Tom Shade, one of the front-runners in the nonpartisan race for Frederick County Board of Education, announced Tuesday that he is withdrawing his candidacy.
Shade, who finished second among 12 school board candidates in the April 3 primary election, said he was dropping out because of medical reasons.
The 74-year-old Frederick resident said he has had health problems for a while, but they escalated in the past week, forcing him to end his school board election bid.
“Even though this was a difficult and painful decision, I feel it was in the best interest of in my family and the community,” he said.
Shade said he had a hard time sharing his decision to withdraw with volunteers who had worked so hard to back his candidacy. But when he told them the news on Monday night, they were all supportive and understanding, Shade said.
“I want to thank them for all of their support,” he said.
Shade — one of six candidates who advanced through the primary — was competing for one of three seats on the school board in the Nov. 6 general election.
The other candidates who will appear on the ballot are incumbent school board member Kathryn B. Groth, and newcomers Zakir Bengali, Joy Schaefer, Colleen Cusimano and Tony Chmelik.
Although he is leaving the race, Shade said he will focus his efforts on supporting the campaigns of Groth, Schaefer and Bengali — the three candidates he believes can make a positive impact on the school system.
“In my mind we still have three stellar candidates in the race,” Shade said. “There is no doubt that they can take it on and do a wonderful job.”
A former school administrator and principal, Shade has been involved in county public schools in various capacities for 44 years.
He retired in 1997 after a working as a principal at Green Valley Elementary, New Market Middle and Carroll Manor Elementary schools.
A well-known figure in county education, Shade finished the primary election as the newcomer with the highest number of votes, second only to Groth, an incumbent and longtime school board member.
Shade was also the only one of the top three candidates in the primary who was not endorsed by the Frederick County Teachers Association. After the primary, however, the union endorsed him.
Groth said Tuesday that she was sad to see Shade drop out, but also expressed support for his decision to focus on his health.
“I know how much he wanted to do this work,” she said, noting that she will appreciate Shade’s support. “But I don’t think his advocacy for education will change.”
But Shade’s departure will change the dynamics of the election, Groth said.
The school board race this year has been unusually polarized, with candidates divided into camps based on whether they received endorsements from the teachers union or from Blaine R. Young, president of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners.
Earlier in the race, Young expressed concerns that the teachers union had too much influence on the school board election and the final slate of candidates. As a result, as candidates prepared for the primary, Young announced his own selection of those he believed were fiscally conservative school board contenders.
Union officials, on the other hand, said they backed candidates who they felt would best represent the interests of students and teachers.
Cusimano and Chmelik received Young’s endorsement in the primary, while Groth, Bengali, and Schaefer were backed by the union.
Cusimano said Tuesday that she was shocked to hear about Shade’s withdrawal and wished him a quick recovery.
“I am praying for Tom,” she said. “Nobody puts this kind of time and effort unless they deeply care for education.”
But Cusimano could not say if the change would help her advance her candidacy.
“Tom was definitely a strong contender coming out of the primary,” she said. “This dramatically changes that top three dynamic .... It really helps all the contenders.”