Unopposed, O’Neill wants to continue

Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2006

Patricia B. O’Neill, who has the longest continuous tenure on the county school board, admits that she nearly was a candidate for a different office.

‘‘I have to be honest, I did at one point contemplate running for [the County] Council,” she said. ‘‘[But] my issues are kids and schools issues and not so much voting text, roof heights and things like that. When you have passion for issues, you do a better job.”

O’Neill of Bethesda is unopposed as she seeks re-election to the District 3 board seat. Her service on the board, which began in 1998 after a long involvement with county PTAs, spans a period of reforms brought about with the hiring of Superintendent Jerry D. Weast in 1999.

O’Neill said she is committed to continuing those reforms, which have included instituting all-day kindergarten countywide a year ahead of the state requirement, smaller class sizes in struggling elementary schools and a push for more rigorous high school programs. ‘‘I believe we are going in the right direction, and I want to see that through,” she said.

O’Neill and Stephen N. Abrams (Dist. 2) of Rockville are the only holdovers from the board that hired Weast, whose contract renewal will be one of the first big issues for the new board. ‘‘I stand as committed to rehiring and re-upping him as I did when we hired him in ’99,” she said.

Reforming the county’s middle schools is next on the agenda. ‘‘Many kids are already going to high school well prepared, but the pressure to participate in AP and honors poses a challenge,” O’Neill said.

The sex education curriculum, which is being revised after it was the subject of a federal lawsuit last year, is among other unfinished business for O’Neill. ‘‘I want to make sure we do not face any litigation on this,” she said.

O’Neill has served on a state task force on the High School Assessments, which students must pass in order to graduate beginning in 2009.

Patricia B. O’Neill
Board of Education, District 3
56, Bethesda
Experience: PTA activist, Walt Whitman Cluster; League of Women Voters; immediate past president, Maryland Association of Boards of Education
Top issues: Middle school reform, ensure students are able to receive Maryland State diplomas, and address overcrowding
Web site: None
The state recently received approval from the federal government to substitute high scores on the Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests for passage of the HSAs. The state also allows students to earn a minimum score on each test and a minimum combined score on all four.

O’Neill said she would like to see other alternatives. ‘‘I’m terribly concerned about special education students and [English for Speakers of Other Languages] students getting a diploma,” she said. ‘‘Kids who can get a 4 or 5 on an AP exam are the high fliers. They can pass the HSA.”