MONTGOMERY COUNTY has long been proud of its school system, which it supports generously, and its students have long been high-achievers. But these days much of the discussion about the county’s schools centers not on successes but on problems and unmet challenges. These include how to deal with surging enrollment that is stressing school facilities and whether enough is being done to serve a diverse and changing student population.
Voters on Nov. 4 will elect four members to the eight-member school board that will be tasked with addressing these and other issues, including whether to renew Superintendent Joshua P. Starr’s contract and whether to change high school start times. Smart, committed leadership is needed. Fortunately, voters will have the advantage of choosing from a strong field of candidates with varied backgrounds.
The race attracting the most attention is the at-large seat being vacated by board member Shirley Brandman. Ms. Brandman was widely respected and will be a hard act to follow, but both Jill Ortman-Fouse and Shebra Evans are able candidates with impressive backgrounds. We are reaffirming our primary endorsement of Ms. Ortman-Fouse, a consultant and leadership coach from Silver Spring, because of her emphasis on closing the achievement gap between poor students of color and their white peers. We admire her sense of urgency in coming up with solutions and believe that she will bring an independent and fresh perspective to the board.
In District 1, incumbent Judy Docca is being challenged for a third term by long-term education advocate Kristin Trible. As head of a nonprofit that provides academic and career support to county youth, Ms. Trible has keen insights about how to improve student achievement, and her work with the PTA has earned her a reputation as a thoughtful collaborator open to new ideas. We hope she stays involved in public education. But we believe Ms. Docca deserves to be reelected. She has distinguished herself as a passionate and relentless voice for minority students and the need to close the achievement gap that clouds their futures. The system’s progress in addressing high suspension rates is due in part to Ms. Docca’s advocacy.
Incumbent Patricia O’Neill is the clear choice in District 3 over challenger Laurie Halverson. Her 16 years on the board give her an institutional knowledge that is invaluable as the system tries to balance its many demands. She is smart, hard-working and fearless in taking stands she believes are right for students. Ms. O’Neill recently led the effort forcing the administration to take another look at how to implement later high school start times.
In District 5, we favor incumbent Mike Durso over Larry E. Edmonds. Mr. Edmonds has interesting ideas on how the community and businesses can better collaborate with schools, but Mr. Durso’s four decades of work as an educator in Montgomery, the District of Columbia and Arlington give him valuable insights into what produces successful schools.