was the Women’s Educational Equity Act. It provided educational funds for programs to promote gender equity in schools, increase educational and job opportunities for women, and excise gender stereotypes from textbooks and school curricula. Mink is a champion for children, women and the underrepresented. She has the integrity to be an independent thinker and stay true to her ideals throughout her long political career. 

 

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected? 

The single most pressing issue is student mental health. I intend to improve student mental health in the following ways:

We need to gradually decrease the student-to-counselor, student-to-psychologist ratio in our schools. 

Put mental health as a permanent item on the Board of Education agenda. We can do this by making mental health fall under the jurisdiction of the Special Populations Committee. 

Collaborate and sustain partnerships with different levels of government and other agencies to bring resources for mental health support to our schools. 

Elevate student voices and have their input in implementing effective programs, curriculum and initiatives to improve mental health. 

 

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it?  

My vision for safe schools is one where teaching and learning are not distracted; violence, drugs, bullying and fear are not present; students are not discriminated against; expectations for behavior are clearly communicated; and consequences for infractions are consistently and fairly applied. To achieve this, it requires the involvement of all school staff, and community partners when appropriate. Recent incidents have exposed the need to improve our schools’ intercom system, training for staff on safety protocol procedures and crisis communication with the community. As a board member, I will work with the school system to address these concerns. 

 

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they?  

It is important that our curriculum provides a variety of perspectives and materials. We must acknowledge that diverse cultural identities and practices, as well as issues of racial inequity, white supremacy, the history of slavery, and other systems of oppression, are a part of our history. I will work with the board to identify resources that are inclusive of all perspectives and learning materials that appropriately shed light on diversity, cultural identity and practices that permeate our lives. Currently, MCPS provides African American History as an elective, the board could consider replicating similar electives for other underrepresented and historically oppressed populations.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed?  

Books should not be removed from school libraries only to appease the personal, religious or political views of parents or groups. I am opposed to any means that prohibits free speech. We have heard parent concerns about age-appropriateness. To be honest, at this time and age, our students are exposed to many different things on social media. The real work is how to equip our students with critical thinking skills to examine the materials they are exposed to. In plain language, we are teaching students not what to think, but how to think. I will charge our librarians and teachers to adjust the developmental age-appropriateness of books with channels for feedback from the community. 

 

District 5:

Valerie Coll

Campaign emailVal4Boe@gmail.com

Facebookwww.facebook.com/ValerieColl4boe/

Age: 62

Employment: Retired

Education: B.S. Elementary Ed, University of Massachusetts-Boston

 

Why are you running for the school board?  

I want to apply my 32 years of work in the system to supply much needed voice and perspective from a classroom educator's position.

What makes you a good candidate for the board?  

My professional experience in MCPS, my experience as an MCPS parent, my investment as a Montgomery County homeowner and my ability to listen carefully and apply reason thoughtfully.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.  

Malala Yousafzai (Pakistani female education advocate and Nobel Peace Prize laureate) – her advocacy for education and her bravery in the face of known danger to do what she knew was right is noble. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things are worthy of admiration.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected? 

Our BOE needs to be more engaged in directing and maintaining oversight of our multibillion-dollar system. This need for accountability is also necessary for the BOE. All other decisions regarding instruction, infrastructure and budget are driven by this need.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it?  

I want our schools to invest more in supporting our system security employees with better professional development in mental health and improving communication with students and staff. I would like to see any partnership with local police and courts helping our parents and staff build better relationships with law enforcement.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they?  

As long as we are bound to follow standards set by the state, we need to make sure that time is actually given to teach history, civics and geography in all grades. Too often in ES, time for social studies is limited and this lack of emphasis in early grades leads to lack of understanding or desire to learn more in upper grade levels.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed?

Books are constantly being evaluated, added and culled from libraries. Books that are outdated in terms of content should be removed. I think there is a real opportunity to engage parents about how to speak to their children about what they are reading and how to approach difficult topics that may be discomfiting to them.

Brenda Wolff

Campaign emailbrenda@brendawolff.com

Website: www.brendawolff.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrendaWolffForBoardOfEducation/

Age: 70

Employment: President, Montgomery County Board of Education

Education: Juris Doctor, Suffolk University School of Law

Why are you running for the school board? 

I am running to serve a second term on the BOE. As a member of the BOE before the pandemic, I was keenly aware that while we were headed in the right direction, much remains to be done.  One of my key objectives in serving on the board is to end what I see as the inequitable distribution of programs and opportunities, particularly in areas with high populations of Black and brown children. There is a need to add access to dual language and STEM programs, and to ensure that all facilities receive the same level of attention as facilities in other parts of the county with fewer kids impacted by poverty.

What makes you a good candidate for the board? 

I bring passion plus experience to the board. It is my passion and my experience that has enabled me to build consensus on the board, working with all perspectives to improve our school system. I understand the transformational power a quality education can have on a person's life, and I believe that a high-quality public-school system is foundational to the health of our community. My long history in civil rights and education have prepared me for this work and my passionate belief in the power and importance of equitable access and opportunity in education drives my work.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is the first Black woman appointed to the Supreme Court. I admire the grace under fire she showed while being subjected to hostile questioning during her confirmation hearing. I could relate to her experience of needing to be perfect in order to be good enough, an experience I have had and experience in various settings, even today. I admire that she didn’t let them see how I know she must have truly felt.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected? 

The most important issue facing us is the effect of COVID, particularly on the mental and emotional health of our students and staff. This concern is exacerbated by the need to mitigate learning losses. If elected, I will continue my fight to increase access to mental health services for students, without compromising standards. In order to address both the mental health crisis and ensure that students have access to a rigorous academic program, I will work with our elected officials to get the funding the school system requires to meet the needs of our students, and I will hold the school system accountable for providing every student, from every neighborhood, with a high quality education.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it? 

Ensuring the safety of our students is one of the key responsibilities of the board. I have been an outspoken advocate for rethinking MCPS’s relationship with the police and what that looks like in our schools. I am committed to continuing our work fine-tuning the new MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the police department and how the Community Engagement Officers operate in our schools. We need to coordinate with law enforcement; however, we cannot abdicate our responsibility to maintain safe and orderly schools through fair application of the discipline policy, restorative justice practices, mental health supports and an authentic partnership with the community.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they?

As a board member, I am deeply concerned by the effort of some in our county and nation to actively suppress uncomfortable, tragic and painful elements of our nation’s history, and their lasting impacts, from student learning. In MCPS we want to nurture critical thinking, intellectual curiosity and academic rigor. You cannot do that if you are manipulating or sanitizing the history you teach.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed? 

The purpose of education is to prepare students to participate in our democracy. Banning books does not teach critical thinking, rather it teaches that you should challenge expression, not ideas. Parents play a major role in their child’s education. That is not the same as being able to dictate curriculum or programs. There is a long history of judicial deference to school boards on issues of curriculum and instruction. Parents in our school system always retain the right to opt out of material for their child. Our mission is to educate all students.

 

Prince George's County:

District 2:

Jonathan Briggs

Campaign email: jonathan@votejonathanbriggs.com

Age: 34

Employment: Policy manager, America Forward.

Education: Master of Science in Education, Johns Hopkins School of Education

Why are you running for the school board? 

I am running for the school board because I believe that every child deserves access to a fair, equal and transformative education experience. What I learned while in the classroom was that if we want to see real change in our education system, then it will take dedicated leaders with the knowledge and "know-how" working as strong champions for change. I believe our education system is broken in many ways, and I would like to bring my unique experience – both as a classroom teacher in some of our nation's toughest schools, and as a policy professional –  to represent members of my community, including parents, teachers, students and schools.

What makes you a good candidate for the board? 

As a former teacher and near-peer mentor, I have committed my life's work to becoming a strong champion and advocate for education equity, including being integral in spearheading Illinois' first ever Children's Advisory Council, crafting equitable legislation that addresses the opportunity gap that persists in public education (while working for a member of Congress), and developing sound recommendations for the DC Mayor Education to improve its Safe Passage Program. I believe these experiences will support me in representing students, parents and teachers, and in being a sounding board for change.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.

I most admire the great (former South African president) Nelson Mandela. I believe his strength of character, and his ability to persist despite insurmountable odds, is truly inspiring. It was clear that in many ways the odds were stacked against Mr. Mandela; he was even a political pariah at one point –  with an over-27-year prison sentence that would cause the toughest of us to quiver in fear. Despite all of that, he took every setback and made it a comeback, and that is the type of leader that I aspire to be. Most importantly, he didn't do this alone, but with a community that  supported him and fought alongside him.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected? 

I think the biggest issue facing the school board is addressing the learning gap that persists in Prince George's County Public Schools. The pandemic has exacerbated an already strained learning environment, and students' academics have been most impacted. If I were elected to the school board, my first day in office would be taking stock of our budget. There is a surplus of funding that is coming down from the Biden-Harris administration to address learning loss at the state and local level. I would want to ensure that we were addressing students' learning needs by identifying where the steepest gaps exist and then allocating funding to address those needs in partnership with the CEO.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it? 

I am very concerned about school safety. The steady uptick of gun violence in schools is alarming, and it is having a significant impact on student mental health. I believe a proactive step to begin to address school safety in the long run is investing in more mental health resources for students, that includes school psychologists, social workers and partnerships with local organizations that provide mental health resources. Additionally, addressing the teacher shortage can ensure that there are reasonable class sizes, which will help teachers develop more engaging relationships with students.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they? 

I think history should be inclusive of many different perspectives, which includes the perspectives of marginalized groups. This will support students' ability to think critically about the implications that historical events have had on different communities and how it impacted them. This also provides students with a richer and fuller understanding of our shared history. I believe students should be exposed to diverse perspectives, authors, and content, and it is schools' and educators' responsibility to provide students with a well-rounded education. Ultimately students should be challenged to think critically in the classroom, which will prepare them for the rigor of our future.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed? 

I think books that provide students with a better understanding of the world around them, in an academic sense, should be largely available for students to consume. If I were to disagree with any book being in a school library, it would be a book that does not serve to provide students with an academic and well-rounded understanding of the world around them. I am a firm believer that any book that challenges a student’s perspective is a good opportunity for them to ask questions and investigate the subject matter further to become more knowledgeable about it.

Jenni Pompi

Campaign email: jenni@jennipompi.com

Websitewww.jennipompi.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/jennipompiPGCPS.D2

Age: 44

Employment: I am a senior editor for the periodicals division of a nonprofit  in Annapolis.

Education: Bachelor's degrees in journalism and women's studies, both from the University of Maryland College Park.

Why are you running for the school board?  

I’m the proud mom of two PGCPS students and I’m running for the Board of Education because District 2 deserves a school board member who will put our kids over politics and prioritize educational policies that will have a real impact on our schools and our communities.

What makes you a good candidate for the board? 

As a PGCPS parent and a 25-year-long resident of Prince George's County, I understand the unique challenges our children, schools and teachers face, and will listen to constituent concerns and use that feedback to inform policies to make our school system stronger. My deep knowledge of our school system as a parent and former PTO president and the strong relationships I've built throughout District 2 make me a strong candidate and uniquely suited to represent this community. I have broad community support and a reputation for working hard and achieving results as a parent advocate and community member.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why. 

I admire the tenacity, strength and spirit of Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. I love how she saw a system that wasn't working and decided to work to fix it, resulting in the enfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of voters. Ms. Abrams dedication to civic engagement is clear in the ways she engages voters in her own campaign, and it is wonderful to see how she inspires people to want to change the status quo, and to believe they can.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected?  

The most important issue facing our school board is student recovery from the pandemic learning gap. I will support Blueprint community schools engaging students and families through wraparound services such as additional counselors and enhanced learning opportunities through field trips during school and after school hours and through partnerships with organizations; and focusing on improving student attendance and parent engagement. I also will work to ensure each school has a fully funded mental health services coordinator position, and support teacher and staff professional development around recognizing symptoms of mental health problems.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it? 

As a parent to two PGCPS students, I'm very concerned about school safety, both for our kids and our teachers and staff. I support enhancing external safety features already in place and being constructed in new PGCPS buildings, such as security vestibules and secure entrances. Just as important is building a strong sense of community through restorative practices and wraparound services that enhance the safety and security of our students.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they? 

I don't have any issues with our history as taught in our schools. The truth about U.S. history is very clear throughout PGCPS curriculum, particularly as it relates to slavery and the disenfranchisement and marginalization of black, brown and indigenous people, though I would always support expanding our history content to be more thorough and inclusive. We do well, but we can always do better.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed? 

I don't think there are any circumstances in which books of any kind should be removed from school libraries, though I do think it may be appropriate to review books to ensure they do not contain harmful racist/cultural stereotypes. Restricting access to or censoring books inhibits the ability of kids to learn to think for themselves, and free-thinking is important to our democracy.

District 3:

Pamela Boozer-Strother

Campaign emailpamela@pamelaboozer-strother.com

Website: https://www.pamelaboozer-strother.com/

Facebook: facebook.com/pam4pgcps

Age: 53

Employment: I am an association sector consultant for sponsorship programs and also serve as the current District 3 Board of Education member.

Education: MBA, Kogod School of Business, American University 

Why are you running for the school board?  

I am running for reelection as the mother of a PGCPS seventh grader and member of the Board of Education since 2018. I led through the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic and now have the opportunity to help students, staff and families recover. I am deeply knowledgeable of the PGCPS $2.6 billion annual budget. I have contributed to positive change in system resources, including expansion of new schools, with one delivered in my first term, and nine more on the way in the next two years throughout the county. I have served in a leadership role on the Community Schools strategy, expanding academic enrichment and mental health services to 95 Blueprint for Maryland’s Future funded schools.

What makes you a good candidate for the board?  

I am a 17-year active resident of Prince George's County. Before I ran for the board, I had a track record of success serving as the president of the Gateway CDC board and as a parent leader of the Mount Rainier Elementary PTO. I am known as a bridge builder among many PGCPS schools in District 3. I am running for reelection to continue to contribute to building an equitable and inclusive system by drawing on my life and work experiences.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.  

I am grateful to the many Prince George's County, Maryland, and national leaders who paved the way for women running for elected office. Witnessing the leadership of Maryland Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Anne Arundel and Prince George’s), and the bills she sponsored for LGBTQ+, immigrant and health equity, made me understood the power of grassroots elected leaders – the PGCPS mothers right here in our communities fighting for and making positive change.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected? 

Implementing the Blueprint for Maryland's Future legislation, which is based on the Kirwan Commission findings to improve academic achievement, is the most important issue facing the Board of Education. I support the COVID-19 pandemic academic recovery plans developed by CEO Dr. Monica Goldson that expand upon the programs in the Blueprint. PGCPS has been a leader in pandemic response, building tutoring and summer programs to provide year-round supports for learning loss gaps, as well as implementing the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future community schools model with wraparound services that include mental health practitioners in school buildings.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it?  

Students, staff and families define safety in many ways. I will continue to advocate for funding for new clean energy school buildings that are built with the features of secure front entrances and modern doors and locks; improve safe walking paths to schools and advocate for a fully staffed crossing guard program; promote mitigating COVID-19 spread through a high vaccine rate; and support budgets with increased services for bullying prevention and restorative approaches to conflict resolution.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they? 

PGCPS is a culturally responsive school district in curriculum development and a system where educators teach the truth about U.S. history. There is room for expansion of more inclusive experiences for Hispanic students who are now more than 36% of the student body, such as the inclusion of the history and culture of Latin America.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed?  

I do not agree with book banning. However, school library catalogs should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure they include content that represents the diversity of the students of PGCPS and the commitment to culturally responsive teaching. 

Another candidate for Prince George's County District 3, Varinia V. Sandino, did not respond for the voter guide.

District 6

Branndon D. Jackson

Campaign email: engage@votebjackson.com

Websitewww.votebjackson.com

Age: 38

Employment: External affairs officer in the energy industry

Education: Master’s degree from Georgetown University, MBA from John Hopkins University.

Why are you running for the school board?  

I am running for the school board because I care, I’m a concerned father, I have a kid coming to the Prince George’s County school system, and I have had a kid go through the Prince George’s County school system and I just want to use my skills to help elevate our school system.

What makes you a good candidate for the board?  

I have the passion and the compassion to serve and I know firsthand I know the school system through being a father and also working with the school system so I know a lot of the ins and outs of the school system. Also I have skills in the public and private sector which will be needed to help run or govern the public school system.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.   

I’ll say Nelson Mandela for what he's done as an activist and how he worked to abolish apartheid and liberate the people of South Africa and the resilency and the committment to making sure his people saw brighter days

What is the most important issue facing your school board and what would you do about it if elected? (150-word limit)

Safety.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it?  

I would love to lead a conversation with the community, children, teachers, government officials, etc. about school safety.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they?  

I think that we should focus on giving our students access to all the information available and not try to create a narrative that shies away from the actual abuse or occurrences that have happened in history.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed? 

I won’t call out any specific books but I think that libraries are resources and I believe that we should equip our kids with the tools to understand what propaganda is. I think we should equip our kids with critical thinking skills so they can understand that there may be information out there that can mislead them. I think I’m more inclined to equip our kids with the research and critical thinking skills so they can go through the process of what’s real and what’s not. I don’t necessarily have any books that should be removed offhand but I believe that our biggest due is to teach our kids critical thinking skills and equip them with the ability to do research on their own.

 

Kent Roberson

Campaign email: kentroberson@gmail.com

Websitewww.kentroberson.org

Facebookwww.facebook.com/HonorableKentRoberson.org

Age: 37

Employment: Senior manager, Corn Refiners Association

Education: Master’s degree, Ball State University

Why are you running for the school board?  

I’m running, one, because I see the need for civility and diplomacy on our school board where we bring respectability to our school system to ensure all voices are heard and considered.

What makes you a good candidate for the board?  

Because I have experience working with a coalition that agrees or disagrees with one another and bringing them together to fight for the common good. Working as a chair for the Prince George's County Democratic Central Committee, I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to work with all members of the Prince George's delegation to ensure those within the county are well represented. And the fact that I have these standing relationships is also a benefit to the school board, especially as we advocate for increased funding and increased funding opportunities and resources for our school system.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.  

I admire (U.S.) Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.)  just because of his ability to to represent those within his district but even stand for those outside of his district to be an advocate for all people.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected? 

I think the most pressing matter is once again ensuring that individuals can work together, and what I plan to do about it is demonstrate how individuals can disagree without being disagreeable.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it?  

I am concerned about school safety. And I think continuing conversations and partnerships are needed across multiple stakeholders to include parents, students, law enforcement, legislators, educators and administrators.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they? 

Not in my schools, no.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed? 

I believe there are, and it's when books have explicit details that are not relevant to the education of our students.

District 9

Ashley Kearney

Campaign emailashleykearneyforschoolboard@gmail.com

Websitewww.ashleykearneyforschoolboard.com

Age: 32

Employment: Education Manager, Local Ed Agency

Education: Master’s in Education, Johns Hopkins University

Why are you running for the school board?  

As a lifelong educator, I saw firsthand how safe, joyous, collaborative, rigorous and predictable learning environments provided the foundation for student and adult success. I am running for school board to ensure (1) all students receive an equitable and quality educational experience; (2) educators feel supported, respected and prepared to deliver with and for families; (3) families feel proud and at ease sending their students to school, and (4) our education system prioritizes continuous improvement in teaching, learning, and leadership with excellence as the standard.

What makes you a good candidate for the board?  

I believe that classroom context is a value-add to any board providing oversight of a system where successful cycles of teaching and learning is a core component of organizational success. My experience includes recent classroom and leadership experience, which is extremely important given the changes and challenges in the education landscape since the start of the pandemic. With multi-level experience leading as an instructional coach, managing a congressional education portfolio, serving on executive boards of local education councils and coalitions and currently managing collaborative work projects in learning and developmental sciences, I am well positioned for the board.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.  

I admire Congresswoman Alma Adams' lifelong commitment to education and how she has used those relevant experiences to help shape meaningful policy. (Adams is a North Carolina Democrat). She consistently promotes a quality education for all students.  When I was managing a congressional education portfolio, I did not work for her office but was privileged enough to see her in action through committee and caucus work. Each time was inspiring. She proved to be a bold, consistent and unwavering leader and warrior for education, and the intersectionality of issues impacting education.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected? 

The most important issue facing the school board is school safety. I say this broadly because safety is the catalyst for a positive school climate that directly impacts academic performance and can include all issues ranging from nutrition to the school-to-prison pipeline. More narrowly focused, I would establish a school safety workgroup to work as a collaborative partner to the existing school safety task force to ensure consideration of ongoing problems of practice, strengthen multi-tiered systems of integrated supports to be used to inform comprehensive student-centered safety plans in partnership with targeted community school efforts, and root MCS  (Managing Crisis Safely) training in learning & development sciences. 

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it?  

School safety is one of my top issues on my platform. In addition to the aforementioned, I would ensure intentional emphasis and supports to ensure schools are on the pathway to reach Optimally Safe School Status, Common Sense Schools status, and increased district membership in the M.A.S.R.O (Maryland Association of School Resource Officers) to ensure co-creation of best practices with relevant context as a necessary stopgap to long-term approaches.  

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they? 

Based on the descriptions of the Maryland State Standards and Framework, each standard emphasizes inquiry, and I believe that to be a positive approach to allowing students to become critical consumers and empowered learners.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed?  

Libraries should include a range of books that allow students to explore, learn and make meaning of the world around them and/or reimagine a world.

Lolita E. Walker

Campaign emailvoteforlolitawalker@gmail.com

Websitehttps://www.lolita4pgcpsd9.com/

Age: 44

Employment: Owner, Walker & Walker Enterprises LLC.

Education: MBA, Simmons College, Boston.  I am currently a Ph.D. student at Morgan State University.

Why are you running for the school board?  

When we choose to connect across, build up, and thrive together, we commit to acting as a powerful collective of thought leaders with a common goal – to create sustainable and fiscally viable standards and policies that govern the schools and their leaders, resulting in the continued high performance within District 9 schools.

What makes you a good candidate for the board?  

I am focused on this single role to bring a focused shift of providing our scholars with the best education possible. I've served in school leadership positions for five years, via both elected and appointed PTSA roles. I know the issues that parents, students, teachers, staff and our communities face, and am excited to bring viable solutions. I am a mother, a corporate leader turned full-time entrepreneur, speaker, certified life, leadership, and executive coach, author, podcaster, involved community leader, and candidate for PGCPS Board of Education. I will use the collection of my individual skill sets to create linkages that connect across, build up, and help us thrive together.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.  

I admire the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He had a dream and pushed it, despite the odds and political pressures. He stood alone at times and with a committed group of others. He faced adversity with his head held high and spoke unapologetically, with purpose, and with a motivating spirit of action. He taught us that disrupting the status quo is necessary and will evoke change, whether now or in the future.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected?  

When elected, I would like to focus on a few core priorities. However, the most pressing, in my estimation, is safety. When I think of safety, I consider physical, mental, emotional and relational. Each of these has risks associated (with it) and, if not addressed, will continue to spiral our scholars and impede their learning. Creating bridges to connect, build, and thrive will enhance the success of our scholars in school and in life.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it?  

School safety in Prince George's County is of concern as we continue to see incidents of vandalism, bullying, shootings and increased mental health challenges, to name a few. As mentioned, safety comes in many forms. For physical safety, I am a proponent of trained school resource officers. For mental and emotional safety, I am a proponent of continued relationships with school counselors, in-school resource rooms, and parental connections. For relational safety, partnering with PGCPS on education for bullying, suicide prevention, collaboration, both written and verbal communication, and other key aspects, will enable our scholars to be well-rounded and prepared to navigate the world safely.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they?  

History, in my estimation, should be taught, in its entirety, to ensure that it includes a history that also represents the community in which it serves. Our scholars deserve to learn about the history relevant to themselves, as well as those that helped shape the diversity of our world.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed? 

I do not believe books should be banned or removed from school libraries. Books open opportunities for our scholars to explore different perspectives, ask questions, and expand their mindsets beyond what is learned in the classroom and potentially within their homes. Books offer the space to create and innovate differently and open up discussions and room for understanding, articulating, and even debating a varied view of topics. When our scholars are able to read and submerge themselves in books, they may begin to identify with characters and realize that they are not alone in how they feel. This relational connection may offer new ways to connect beyond the book.

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