Six individuals across three nonpartisan races want to serve on the Montgomery County Board of Education. The seven-member boardís first order of business is to oversee Montgomery County Public Schools, ensuring children receive a top-notch education to prepare them for the competitive challenges of the 21st century. All six are well-intentioned people who will have the needs of children in mind.
The boardís second order of business, however, is to find a way to work with the County Council. One could say that it is likewise the councilís job to find a way to work with the board. Because only three school board races are on the ballot, voters will have to wait two years before they can scrutinize council membersí actions as it relates to education.
Phil Kauffman of Olney, Christopher Barclay of Takoma Park and Fred Evans of Rockville stand out among the six contenders.
Kauffman, in the at-large race, is a thoughtful man who chairs the boardís Fiscal Management Committee. He has proven he deserves a second term. He has worked to make school system budgeting more transparent. Success on that front will go a long way to improve the strained relations between the board and its funders.
Kauffman faces Morris Panner of Chevy Chase. Panner offers a no-nonsense view of school system budgeting. The community should expect he will agitate for greater accountability in the school systemís spending.
In the District 4 race, Barclay has been a loud and consistent supporter of schools. He can look at a budget document and portray the difficulties. A board member since 2006, he has earned the right for another term.
His opponent is Annita Seckinger of Rockville. Seckinger is new to politics but she is a passionate advocate for mediation over bullying and healthier meals in schools.
The only open race is District 2 where the incumbent, Laura Berthiaume, chose not to seek a second term.
Evans can bring years of experience as a principal to the board. He is currently an adjunct professor of education at George Mason University in Virginia. He advocates giving schools more autonomy and greater student interventions to help close achievement gaps. That experience will help the board as it courses through the difficult budget years ahead.
He faces a formidable opponent, Rebecca Smondrowski. She has worked with politicians in Rockville and Annapolis. And her website offers an impressive list of endorsements from Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) to Rick Impallaria, a Republican delegate from Harford County.
If Evans wins Nov. 6, one can assume this will not be her last political campaign.
The races are nonpartisan, and voters can choose school board candidates in the at-large races as well as in each of the district races, unlike council or congressional elections.