Vote for Change on the School Board on November 6
Despite the fact that the School Board election is at the bottom of your ballot, your vote here will matter most in choosing the right people to guide us and shape the future of our county. If you have not already voted, and have not thought much about who to vote for in your district, now is the time that I can hopefully help you make up your mind. Here are my thoughts on the candidates, after following them and watching the actions of our current school board members closely over the past two years.
District 1: With the departure of Rosalind Johnson, I believe we have two strong candidates to replace her and District 1 seems poised to have good representation regardless of the person who is chosen. Among the two, I give a slight edge to David Murray. While I think Zabrina Epps has great qualifications, I am concerned that she is too closely allied with our current members and will not take a stand of her own on issues that matter. Sources tell me that Jeana Jacobs, Donna Hathaway-Beck, and other current members have been closely advising her, and that means she could owe them her vote down the road. Additionally, I have always questioned her motivation for holding elected office. Her husband ran an unsuccessful campaign for County Council just two years ago, and I am always concerned that candidates use the School Board as a stepping stone to higher office, rather than staying focused soley on their mission to improve our schools. David Murray is a bright young man who has worked hard to build connections throughout District 1, knows his constituency well, and could bring fresh ideas to the school system. His support of an external audit for PGCPS is something that I strongly support.
District 4: Micah Watson is the stronger of the two candidates running in District 4. I like the fact that he has children in our public schools, something that most other Board members do not have. I think when you are a parent, you have more at stake with each decision that you make about policies and the budget for our schools. My one concern with his candidacy, which Watson notes as a strength, is his devotion to holding elected office for just about anything. I hope if he is elected, he will stay focused on PGCPS fully for his term, and not get distracted by other opportunities that may arise for seeking higher office. Patricia Eubanks is sincere in her passion for public schools, but she does not seem to have any history of standing up for anything, but rather following her colleagues on most things that really matter.
District 5: It’s no secret that I have many concerns about our Board Chair, Jeana Jacobs. Her questionable connections to corrupt officials in our county, her lack of judgment on pushing for relocation to Washington Plaza, and her record of failed policies in leading the School Board should give all voters reason to choose someone new in this District. Fortunately, voters have a better choice in Raheela Ahmed. This intelligent, committed, and focused young lady has endured endless attacks about being too young and lacking the experience that is needed to represent this district. Even the Washington Post used Jeana Jacobs’ attack line that she would need “on-the-job” training, which just wasn’t fair to her or the voters of District 5 who know what is really at stake. Although Ahmed faces nearly insurmountable odds because of the large group of inattentive voters who will take the word of other elected officials or the Washington Post and push the lever for Jacobs, I really hope Ahmed can overcome that challenge and win this race. It would not only help the school board by moving them in a new direction, but it would finally make the case that voters cannot be manipulated by money, cozy connections with the political establishment, or relentless and unmerited attacks on a qualified challenger.
District 7: I am not thrilled with either choice for School Board in this District. Those of you who are familiar with my track record of advocacy before the School Board are well aware that Henry Armwood has questioned or bullied me every step of the way, and has treated constituents who challenge him in a similar manner. His recent comment to the Washington Post that a college degree “is just a piece of paper” and that what really matters is to elect school board members with experience reinforces his insecurity with his own qualifications for the job. I believe his insecurity has led to the condescending attitude he has toward others who question or disagree with his approach, and this will be an ongoing problem if he is re-elected. While Carletta Fellows also has some good ideas, her motivation for being on the School Board is highly questionable. She says she cares about kids, but has spent little time explaining why. That’s because she has spent most of her real career working in politics, and is a bit of an opportunist when it comes to running for elected office. I have observed her activity in county politics for several years, and she has yet to make a strong impression on me as someone that would earn my vote. She has worked for everyone from Donna Edwards (in constituent relations, which is something Edwards never been praised for), to campaign manager for Mark Spencer’s miserably failed bid for State’s Attorney in 2010, to a policy advisor for Councilman Mel Franklin, a position which abruptly and mysteriously ended after less than a year. Check out her profile and see her short commitment to every political position she’s held over the past several years, and ask yourself if she’s really the kind of person who would be committed to your child’s education.
District 8: With Andre Nottingham dropping out of the race, Edward Burroughs will earn a well-deserved second term on the School Board. Hopefully after the election, he will have some new allies to support him in moving the school system in a new direction.