School Board Reform 101: Change is Coming Regardless in 2018

Change is coming to the Howard County Schools with the elections in 2018–if not before.  Currently there is of course the petition to not renew Superintendent  Renee Foose’s contract.  And there is the state bill to change from an at-large election of School Board Members to one with districts.

Yet, the political landscape in Howard County will be wide open in the 2018 election.  Changing to district school board elections at that time might not be a prudent addition for the voters in Howard County.

To understand what might happen in 2018, one must first look to the Atterbeary/Weinstein proposed state bill to have Howard County School Board Members elected by County Council Districts.  The bill proposes electing seven members: one from each of the Councilmanic Districts and two at-large members.  The terms will no longer be staggered. Therefore, under the bill some candidates will probably consider running for both a district seat and the at-large seats and only decide which seat to seek after they gauge their competition and determine which candidacy will be most advantageous to them.

Now add to this what will be happening with the County Council.  Four of the five members will be term-limited after serving three terms: Calvin Ball, Jen Terresa, Mary Kay Sigaty and Greg Fox will all be moving on.  Only Jon Weinstein will be eligible for reelection.

Some of the members of the School Board will probably run for these open seats on the County Council.  Courtney Watson and Mary Kay Sigaty both served on the School Board before moving on to the County Council. Former School Board Candidate Zaneb Beams might decide to run again for Council as she did in 2010. If the School Board Members decide to run for Council this will in itself leave several open seats on the School Board.

Yet, in the candidacy process, it seems conceivable that some candidates would consider running for three positions: County Council, School Board District and School Board At-Large seats (And they might even run for Columbia Council or Columbia Village seats too.) and then withdraw from two of the races after they see what the election landscape looks like and who their opponents will be and decide which candidacy will be most advantageous to them.  Such election games might be unseemly to some. Consider for example when Janet and Nayab Siddiqui were both running for Delegate in 2014 or when Reg Avery ran for Council and for Oakland Mills Columbia Council Representative.

Thus, while such gameplaying might happen anyway, should the State of Maryland encourage it my making all of the elective seats in Howard County open at the same time so that prospective candidates really having no other alternative but to consider all of their options and wait to see what happens on the filing deadline day?  The line at the Board of Elections might be quite long as the clock clicks down to closing time.