Two candidates are vying to fill a seat that will be vacated by outgoing Prince George’s County School Board Member Rosalind A. Johnson (District 1), who is not running for re-election.

Zabrina Epps, 40, of Laurel, and David H. Murray, 19, of Bowie will face each other in the primary race on April 3.

Zabrina Epps

Also on the ballot is Mike McLaughlin, a Laurel resident, who suspended his campaign on March 8 for personal reasons. McLaughlin’s name remains on the ballot because he missed the required deadline to officially withdraw from the race.

He has asked his supporters to back Epps.

Both candidates said the system must build better partnerships with the community in order to become a success.

“You can’t put it all on the students, you can’t put it all on the teachers, we have to all work together,” said Epps, an academic advisor and adjunct communications instructor at Community College at Baltimore County-Catonsville.

David Murray

Epps said she decided to run for school board after watching students enter college ill-prepared. “Even some of those who have done everything right come in and are heartbroken” when they learn that they have tested below college level, she said. “I want to take away some of that heartbreak for the students of Prince George’s County.”

Epps said in addition to building a stronger partnership with parents, the system needs to “bring focus back to teaching and learning, . . . giving more deference to teachers.”

Epps said her background as a budget analyst will help as the school system continues to address its fiscal challenges. “We have to leverage our assets, work with the business community,” she said. “And we have to look for efficiencies.”

Meanwhile, Murray, a student at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, said he entered the school board race because the “school system is not up to par. We are lagging behind our peers. You shouldn’t get a different level of education because you live in the side of Laurel that’s in Prince George’s, over the side that is in Howard or Anne Arundel counties.”

Murray wants the system to offer incentives to attract and retain the best teachers and administrators.

He said it has to engage both parents and residents who don’t have children in the system. “We have to find innovative ways to bring parents and community members back into our school system. Some never had had kids in the school system, but it still affects them.”

The two top vote getters will go head to head in the general election in November.