MONTGOMERY COUNTY has always prided itself on a style of governance that relies on careful analysis and respectful debate. So it is a little jarring to see the races for nonpartisan seats on the school board caught up in some of the ugliness that has marked our national politics.

Three seats on the eight-member Board of Education will be decided in November. The June 2 primary will decide which two candidates will appear on the general election ballot for the at-large and District 4 seats; there is no primary in District 2 since only two candidates filed. The most heated race is for the open at-large seat created by incumbent Jeanette Dixon’s decision not to seek reelection. There are 13 candidates, and animating the race — at least before the covid-19 pandemic upended the world — was the charged issue of school boundaries.

Some school board candidates (in particular, at-large hopeful Stephen Austin) have spread fear and misinformation about the board’s launch of a much-needed study of school boundaries. Contrary to claims about plots to socially re-engineer the schools, there are no plans for massive cross-county busing. Instead, there is an intent to remedy a lack of planning that has resulted in overcrowded schools with children stuck in portables located right next to schools with empty classrooms — and in segregation of students by race and income.

The crisis posed by the pandemic underscores the need for sound leadership on a school board that is responsible for nearly half the county’s spending. The clear choice for the at-large seat is Lynne Harris, former president of the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations. In addition to her decade of work representing nearly 45,000 parents, Ms. Harris is a former lawyer, a nurse with expertise in public health and currently a teacher of medical sciences at Montgomery’s Thomas Edison High School of Technology. She is focused solely on serving the interests of students, and her knowledge of the school system and its needs is unmatched.

Shebra L. Evans has represented District 4 since her election to the board in 2016, and currently serves as the board’s president. She deserves reelection. She is thoughtful, collaborative and focused on addressing the inequities that have disadvantaged students of color and others at risk. That the county’s powerful teachers union chose to make no endorsement in this primary race speaks to the independence she has shown during ongoing contract negotiations.

All registered voters in Montgomery — no matter their affiliation or where they live — can cast a ballot in both contests. We urge voters to heed the advice of election officials to vote by mail. The outcome is critical to Montgomery’s future.

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