Eleven candidates are running for two Montgomery County school board seats that appear on Tuesday’s primary ballot, in contests that have touched on school security, classroom crowding, technology use, mental health and the achievement gap.
The two highest vote-getters for each seat in the nonpartisan races will move on to the general election in November. The candidates include:
Lynn Amano, 52, is a first-time candidate running because, she said, she believes every child deserves to be engaged and challenged, and because the school system has failed many groups including high achievers, students with special needs, English learners and children from low-income families. A social-justice activist and business co-owner from the Rosemary Hills area of Silver Spring, she is focused on school overcrowding and educational disparities caused by economic and racial segregation in schools. Her son graduated from county schools, and her daughter is in high school. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s degree from George Washington University.
Patricia O’Neill, 67, who joined the board in 1998 and is its longest-serving member, is campaigning for a sixth term because she said she believes there is more work to be done and brings “institutional knowledge, passion and understanding of the issues.” O’Neill raised two daughters in Bethesda, where both graduated from county schools, and has served as board president five times. Her top issues are student safety, aging and overcrowded school facilities, and the achievement gap: She said making progress will require working with elected officials and policymakers, which she has done. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Southern Methodist University and worked as a preschool teacher and a retail executive.
Laura Simon, 50, a yoga teacher and health activist from Potomac, is a first-time candidate who said she will make student health and safety the board’s highest priority. She is concerned about excessive screen use in classrooms, saying the school system “must find the right balance” between benefits and adverse effects. She calls for “fresh and bold ideas” about addressing the achievement gap, including changes in teacher incentives. A mother of four, she has two high school graduates and two school-age children in the county schools. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and a master’s of business administration from Columbia University.
Ryan Arbuckle, 33, an economist from Silver Spring, is a first-time candidate whose top issues include improving mental-health services and student support, and upgrading the curriculum so that teachers have the supporting materials they need and students get a higher-quality education. He said he is running because he believes “that a high-quality education should be available to everyone and that education is the key to individual future success.” He earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University.
Timur Edib, 55, a lawyer who focuses on immigration issues, said all students deserve safe learning environments, and taxpayers are spending far more than the national average on education in Montgomery. Edib, from Rockville, would focus on the achievement gap and vocational education. He ran for mayor of Phoenix in the 1990s but withdrew in exchange for a position on an education commission, he said. His two children graduated from Montgomery County schools. A Marylander for 20 years, he earned his bachelor’s degree from State University of New York-Binghamton, his master’s degree from Arizona State University and his law degree from the University of Baltimore.
Marwa Ibrahim did not respond to requests for information.
Julie Reiley, 54, a lawyer and former law school instructor from Bethesda, is making a first bid for elected office after years of advocacy on special-education issues. Her priorities include starting a pilot program that would create student-learning plans tailored to academic and social-emotional needs for children at risk of falling behind. She wants to focus on the achievement gap, and see more learning options for students with special needs. She wants greater transparency and accountability. She has a rising 11th-grader in county schools. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Pomona College, her law degree from Yale University and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University.
Brandon Rippeon, 46, who lives in Darnestown and serves on the Montgomery County Library Board, unsuccessfully ran for the school board in 2016 and is trying again. He wants a return to “merit-based standards” and an end to “lowering the bar of expectations.” He said he would support restoring the county’s practice of giving final exams in high school and called for doing away with grading policy revisions that make it easier to get A’s. He wants to see nutrition and health programs overhauled, too. Rippeon’s previous bids for office include a run for Congress in 2012 and County Council in 2010. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Rollins College and his master’s degree from the American University of Paris.
John Robertson, 50, an assistant principal who lives in Clarksburg, is embarking on his first political campaign and says he wants to support education efforts designed to meet the needs of the “whole child,” including academic and social-emotional needs. He said he is most concerned about effective allocation of resources across the county, and about safe and healthy learning environments. One of his two children graduated from county schools and the other is in middle school. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Brown University, a master’s degree from the University of Maryland at Baltimore County and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland.
Karla Silvestre, 45, director of community engagement at Montgomery College, is making a first bid for office because she said the school system needs to keep pace with rapid change amid shifts in the student population and the role of technology. She has two school-age children in county schools, lives in Silver Spring and cites the importance of recruiting and retaining the best talent for schools at a time when there is a teacher shortage nationally. She also would like to see a 100 percent graduation rate, which she says is “the right thing to do for students” and an economic imperative. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and a master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania, and worked as the county government’s Latino liaison for five years.
Stephen Sugg, 40, a government relations manager at a national nonprofit organization that works in rural community development, is a resident of Rockville making his first run for office. He says the county ranks at or near the bottom statewide for time given to physical education, recess and the arts. He is emphasizing hands-on learning, arts, healthier foods, and getting students moving, which he said is linked to greater achievement. He also says that the school system has become top-heavy and taken a cookie-cutter approach rather than empowering educators to make the best decisions for their students. He is the father of three children, the eldest of whom just finished kindergarten in county schools. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Missouri and his doctorate in education from the College of William & Mary.