Voters brought new members to school boards in all three Southern Maryland counties and returned all incumbents seeking reelection to their positions.
In Calvert County, board President William J. Phalen and first-time candidate Joan Jones, a local pastor, edged out Brian Law for the two open seats on the board. They will serve six-year terms. Incumbent MacArthur Jones did not run for reelection.
In St. Mary's, Sal Raspa ran unopposed in District 1 and will take over for outgoing board member Joanie Farrar. In District 3, Bill Mattingly defeated Randy Guy for the seat vacated when John K. Parlett Jr. decided not to run again.
The change Tuesday was most pronounced in Charles County, where three new board members were elected, and outgoing board member Wayne Cooper won a seat on the Board of County Commissioners. All seven spots on the school board were up for election.
Although the four incumbents -- Kathy Levanduski, Margaret Young, Donald M. Wade and Collins A. Bailey -- all retained their seats, the top vote-getter was first-time candidate Rebecca Bolton Bridgett. Newcomer Mark Crawford came in fifth, ahead of Bailey. Cecil Marshall was the seventh candidate elected to a four-year term.
After the absentee votes were tallied Thursday, Michael Lukas was fewer than 300 votes behind Marshall. Edward P. Holland, Steve Laudenslager and Aaron S. Merki, a former student member of the school board, also came up short. Current board members Sharon W. Caniglia and Mary L. Haff did not seek reelection.
"I assumed that all four incumbents would be reelected, and I saw it as seven people vying for three slots," said Lukas, who also ran in 2000. "I think overall the board is a good board."
The Charles County school system has won recognition for efforts to improve minority student achievement, and Superintendent James E. Richmond was recently named Maryland Superintendent of the Year by the state School Superintendents Association.
But the school board members elected last week say the 24,800-student system faces pressing academic and social issues they are eager to address.
Bridgett said the county has an expanding Latino population with families who may need language classes and other services. She holds a master's degree in special education and said she wants to make sure that special needs children are well-served.
Levanduski, who will remain board chairman until January, said the school system must do more with its Advanced Placement program. "We need to have more offerings and continue to make those more accessible to more students," she said. Levanduski also said she wanted to see fine arts programs expanded.
Wade, Young and Bailey all noted the need for improvements in the AP program, along with other issues. Wade said he wanted to work so that there was a broad cross section of students represented in AP courses.
Young said the district needs to offer more AP classes as well as encourage qualified students to take the classes. She also stressed the need for more students to take the SAT.
Bailey said student performance on AP exams is a concern. "We got more people taking AP classes, now we have to raise the percentage of people taking and passing the exams at the end of the course."
The school district offers 23 AP classes and total participation has increased 124 percent since 2000.