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Posted at 03:23 PM ET, 03/21/2012

Four candidates vying for District 4 seat on Prince George’s school board

The crowded field for the District 4 seat on the Prince George’s County school board includes the incumbent and three newcomers with a wide range of experience.

The top two vote-getters in the nonpartisan primary on April 3 will advance to the November general election.

Patricia Eubanks, who was elected to the board in November 2010, is running for reelection.

She will face, Dennis Smith, 57, of Glenarden; Sandy J. Vaughns, 44, of Palmer Park, and Micah Watson, 36, of Cheverly.

Also on the ballot is Joseph Kitchen, a Cheverly resident, who suspended his campaign for personal reasons. Kitchen’s name remains on the ticket because he missed the required deadline to officially withdraw from the race. He has not backed any of his former opponents.

Eubanks, 50, of Capitol Heights, said she hopes to return to the board to “finish what I have started.” Eubanks said she wants to form alliances between the faith community and local government because “the school system can’t do it all.”

Eubanks, who lists school board member as her occupation, said her work in the community makes her the right choice for the board. She also said the current board has addressed many of the challenges facing the school system, including equity and transparency.

Smith, an adjunct professor at Prince George’s County Community College and an administrator for the Center for Minority Business Development, said he decided to run for the seat because he wants to address the school system’s “dismal test scores” and to deal with the achievement gap between poor students and other students. He said he also wants to help ensure that the work of the Thornton Commission, which looked at equity in per pupil spending, becomes a reality.

As a board member, Smith said he would ask the tough questions. For example, he wants to know more about Superintendent William R. Hite Jr.’s plan that gives principals more authority in how funds are spent at their schools.

Vaughns, who unsuccessfully ran for the seat two years ago, said he wants a system that is more transparent, friendlier to the unions and more community-based.

Vaughns, who works as a citizen service specialist for the county government, said the biggest challenge facing the system is “not parental involvement, but community involvement. How do we get the community involved with the school system and the school system involved with the community?”

Watson, a foreign affairs officer for the U.S. Department of State, said he entered the race because the current representative has been ineffective. “We need a community advocate, someone to help parents navigate their children’s education,” said Watson, who has a child in the school system.

If elected, Watson said he also plans to provide greater oversight of Hite. “We’re not superintendents, but I think our job is oversight, asking tough questions and demanding results.” Watson said the system must address its declining enrollment and figure out a way to balance schools that are over capacity and those that under capacity.

By  |  03:23 PM ET, 03/21/2012

 
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