Voters selected for the three Board of Education positions an incumbent, a self-described education advocate and a former principal who was previously a teacher for the Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education.
· At large: Jeanette Dixon: 55.89 percent of votes counted as of 12 a.m. Wednesday, while incumbent Phil Kauffman (at-large) received 43.47 percent after election volunteers counted 98 percent of votes.
· District 2: Rebecca Smondrowski (District 2) received 66.69 percent of votes, or 207,002 votes once 98 percent of votes were counted; Brandon Rippeon received 32.63 percent.
· District 4: Shebra Evans received 66.69 percent of votes, or 206,632 votes; Anjali Reed Phukan received 31.26 percent of votes, once election officials counted 98 percent of votes.
District 4 member-elect Evans said she was delighted that she won.
“I’m very excited, just happy,” Evans said early Wednesday. “We’ve worked really hard, the last two years, since 2014.”
She said she began her campaign soon after she lost the election for the at large seat two years ago.
Evans said she wants to encourage and enable community members to engage with MCPS regardless of whether they have children enrolled in the school system.
She observed Tuesday from talking to voters that people not involved in the school system are unaware of how it operates.
Evans said all taxpayers should be aware of MCPS operations.
“People who don’t have kids in the school system, taxpayers, they should care because we are educating the future work force,” Evans said. “We want them to be skilled – prepared, college or career ready.”
Phukan, who ran against Evans, said she was considering dropping out of the race a few months ago, but chose not to, thanks to an encouraging fellow candidate, whose name she did not disclose, and late in-kind donations last month.
“I am very humbled and excited that more than 30 percent voted for me,” Phukan said. “I’m in shock and grateful for that (support).”
Evans said she was not aware of a candidate encouraging Phukan to stay in the race.
“I don’t know who she’s referring to, but it wasn’t me,” Evans said.
Evans said she never talked to Phukan other than greeting her at board of education election forums or in passing.
“We never say anything to each other outside of hello,” Evans said.
Phukan said she was thrilled with the number of votes she received.
“I’m very excited and happy and thankful for everyone who voted for me,” Phukan said.
However, she said she is waiting to concede the election until she hears from the state board of elections regarding two complaints she filed about Evans, the first including a 10-page spreadsheet detailing Evans’ expenses and accusing her of COMAR violations.
She alleges Evans violated the code of Maryland regulations (COMAR) multiple times by not listing some donations, expenses and check numbers during her two year campaign.
She said the fines for such violations could add up to $20,000 to $30,000, if the Board of Elections interprets COMAR the way she does.
“It starts with hidden money and expenses, spending in ways not allowed, and later hiding expenses,” Phukan said in her October complaint. “If I could do all that I’d have a big account, big ads, and big endorsements too. Please level the playing field, apply and enforce COMAR, and reward those like me who follow the rules.”
She said she purposely did not speak to voters about it.
“I didn’t really talk about it… because I believe in giving positive campaign strategy,” Phukan said.
Evans said she was not aware of the complaint and wondered the specifics. She said she turned in her finance reports on time and followed the rules.
Phukan said her main concern is Evans pays fees before taking office.
“No, I’m not going to contest the result of the election, even if she’s paid for some of her votes, but I do contest if… the law says she has to pay all these fees before she takes office,” Phukan said.
Jared DeMarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance for the state election board, confirmed the board received both of Phukan’s complaints and noted board members had not made decisions on either complaint.
Smondrowski said she is glad to be able to continue to address concerns as a school board member.
“I’m excited to spend the next several years working with (Superintendent) Jack Smith looking at the needs of the schools and our community,” Smondrowski said.
Smondrowski’s opponent, Brandon Rippeon, said he knew before he filed his intention to run that running against an incumbent would be an uphill battle because incumbents tend to receive more and better endorsements.
“It’s always difficult to beat an incumbent,” Rippeon said.
He said he believes the “apple ballot” or the endorsements from the Montgomery County Education Association, the teachers’ union for MCPS, to be deceptive because it does not represent the values teachers support.
“It’s a very misleading propaganda that the unions put out,” Rippeon said.
Kauffman, an incumbent who lost the at-large seat, said the results surprised him but pointed to a trend of voters wanting change.
“I thought I did have a lot of support but this seemed to be a year in which people were anxious for change,” Kauffman said.
“With term limits, presidential election… there were other (board of education) elections around the state where incumbents lost. It seemed like voters were looking for a change in direction,” he added.
Kauffman said he is unsure whether to continue his involvement in MCPS when Dixon is sworn-in Dec. 1.
“I’m undecided at this point as to my future plan,” Kauffman said.
Kauffman congratulated Dixon on her win in an email Tuesday evening.
“She worked hard on her campaign and I thought she did well,” Kauffman said Wednesday morning.
Dixon taught for 10 years prior to becoming an assistant principal and then a principal in MCPS, for a total of 30 years working in schools.
She said the needs of students in the school system have changed and therefore a new board member is appropriate.
“Our school system has changed,” Dixon said, referring to when voters first selected Kauffman to be a board member.
She said she wants local residents to be more involved in MCPS and for MCPS to consult the community in making decisions.
“I think the message of total transparency or consulting the community before making decisions resonated with the community,” Dixon said.