Two of the Howard County School Board’s seven seats are in the running this year, and eight candidates have come forward.
School board members are elected for four-year terms on a staggered basis in even-numbered years. As of June 2020, the way Howard County residents vote for school board members has changed. Now, five of the seven school board members are elected by voters in their respective county council districts. The other two members are elected at-large, meaning any registered voter can vote for them.
This year, both seats at large are up for election.
School board members Chao Wu and Vicky Cutroneo, who currently hold those seats, are not running for election. Wu, of Clarksville, has filed as a Democrat for a Maryland state delegate seat in District 13. Cutroneo announced last July that she would not seek another term.
Primary elections are set for July 19 and general elections for November 8.
The top four voters will advance from the primary to the general election. The first two voters in this election will win the seats.
Candidates Tudy Adler, Linfeng Chen and Dan Newberger applied earlier this year and were featured in an article in early March. Candidates Susan Dreisch and Jacky McCoy were unavailable to respond to inquiries about their campaigns.
Julie Hotopp, 46, of Columbia, has lived in Howard County for 14 years and works as a professor of microbiology and genome science at the University of Maryland.
Hotopp is running for a seat on the Howard County Public School System Board of Education because she is passionate about public school education.
“We need more board members who are truly passionate about education and [are] really focused on multiple issues, not just corner issues or one element,” she said.
She aims to use a position on the council to focus on issues such as postponing school start times and improving science education.
If elected, she said she hopes to encourage the council to advocate for increased school building.
“I hope we can secure a place for every child in a physical classroom, start schools at reasonable hours, and resolve the significant issues we have with special education,” she said.
She and her husband have two sons who are in first grade at Bryant Woods Elementary School and eighth grade at Wilde Lake Middle School.
Monique Richards, 44, has lived in the county for almost a year and works in the pharmaceutical industry.
She comes to the school board to play a role in improving the school system, promoting equity in education, and focusing on issues such as redistricting.
“I’m aware of the concerns about the redistricting that’s happened recently that I’ve heard about for more to come,” she said. “I want my children to have a sense of security and stability where they go to school and that the schools they attend have all the resources they need to provide them with the best education.”
If elected, she says she hopes to work with current council members to find the best solutions for the good of the children.
“I hope to impress upon the people I work with the importance of children feeling safe and having a sense of belonging and a healthy self-image,” she said. “It is important for us as adults to advocate for these student needs in addition to the core curriculum or core studies they are engaged in.”
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Richards lives with her husband and three children in Ellicott City. One of his children is in second grade at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School.
Meg Ricks, 41, of Elkridge, has resided in Howard County for 17 years and is a teaching assistant at East Columbia Preschool.
She and her husband have three children who attend Elkridge Elementary School, Elkridge Landing Middle School and Howard High School.
His candidacy for the school board is a way to continue his advocacy to reduce overcrowding in schools. Ricks aims to use his position to focus on finding a way to share school system information with families in a variety of languages. She also hopes to focus on improving student mental health.
“[I want] to make sure we help every child get what they need,” she said. “Working together is essential [and] often we focus on the things we don’t agree on and we can’t accomplish the things we agree on.
If elected, she said she hopes to work collaboratively with other council members and the community.
“I know there’s been a lot of division on various issues within the school system and nationally, a lot of negative attention given to school boards,” she said. “I still hope that bipartisanship is not dead and that we can have non-partisan organizations so that we can put children first, not just in words, but in our actions and our priorities.”