What’s the job: Sets policy and chooses the school system superintendent. The board also approves the district budget.

The eight-member board includes seven members elected by district and a student member chosen by students. School board elections are nonpartisan. Primaries are held if there are more than two candidates seeking a seat, with the top two vote getters advancing to the general election.

District 1 — Brooklyn Park, Ferndale, Jessup, Linthicum

Name: Gloria D. Dent

Did not respond to biographical questions or candidate questionnaire.

Personal: Married, has three children, lives in Severn.

Education: Doctorate from Northcentral University with a concentration in psychological trauma and a Master of Business Administration, International Business Human Resource Management, from Trident University.

Experience: Serves on the board of directors for Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation.

Name: Ciera Harlee

Age: 34

Personal: Married for five years, four children, lives in Brooklyn Park.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and sociology, Rutgers University; master’s degree, criminal justice, Saint Joseph’s University.


A: The top 3 priorities of the board should be retaining and recruiting quality teachers and staff, developing school communities where all feel welcomed and safe, and increasing awareness and access to career and college readiness pathways for all students. These are three priorities that as a board member I will support.

A: The data shows that current discipline procedures are having a greater impact on minority groups of students. This shows me that there are discipline measures in place however, we must consider if they are being consistently and appropriately applied to all students. It also demonstrates that what we may actually need are increases in services that help the root causes of student behavior such as mental health and other wrap-around services. For this reason, I do not support stronger discipline measures. Instead, I support the consistent implementation of current discipline measures and an increase to current support services.

A: It is vital that we increase pay and non-monetary supports to keep and attract quality staff.

A: I do not support Maryland parents’ recent efforts to restrict the content available to students in school libraries. I believe that if we are hiring qualified librarians, we should trust that they are selecting books for our libraries that are developmentally appropriate. I believe that a parent has the right to choose for their child and family. However, there is a difference between a parent’s right of choice and imposing the beliefs of one subset of parents on the overall majority. A parent has the right to know what their children are exposed to so that they may make the best decision possible for their child and family. They have the right to opt out of aspects of curriculum or activities that they feel do not align to their own personal beliefs. However, a parent does not have the right to impose their personal beliefs on other children and families. By participating in a public-school education parents must understand that the interest of all students and families must be upheld. The rights of individual parents should not impede the rights of all of our children.

A: Redistricting should make sure that we are evenly distributing diverse student populations though out the county. This means making sure that we are considering economic status, race and other metrics to make sure that we are not creating pockets that lack diversity and resources. We also have to create changes that make sense to lower building use but are manageable for students and families.

A: It is important that as we balance competing priorities, we consistently evaluate how we are spending money, and if it is effectively working in the best interest of students and family. In times when many families are already put under great financial stress it is important that we prioritize keeping property taxes low. As a board member advocating for increased funding from the state and county, as well as reallocating funds as needed is essential.

A: As an educator for nearly a decade and a parent to children in the Anne Arundel County Public School system, I have the experience and knowledge needed to support students, teachers, staff and families.

Name: Sarah F. Lacey

Lacey informed The Banner in March she would be suspending her campaign.

Name: Hunter J. Voss

Did not respond to biographical questions or candidate questionnaire.

Personal: Lives in Linthicum

Education: Bachelor’s degree, economics, Pennsylvania State University.

District 3 — Gibson Island, Pasadena

Name: Jamie Hurman-Cougnet

Did not respond to biographical questions or candidate questionnaire.

Experience: Citizens Advisory Committee secretary, Parent Involvement Advisory Council, secretary and vice president of Pasadena Baseball Club Executive Board.

Name: Julia Laws

Did not respond to biographical questions or candidate questionnaire.

Name: Erica McFarland

Age: 45

Personal: Married for 25 years, four children, lives in Pasadena

Education: Attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Experience: Citizen Advisory Committee and on the Strategic Planning Steering Committee for AACPS.

Endorsements: Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County

Notable donors: Sen. Sarah Elfreth


A: The top three budgetary priorities that I believe we should focus on are teacher and staff recruitment and retention, mental health resources, and student safety. We need to have enough teachers, mental health professionals, special education educators, nurses, food service workers, bus drivers, and all other positions that are critical in order to meet the needs of our students. Additionally, all of our students and staff should feel safe within our schools. School systems, including AACPS, should have a budget that prioritizes student outcomes, safety, and the well-being of our students and staff.

A: I think we need to have a look at our approach to discipline to ensure that it is producing the desired result — an end to the negative behavior through proper interventions. I believe that discipline should be restorative in nature. Measures that remove the student from the classroom may be necessary for the immediate safety of our students, however, we still need to consider that suspending a student further puts them behind academically, possibly leading to a cycle of poor behavior and poor academics. Negative behaviors stem from a root cause and care needs to be taken to ensure that student behavior is addressed with concern for the student.

A: I am very interested supporting a Grow Your Own Educator program. Programs like this attract prospective teachers in our own communities through partnerships between school districts, colleges, and community organizations. Besides providing wrap-around services and financial support, it encourages diversity in the workforce that reflects the diversity of the student population. We also need to prioritize making sure that our current staff has the tools they need to be successful. We should leverage all of our resources, including advocating in our county and state government, to ensure that we have affordable housing so that those who work in our community can also afford to live in our community.

A: I trust our educators and librarians to choose a wide range of age-appropriate books that reflect the diversity of our student population. Reading instills a love for learning, develops a creative imagination, challenges our mindset, supports us through tough times, and teaches us about the world around us. We are all unique in what speaks to us and we have the choice to read a book or leave it on the shelf, but we need to maintain diversity in book choices so that we all have access to the books that spark our interest.

A: Redistricting is a challenge. On one hand, we need to meet the growing population in our school district and ensure that we are utilizing our resources well and keeping class sizes manageable. On the other hand, there will always be someone who is disrupted and disappointed by a move to another school. I feel for the students who have to change schools due to redistricting but I am confident that our staff will work to make the transition as smooth as possible for those affected.

A: I value your tax dollars that help fund the education of our children. I believe it is the duty of the stewards of the money invested in our children to spend wisely and to provide a good return. While recognizing that there are many moving parts and important projects and initiatives to fund, I am budget-conscious and fiscally responsible. We all want our children to have access to the best education, which sets them up for greater success in life. This does come at a cost, however, it is money well spent as an investment in the future of our community.

A: I would be a valuable asset to the Board of Education because I feel I can make a difference in our schools and our community. I am thoughtful in listening to concerns, engaging in conversation, and in collaboratively coming up with effective solutions when issues arise. Through countless field trips, scout camp outs, career day, working in the classroom, being a cheerleading parent, helping out with the Chesapeake High School Robotics Team, and in my mentorship positions as an adult leader, I have consistently shown up for our children. I truly believe that they can make the world a better place. I want to support that. I want to be a part of that. Helping our children to rise to challenges, come up with creative solutions and watching them soar would make me so proud. I think we are headed to a better future, led by our children, guided by our teachers, and supported by our parents and community.

Name: Chuck Yocum

Age: 60

Personal: Married for 35 years, three children, one grandchild, lives in Pasadena.

Education: Bachelor’s degree, education, West Virginia University; master’s degree, special education, West Virginia University; certificate of educational administration, the Johns Hopkins University.

Experience: Served on boards including People’s Community Health Foundation; president, Civitan Club of Glen Burnie; board member; Buccaneers Youth Athletic Association, athletic director; Y of Central Maryland Community Leadership Board; Pasadena/Arnold, Caring Cupboard Food Pantry, co-founder/president.

Endorsements: No official endorsements.


A: In order of importance, 1. Academic Excellence. Every dollar should be spent with that goal in mind. 2. Teacher retention. Number one can’t be achieved without exceptional teaching. 3. Technology: We are preparing students for an unknown work force in an ever changing technological landscape. We must prepare them to be flexible in its use and adaptation.

A: My slogan is Back to the DRAWING board. D is for discipline, which is out of control in our system. I see it and hear about it every day. Teachers cannot be effective if they spend a portion of their class dealing with disciplinary issues. The BoE must support the teachers, principals and Superintendent and uphold penalties placed upon the disruptive students. We must work with families and mental health professionals as well, to determine those students acting out for reasons of emotional trauma.

A: During my 36 years with the system, I once developed a public private partnership with a developer and the county government to provide low cost housing for young teachers. That program was denied by AACPS administrators at the time. Housing costs are some of the most named reasons for losing teachers. That program needs to be revived. We also need to find ways to fund salaries. Pie in the sky unfunded mandates from the state are meaningless if we don’t have the teachers. Rather than creating a billion dollars in taxes and fees to implement them, we get back to the basic fundamentals of education and use that money to pay the teachers.

A: I believe content that is age inappropriate should not be in our school libraries. By inappropriate I mean that of a descriptive sexual nature (including those with graphic illustrations involving sexual acts,) above the general comprehension of the students age. I do not support the removal of books because they generally make someone uncomfortable. Sometimes reading should be uncomfortable, but never of a nature of a sexually explicit nature.

A: Having ran the redistricting program for AACPS for 17 years, the number one priority should always be balancing enrollment to bring schools under state-rated capacity.

A: Every new home in this county pays an impact fee that is to go toward the school(s) in the assigned attendance area. Sometimes, those dollars are shifted and they shouldn’t. Though I like the current process of outside vendors rating our schools and ranking them in order of need, to take politics out of the equation, we have a unique issue in our county. We have amazing custodial staff and maintenance workers who keep our schools looking and working well. Occasionally, those efforts can sometimes hide the true exhaustion of a building. The cosmetic appearance masks the outdated usefulness of a school and at those times we must go off the list and change priorities as we know exist.

A: Coming to an end of a 36 year career with AACPS, I have been behind the the security doors and have participated in many facets of our system. I’ve been in the meetings, helped shape our budgets, developed our instructional program. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly and understand better than any other candidate, what changes need to be made to bring AACPS back to Academic Excellence.

District 4 — Ft. Meade, Laurel, Odenton

Name: Sarah McDermott

Personal: Married for 14 years, two children, lives in Odenton.

Education: Associate degree, general studies, Anne Arundel Community College; bachelor’s degree, government and politics, University of Maryland, College Park.

Notable donors: Del. Mike Rogers


Did not respond to the candidate questionnaire.

Name: Stephanie Mutchler

Did not respond to biographical questions or candidate questionnaire.

Name: Juan Carlos Villao

Did not respond to biographical questions or candidate questionnaire.

District 5 — Arnold, Broadneck peninsula, Severna Park

Name: Tareque O. Farruk

Did not respond to biographical questions.


A: 1. Respecting all communities: As your representative on the Board of Education, I am dedicated to strengthening policies that foster an inclusive environment embracing all cultures. Despite AACPS’s efforts to promote inclusivity, many parents, students, and community members still feel marginalized and unheard. 2. Returning the focus to Academics: The Focus of AACPS has incrementally moved away from what its core mission should be: academics. Academics should be the first and core focus of any school system. Governance should be with the understanding that the outcome is an educated student. 3. Respect in the Classroom: A culture of respect should be woven into AACPS starting in the classroom. I have heard from teachers and students concerns about disruptive and violent behavior in our schools. As a member of the Board, I am committed to crafting a focused policy agenda that supports classrooms free from disciplinary disruptions.

A: As a member of the Board, I am committed to crafting a focused policy agenda that supports classrooms free from disciplinary disruptions. Implementing policies that emphasize student accountability will pave the way for future success by fostering an environment focused on learning and mutual respect for all teachers and students.

A: Money is extremely impactful but it’s not everything. Reaching a competitive salary is important. We have to create an inspired way of recruiting, training and retaining high-quality teachers and staff. This has be the primary focus. I would also evaluate how much aid went to classroom instruction and teacher salaries and how much went to administration costs.

A: I don’t believe in the overall concept of book banning. But there should an evaluation process on sexually explicit material that doesn’t belong in front of the eyes of kids. A book would be rated “sexually explicit” if the material is deemed offensive and not part of the required educational curriculum.

A: This could include considerations such as ensuring fair representation, protecting taxpayers’ interests, promoting school choice, and maintaining local autonomy in education decision-making.

A: I would evaluate all of the following 1. Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) 2. Budget Reallocation 3. Efficiency Measures 4. Bond Issues 5. Targeted Tax Incentives 6. Prioritization and Phased Implementation 7. Encouraging Local Initiatives.

A: I’ve been active in community engagement through roles in the PTA and coaching youth sports, understanding the importance of service-based leadership. With over 30 years of experience in corporate America, including 15 years in leadership roles with private equity firms, I’m committed to leveraging my expertise in leadership development and organizational management to benefit Anne Arundel County’s education system. Throughout my career, I’ve held executive positions, accumulating extensive sales experience and overseeing eight-figure company sales. Now, as the owner of High Point Consulting, where I collaborate with my wife, we provide business development and growth coaching to professionals. I’m passionate about uniting our community to enhance our children’s education. With my background in leadership and administration, I’m ready to bring my dedication and service-oriented approach to ensure every student in Anne Arundel County receives a high-quality, inclusive education.

Name: LaToya Nkongolo

Age: 45

Personal: Married for 22 years, has two children, lives in Severna Park.

Education: Master’s degree in social work, University of Maryland-Baltimore School of Social Work; master’s degree in organizational management and leadership, Springfield College; bachelor’s degree in social work, Delaware State University.

Experience: Served as the social and emotional chair for the Anne Arundel County Board of Education Citizen Advisory Committee, served as co-chair of the Behavioral Health Subcommittee on County Executive Steuart Pittman’s Healthy Transition Team, active member of the Baltimore Washington Medical Center Foundation Board of Director, served as president of the Maryland Addiction and Behavioral-Health Professionals Certification Board, served as the Vice President of Services From the Heart/Backpack Buddies Board of Directors.

Notable donors: Residents of District 5.


Name: Dana Schallheim

Age: 48

Personal: Married for 16 years, has one daughter, lives in Severna Park.

Education: Bachelor’s degree, business administration, Western Washington University; master’s degree, business administration, University of Brighton.

Experience: Ran 2018 as a first-time candidate.

Endorsements: Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County (TAAAC), Comptroller Brooke Lierman, County Executive Steuart Pittman, Sen. Pam Beidle, Sen. Sarah Elfreth, Sen. Dawn Gile, Del. Heather Bagnall, Del. Ben Barnes, Del. Sandy Bartlett, Del. Mark Chang, Del. Shaneka Henson, Del. Dana Jones, Del. Mary Lehman, Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk, Del. Andrew Pruski, Del. Gary Simmons, Board of Education member Joanna Tobin, Former Board of Education student member Josie Urrea, County Councilwoman Lisa Rodvien, LGBTQ Victory, Fund LPAC

Notable donors: I have raised more than $42,000 to date with $40,000 on hand 88% from Anne Arundel County residents and 87% are from small donors ($250 or less).


A: 1. Improving pay and benefits to teachers and staff in order to retain high-quality educators. Every child deserves an excellent teacher, and we will only keep excellent teachers in the classroom if we support them properly. I have worked to increase teacher & staff compensation throughout my term, one of the many reasons I’ve earned the endorsement of our teachers in this race. 2. Expanding mental health support in schools, hiring additional counselors and psychologists to ensure all kids are supported. I have worked to hire more mental health staff in schools every single year, but there is more to do. 3. Expanding access to full-day Pre-K. Investing in a strong start for our youngest kids will pay off down the road. This is one of our most important priorities in the coming years.

A: The AACPS Student Code of Conduct applies progressive discipline for infractions made with a nexis to school ranging from warnings to extended suspensions. The consequences are dependent on the behavior. Restorative justice practices, which focus on resolving conflict, repairing harm, and healing relationships and support a positive and safe school climate, prevent bullying, and reduce disciplinary incidents are employed throughout the system. While I believe AACPS employs a robust disciplinary system outlined above, students of color and special needs students have disproportionately higher discipline referral rates than their white, general education counterparts. This is unacceptable and one of the myriad reasons why my Board colleagues and I pursued the hiring of Dr. Bedell. Beyond closing the discipline gap, another aspect of the code of conduct that needs work is in middle school. Unlike high school, where behavioral and academic consequences exist that remove privileges such as participating in athletics, music, and drama extracurriculars, the same doesn’t exist in middle school. This is one item I hope to address during a second term.

A: My support for our educators is clear. I fought relentlessly for, and successfully restored, compensation previously frozen during the Great Recession. As of the start of the 23-24 school year, AACPS is now 4th in the state in new teacher compensation (when I joined the Board, we were 19th). Likewise, I successfully advocated for additional planning time for all elementary educators. I’ve always encouraged the school system’s HR department to think outside of the box when it comes to recruitment of new teachers - crucial in Maryland which is a net importer of teachers. AACPS recruited candidates at 70 job recruitment fairs during the 22-23 school year in 11 states, DC, Puerto Rico, and the HBCU national virtual job fair, partnering with nearly 30 colleges and universities. As a result, we’ve seen a 13% increase in our applicant pool this year, with the largest class of teachers of color our district has had in years. Finally, I approved several new high school education courses as part of an initiative to “grow our own” future educator workforce. I am proud to be endorsed by The Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County (TAAAC).

A: The lion’s share of the curriculum used in AACPS is actually dictated by MSDE. Beyond that, I wholeheartedly trust our Librarians and Media Specialists, experts in the field, whose job it is to review and approve books in accordance with AACPS policy and regulations to make decisions regarding the age and developmental appropriateness of books and other reading materials available to AACPS students. Without exception, I am entirely against another parent or group of parents’ ability to make decisions regarding what my publicly-educated child and her peers can and cannot read or what her teachers can and cannot teach. Censorship, white-washing curriculum, the omitting of historical facts, and other regressive policies must never find a home within AACPS. Make no mistake, extremists are trying to bring these policies to Anne Arundel County, and I will always stand against them, one of the reasons why I have earned the endorsement of more than two dozen local and state elected officials. The book bans happening in Florida and elsewhere will not happen here. Not on my watch.

A: Phase 1 of 2 of the first AACPS systemwide redistricting in decades concluded November 2023 with implementation fall 2024. The second phase will kick off spring 2025 with voting in November 2025 and implementation fall 2026. The rationale for redistricting is to either balance enrollment (either over or under-utilized schools) or to open a new school facility. The two most important points when considering any redistricting are the data and constituent input. Both of these were highly prevalent during phase 1 of redistricting and will be again with phase 2.

A: As Budget Committee Chair for three years, I worked to transform the budget amendment process, creating transparency and additional oversight of taxpayer money. School construction/renovation is part of the AACOS capital budget and includes funding from the state. The Board of Education of Anne Arundel County has zero say in taxes levied by the state. That would be under the sole purview state government. I will always; however, put forth budgets that ask our funders to properly and fully fund AACPS and meet the needs of our students, teachers, and staff. Furthermore, no school system in Maryland, including AACPS, is a funding authority. AACPS does not have the power to levy taxes or pass bond bills. In Anne Arundel County, The Board passes a budget that then goes first to the County Executive and then to County Council who are the final arbiters of the county’s budget. Providing world-class public education to nearly 85,000 students costs money, and costs will rise as the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (state law) is implemented. It will be the job of the Maryland General Assembly to ensure that funding is adequate for AACPS to implement the Blueprint with fidelity.

A: Over the past 5.5 years, I have focused on improving four student outcomes: high-quality teachers, research-based math and curriculum, good leadership, support for mental health, and social-emotional development under the leadership of Dr. Bedell, a nationally-recognized superintendent, whom my colleagues and I unanimously hired. I championed new policies protecting LGTBQIA+ students and students with food allergies and improving our bullying, bias, and special education policies. I added dozens of school counselors, psychologists, and social workers to our schools and lobbied successfully for flex periods in all high schools as well as for JROTC magnet programs with transportation. In a second term, I will fight to ensure that the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future is implemented with fidelity and will represent the interests of District 5 residents during the second phase of the county-wide redistricting. If we elect my opponent, who has said publicly that she will ban books, that increasing pay is not important to retaining teachers, and who supports sending our tax dollars to private schools, our school district will go backwards. Let’s keep things moving in the right direction and elect me to a second term on The Board of Education of Anne Arundel County, representing District 5.

This article has been updated to add the questionnaire for candidate Erica McFarland.