While the names of the new members of the Board of Education for Montgomery County Public Schools won’t be known until the November election, one thing is certain. The next school board will be 100-percent female.
All seven candidates whom voters chose to include on the November ballot were women; four of them will be seated on the next school board.
Those four will join three female BOE incumbents: Shebra Evans, Jeanette Dixon and Rebecca Smondrowki.
Even the student representative to the board is female. MCPS students elected to the board in April Richard Montgomery High School rising senior Ananya Tadikibda.
Julie Reiley, the top vote-getter for the at-large seat, would have preferred a more-diverse board.
“I tend to think communities are better served if those who represent them reflect the community,” she said. “I think we need to make sure we do extra work to make sure we are fair and reflecting the need of all our students,” regardless of family income, their ancestry or their ethnicity.
Reiley, whose only child is a son in the County school system, said she was also “disappointed” that there will only be one female on the County Council.
“Respecting inclusion is a big part of my platform,” said Reiley.
“We have data demonstrating that male African American and Latino students, and male students with special needs, are more likely to be suspended out of school or expelled than their white and/or female peers. We need to be cognizant of this disciplinary bias and deepen our focus on bias training and strategies aimed at making sure our treatment of these students is fairer,” Reiley wrote in an email to the Sentinel.
Board member Jill Ortman-Fouse, who did not seek reelection in the hope of bringing more diversity to the board, expressed frustration that there won’t be any men on the board. She had hoped that John Robertson, who was unsuccessful in the recent primary, would have been the voter’s choice. As an African American with an “amazing” resume, she believed Robertson would have been an asset to the board, she said.
Of the five male candidates, he received the most votes.
Having “a male of color can make a big difference,” not just because of how he votes but also because of how young students throughout the district would look to him as a role model, she said.
“I think we need diverse perspectives and backgrounds,” Ortman-Fouse said, adding, “Better solutions aren’t often the ones the louder voices propose.”
She is, however, pleased that two of the women on the November ballot are Latino, she said, adding, “Hispanics are the largest cohort” of students in the district.
BOE President Michael Durso, who did not seek reelection for a third term, agreed that “ideally, one would want a mix of gender, ethnicity, racial.”
However, he did not think an all-female board was necessarily a problem.
“I think sometimes that oversimplifies things. As long as the individuals are committed and can work together, I don’t see that as a deterrent.”
Because the board is non-partisan, Democrats, Republicans and independent voters cast ballots during the recent primary.
Reiley and Karla Silvestre will face off for the at-large seat.
In District 3, incumbent Pat O’Neill, who is completing her fifth term on the board, received 68,000 votes. O’Neil and Lynn Amano, the second-highest vote-getter, will face off in November. Candidate Laura Simon, who came in third, is also female.
In District 1, incumbent Judy Docca is seeking her fourth term and will face challenger Maria Blaeuer.
Brenda Wolff ran unopposed to take Durso’s seat in District 5, although, early on, Paul Pykosh had been a candidate who dropped out after moving out of District 5.