A Howard County teacher, a substitute teacher, a part-time school secretary, an official of the Agency for International Development and an engineer are candidates the seat that will be vacated later this year on the five-member county Board of Education.
Former board chairwoman Anne L. Dodd is retiring after a six-year term, a period in which the school population in Howard has grown from 24,000 to 30,000. Redistricting next fall will require the shifting of about 1,000 students to new schools, transfers that were bitterly opposed by parents. Crowding in county elementary schools will result in the use of 34 portable classrooms.
The two top vote-getters in the nonpartisan primary will face each other in the November general election. In general, the candidates to succeed Dodd are supportive of the way the current board is functioning.
The declared candidates include:
Leanna Webster, a reading teacher at Wilde Lake Middle School. She is the only candidate endorsed by the Howard County Education Association, the teachers' union.
Webster, 61, plans to retire in December after 40 years as an educator. She has worked in the county since 1975, formerly as principal of Longfellow Elementary School and vice principal of the former Rockland Elementary School. A former administrative dean of Coppin State College and assistant professor there, Webster, a resident of Glenwood, said she intends to be "a fresh voice for the teachers."
Susan J. Cook, a part-time secretary at Patuxent Valley Middle School and president of the Oakland Mills High School PTSA. Former president of PTAs at Dasher Green Elementary and Owen Brown Middle schools, Cook, 42, has led seminars on parental involvement for the National and Maryland Middle School associations.
The Columbia resident said the school system has "lost sight of what the objective is" in some of its programs. The average student may tend to get lost, for instance, in a system that focuses on gifted students, students at risk and others with special needs, Cook said.
David A. Rakes, who is responsible at the Agency for International Development for programs that assist universities in developing curricula for their work abroad. Rakes, 53, is a former member of the state Human Relations Commission and is in his third term on the Columbia Association Council.
Rakes said he wants to "go to the community and get a sense of what they want" out of the school board. He thinks that while "a lot has been done" for minority students, "obviously more can be done."
Neil Brierley, an engineer with Ford Aerospace Corp., whose interest in the board deepened when he became involved in this past winter's redistricting debate. The Ellicott City resident said he and his wife moved to Howard three years ago from Baltimore County because redistricting there threatened the stability of their children's education.
But now their two children are being moved from their neighborhood school because of changes in population. "The overcrowding situation has motivated me" to get further involved, said Brierley, 33.
Substitute teacher and former PTA Council president Sandra H. French, 46, was the first to declare her candidacy, on April 19. The former president of the state PTA said that keeping classes small and creating a seventh period in the high schools' day are major issues.