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

The eight-member board includes five members elected by district, two members elected county-wide 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 — Elkridge and portions of Ellicott City

Name: Andre Gao

Age: 64

Personal: Married 32 years, 3 children, lives in Ellicott City

Education: Bachelor’s degree, University of Science and Technology of China; doctorate, physics, Duke University

Experience: First time running for public office

Endorsements: None at this time

Notable donors: No campaign finance contributors


A: Optimize the spending to deliver maximum benefit; forward looking planning and budgeting to avoid unexpected short falls; advocate county and state to provide appropriate level of funding to schools.

A: We need to have disciplinary measures that work well. They do not necessarily to be stronger, but more importantly, they need to be effective.

A: Competitive salary, opportunity to develop and grow, and support by HCPSS.

A: The criteria to select contents in school libraries can be reviewed and updated with inputs from parents and communities.

A: School capacity, feeder schools, community integration, proximity, and other criteria from parents and communities.

A: Make sure the property taxes are not diverted for other purposes, the appropriate impact fees are paid by new development, and cost-effective ways to construct/renovate schools are used.

A: I have over 30 years financial industry experience and nearly 20 years management experience, which are essential for resolving the school budget issues and for overseeing the operation of the school system.

Name: Pravin Ponnuri

Age: 58

Personal: Married 31 years, 2 children, lives in Ellicott City

Education: Bachelor’s degree, mechanical engineering, University of Mumbai; master’s degree, business administration, University of Mumbai.

Experience: Ran unsuccessfully for the county school board in 2016; member of the Howard County Democratic Central Committee from 2015 to 2019

Endorsements: None at this time

Notable donors: No campaign finance contributors.


Did not respond to the candidate questionnaire.

Name: Meg Ricks

Age: 43

Personal: Married 21 years, 3 children, lives in Elkridge

Education: Bachelor’s degree, anthropology, Brigham Young University

Experience: Ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat on the school board in 2022; elected to multiple PTA leadership positions including president, treasurer and secretary

Endorsements: Howard County Education Association, Columbia Democratic Club, Howard Progressive Project

Notable donors: No campaign finance contributors


A: I believe that HCPSS needs to prioritize what impacts the classroom-including class size, retaining our amazing educators, and meeting our legal obligations. With a national teacher shortage, we can’t afford to lose dedicated and talented educators. With the increasing challenges in the classroom, we can’t put even more work on them. Our schools must follow the law in providing the free and appropriate public education that all learners, including those with disabilities are entitled to, with fidelity. We also need to meet the requirements of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. We want to expand access to early childhood education, attract and retain amazing teachers, help students become college and career ready, and make sure that every student has the educational supports they need to succeed. The budget must advance these goals.

A: I believe our schools should focus on having a more effective disciplinary process. Many students are experiencing a social and emotional skills gap. We need to help students build tools for dealing with conflict and connect students to resources to ensure needs are being met. As we work to address root causes of disruptive behavior we also need to make sure that the targets of bullying and violence are not being further victimized. School safety is not a one person job. It really does take a whole community. We must start while students are young to give them tools for dealing with conflict and seeking help when needed. Every student should both feel safe at school and be safe at school. Altercations in schools should be handled by school staff. An SRO familiar with the students is much better than a random police officer when police assistance is needed, but staff should be handling the vast majority of situations before they become serious. I would like to see more counselors in our schools so students have more access to them to help them find productive solutions to the challenges they are facing.

A: Securing adequate funding for educator pay is going to be crucial as we will have to compete with other jurisdictions with lower cost of living and the same requirements for starting teacher salaries due to Blueprint. We will also need adequate funding to keep our amazing veteran teachers. Building in opportunities for veteran teachers to advance and become leaders in their schools while mentoring new teachers is a win-win that can help to retain both new and veteran teachers. Taking steps to address workload and to give educators more autonomy and support in their jobs are also crucial. Utilizing the opinions and experience of our educators in making decisions that directly impact them is essential. If our school system is forced to cut positions every year or most years, that also really hurts recruitment and retention. We need to nurture and sustain a culture of inclusivity that celebrates the diversity of our community and is not afraid to address bias. We need diversity at all levels and diverse perspectives in decision making and leadership. We can continue to support programs to “grow our own” teachers among current students as well as with career changers.

A: I support parents’ right to restrict what their own children read, but no single person or group gets to dictate what every student has access to. I trust our media specialists to offer age appropriate materials in our school libraries. There is a process in place to get community feedback on all materials and to request re-evaluation, if there are concerns. To prepare children for the future, we need to teach them both the good and the bad of our history. We want our students to learn important, age-appropriate lessons about the role of race and racism in the shaping of America because it’s the best way to ensure the next generation doesn’t repeat the mistakes of our past. LGBTQ+ students should have the same freedom to study in a supportive learning environment as any other student, despite the attempts of some politicians to demonize them and to stoke fear for political gain.

A: Boundaries must be redrawn at times when capacity is out of balance and when we open new schools. We need to be opening new schools because we are years behind, as evidenced by our growing fleet of “relocatable classrooms.” Because overcrowding worsens outcomes for our most vulnerable students, we need to address capacity first and foremost. The other factors outlined in policy 6010 help us select the best plan to address capacity without creating new problems. We don’t want to concentrate poverty, create small feeds, move the same children multiple times, or put walkers onto buses that we can’t afford and don’t have drivers for. We need to have a consistent application of the different considerations so that we don’t have one set of rules for one part of the county and a different set of rules for another part of the county. We also need school sites in areas where capacity is needed now and in the future. This will make creating attendance boundaries far easier than it is now. We also want to ensure that any redistricting plan will address capacity concerns for a long period of time so that it does not have to be done frequently.

A: Every student and staff member deserves to learn and work in a building that is in good repair and which will not make them sick. We need more dedicated funding for the capital budget. Our county should make sure that development fees are actually sufficient to cover the growth they bring so we do not run out of money to renovate and repair our aging schools. Within the current constraints, we need to make decisions based on objective data. It is difficult to plan long-range if our long-range plan changes drastically every single year. If delaying a project is going to cost us more money than moving forward with it, that is crucial information to know. We need to make sure we are taking advantage of any state money we could be receiving for capital projects. I am interested in seeing how the P3 funded schools in Prince George’s County impact their school system in the long run. I know that we need money now, but usually “money now” comes at a high cost in the long run. Any potential public private partnership for school funding would need to be thoroughly scrutinized by the Board, the County, and the community.

A: My background in the preschool classroom and as a community leader, education advocate, and HCPSS parent have uniquely qualified me to serve on the Board. As a recipient of Free and Reduced Meals (FARMs) and other programs for families in poverty as a child, I personally experienced the importance and power of public education to change lives. Serving others in my community has been a life-long pursuit. My time on the Operating Budget Review Committee (OBRC) and many years of PTA leadership deepened my understanding of the fiscal and other challenges we face. I have followed and participated in the work of the Board for over 14 years and am ready to bring my experience, creative problem solving, consensus building, and passion for education to this role. Those familiar with my leadership have described me as fair, calm, and level-headed. Serving as one of the co-chairs of this year’s OBRC, I’ve had an opportunity to put into practice calm leadership and consensus building in what can sometimes be a fractious group because of its size, passion, and diversity of opinions, not to mention the difficulty of this year’s budget. I am ready to bring these needed skills to the Board.

District 4 — Clarksville, Fulton and portions of Columbia

Name: Hiruy Hadgu

Age: 39

Personal: Married with children, lives in Fulton

Education: Master’s degree, nuclear engineering; master’s degree, business administration.

Experience: Ran unsuccessfully for County Council in 2018

Endorsements: Former Howard County Executive Liz Bobo and Our Revolution Howard County

Notable donors: No campaign finance contributors


A: Ensuring Full Funding and Equitable Allocation: The budget must prioritize equitable funding to address disparities in the school system, ensuring all students have access to quality education and necessary resources, regardless of their background or location. Infrastructure and Modernization: Investment in new school construction and elimination of deferred maintenance are crucial. Modern, safe, and well-equipped facilities are essential for an effective learning environment and for accommodating growing student populations. Technology and Future Preparedness: The budget should focus on preparing students for the future, particularly with the increasing impact of automation and artificial intelligence. This includes integrating technology in teaching and learning processes and ensuring students acquire relevant skills for future careers.

A: The focus should be more on creating inclusive educational environments rather than instituting stronger disciplinary measures. I believe that addressing root causes of behavioral issues through supportive and restorative practices is more effective. This approach involves understanding and tackling the underlying problems leading to disciplinary actions, such as social, emotional, or academic challenges. Implementing policies that emphasize empathy, understanding, and support can lead to better educational outcomes and a more positive school climate. Therefore, the emphasis should be on creating a nurturing environment that fosters learning and growth, rather than on stricter disciplinary measures.

A: To effectively recruit and retain educators, it’s essential to offer competitive compensation and foster a supportive environment that values professional growth. Prioritizing the recruitment of educators of color is crucial to create a diverse teaching workforce that reflects the student population. Providing robust mentorship programs and career development opportunities can help retain educators by supporting their professional journey. A positive, inclusive work culture encourages educators to stay and grow within the system, contributing to a stable and enriched learning environment for students.

A: As a proponent of educational freedom and diversity, I do not support efforts to restrict the content available in school libraries. I believe in fostering an environment where a wide range of ideas and perspectives can be explored. It’s essential to provide students with access to varied materials that challenge them to think critically and form their own opinions. Limiting this access stifles intellectual growth and prevents students from gaining a broad understanding of the world.

A: In redrawing school boundaries, keeping communities together and ensuring students attend their nearest schools should be prioritized. While socio-economic integration is important, it alone does not address the specific educational needs of students requiring the most support. Therefore, the focus should also be on investing in schools directly to improve educational outcomes and reduce the need for redistricting. This approach ensures a more stable, community-oriented, and effective educational environment for all students.

A: To balance funding for school construction and renovation while keeping property taxes low, it’s essential to ensure developers pay their fair share, as they have not been doing. The county should scrutinize and potentially halt costly projects like the proposed $144 million library project, redirecting funds to more critical educational infrastructure needs. This approach, combined with community engagement and transparent decision-making, can create a more equitable and effective allocation of resources.

A: Voters should elect me because of my extensive experience and dedication to improving our schools. Having advocated on school-related issues for years, I understand the intricacies of the school budget and have actively worked on matters of infrastructure, accountability, racial justice, and financial management. My track record shows a deep commitment to enhancing the educational environment for every student, making me well-equipped to address the challenges our schools face effectively.

Name: Julie Kaplan

Age: 52

Personal: Married 29 years, 2 children, lives in Fulton

Education: Bachelor’s degree, economics, University of Maryland, College Park; master’s degree, business administration, University of Maryland, College Park.

Experience: First time running for public office

Endorsements: Several District 4 voters and HCPSS teachers

Notable donors: No campaign finance contributors


A: The top priorities for the school system budget should be maintaining academic excellence, ensuring physical and psychological safety, and fully funding the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. To support these priorities, a focus on identifying inefficiencies and unproductive expenses is critical, allowing for strategic reallocation of resources. This approach ensures that we not only meet but exceed our commitments to educational standards and safety while aligning with the ambitious goals set by the Blueprint for Maryland. Achieving this balance requires a methodical review of current expenditures, encouraging innovation, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement and accountability. By prioritizing these areas, we can ensure that our budgeting decisions reflect the values of our community and the needs of every student, laying a solid foundation for a future where every learner in Howard County has the opportunity to thrive.

A: The key to instituting effective disciplinary measures in schools lies in ensuring policies are universally applied and align with restorative justice principles, which focus on uncovering root causes and facilitating reconciliation. Currently, the challenge is the inconsistency in policy application and the lack of time and practical tools for educators to implement these measures effectively amidst their administrative responsibilities. Teachers are pivotal to restoring discipline and respect in classrooms but are often overburdened, hindering their ability to engage deeply with restorative practices. To address this, we need a dual approach: streamlining administrative tasks to free up educators’ time and developing practical, in-class tools that support immediate conflict resolution. Engaging in dialogue with teachers to understand their needs and working collaboratively to refine disciplinary measures will ensure we support the premise of restorative justice while maintaining classroom order. This balanced strategy will reinforce discipline and respect for teachers, laying the groundwork for a conducive learning environment where all students feel valued and understood.

A: To recruit and retain top educators, competitive salaries and benefits are essential, but equally important is how we engage with them. Educators thrive on their passion for teaching and the energy they draw from their students. However, the burden of administrative responsibilities and policies that don’t always consider practical classroom implications can dampen this enthusiasm. While some outside-the-classroom duties are inevitable, we must critically evaluate their impact on teachers and seek ways to minimize unnecessary burdens. Additionally, educators often find themselves held accountable for decisions made by the Board of Education without feeling they have a voice in those decisions. This dynamic must shift. Engaging educators in policy development, listening to their insights, and valuing their contributions is crucial. By doing so, we not only respect their professional expertise but also empower them as key stakeholders in our education system. This inclusive approach is vital for attracting and retaining the quality educators necessary to ensure our students receive the best possible education.

A: It’s crucial to strike a balance between safeguarding access to diverse educational resources and adhering to established standards. Policy 8040 serves as a guideline, ensuring that instructional materials meet approved criteria, fostering an environment of learning that is both inclusive and respectful of community values. While it’s essential to maintain age-appropriateness and educational relevance, restricting access should be approached with caution, emphasizing the importance of community input and academic freedom. This approach supports the preparation of students for a diverse and complex world, ensuring they have access to a broad range of viewpoints and information. Encouraging open dialogue among educators, parents, and students about library content can further enhance understanding, ultimately benefiting the educational experience for all students.

A: By adhering to considerations outlined below, we aim to foster a balanced, supportive, and cohesive educational environment that respects the needs of all students and their families. School Capacity: We aim to evenly distribute student enrollment to avoid overcrowding, ensuring all schools utilize resources efficiently and maintain high educational standards. Preserving Title I Status: It’s crucial to maintain the eligibility for Title I funding in schools serving low-income areas, guaranteeing those schools continue to receive necessary financial and educational support. Minimizing Commute Times: Efforts should focus on reducing travel distances for students, especially those dependent on busing, to lower transportation costs and increase time for educational and extracurricular activities. Reducing Disruption: The process should strive to limit the number of students and families impacted, maintaining as much stability as possible for those transitioning to a new school. Keeping Communities Intact: Whenever practical, neighborhoods should remain together within school boundaries to support community cohesion and a sense of belonging among students.

A: In Howard County, we’re faced with the critical task of upgrading our schools while being mindful of our property tax rates—which, let’s be honest, are already on the higher side. It’s a balancing act, requiring a clear strategy that puts the safety of our students, the capacity of our schools, and the quality of our learning environments at the forefront. First and foremost, the safety of our children and educators is non-negotiable. Our schools need to be secure, up to code, and free from any hazards. Then, we look at our schools bursting at the seams. It’s essential that we address this by carefully analyzing our space versus our needs, ensuring every child has the room to learn and grow without overcrowding. And once we have a handle on safety and space, we turn our attention to making our schools not just functional, but inspiring. We’re talking about environments that spark curiosity and foster a love for learning. This approach is practical and mindful of the taxpayers. Together, we can make Howard County’s schools places where our kids not only learn but thrive — without making our property tax bills nightmarish.

A: Howard County is on the brink of necessary transformation, seeking leadership that prioritizes objectivity, practicality, and fiscal responsibility above all. As a Marketer and RevOps executive, I’m the leader companies call upon when they are ready for transformation and leveling up—attributes District 4 and our students desperately need to navigate the future successfully. My approach is non-partisan; I believe in making decisions based on what’s best for our children and our community, not politics. With a proven track record in driving meaningful change and optimizing resources, I stand as the most experienced candidate ready to elevate our school system. Electing me means choosing a candidate committed to a non-partisan, results-driven approach, ensuring our education system mirrors the excellence our community deserves.

Name: Jen Mallo

Age: 54

Personal: Married 30 years, 3 children, lives in Columbia

Education: Bachelor’s degree, economics and East Asian studies, Wittenberg University; master’s degree, George Washington University; education finance certificate, Georgetown University.

Experience: Member of Howard school board; elected in 2018 and reelected in 2020

Endorsements: Columbia Democratic Club, Howard Progressive Project

Notable donors: No campaign finance contributors.


A: Student safety — students who do not have a safe and inclusive environment are unable to access and take advantage of the academic programming that we offer. More than just physical security, this is about mental health and well being, providing food for hungry students, providing an inclusive learning environment, safe transportation to school, providing liaisons (BSAP, HSAP, International) to connect home and school, and Special Education. Student academic achievement —students need to have high quality instruction that supports and grows them at whatever level they enter our schools. This means we need comprehensive, effective teaching to every learner whether they are GT, special education, or on-grade level. Every student should be reading by third grade, on track in middle school math to complete Algebra 2 by the end of high school (at a minimum), and ready to succeed in life after graduation. Staff recruitment and retention — our children need qualified, engaged, and committed staff. To that end, we must pay our teachers professional-level salaries and we also should absolutely be working towards paying our support staff at least a living wage. In addition, we must address other factors that lead to staff leaving the profession.

A: No, I don’t believe schools need to institute stronger disciplinary measures. Stronger measures and zero tolerance policies often lead to students being excluded from school. Suspension, detention, and expulsion keep students out of the classrooms where they should be learning and receiving their education. Policing of juvenile behaviors is an ineffective way to help children mature and grow and is more likely to increase the school to prison pipeline. Stronger disciplinary measures of the past have led directly to disproportionate discipline of boys, Black and Brown students, and special education students. Students need to be able to learn from their mistakes, take responsibility for their errors, and receive consequences that prioritize students staying in school, staying engaged, and having a pathway to continue to be a part of the classroom, the school, and the community.

A: Educator recruitment is most effective when you have a high functioning Human Resources (HR) department that offers contracts to qualified candidates in a timely manner with competitive salaries and benefits. We need to actively recruit at local universities as well as at Historically Black Colleges and Universities that have strong teacher degree programs. HCPSS could expand our network of programs that provide student teachers who could join HCPSS upon graduation. Additionally, HCPSS could pay wages from Labor Department grants to student teachers as a recruitment tool. To retain staff, we also must build a culture where educators want to work and feel supported. That support can take many different forms including affinity groups, mentoring, and professional development. Annual salary increases commensurate with inflation are also critical to retention. Other supplemental programs like loan forgiveness, housing supports, Blueprint career ladder, and financial incentives can also be effective retention mechanisms. During my certificate program in Education Finance with Georgetown University, I learned about an innovative program called “stay interviews” used elsewhere to retain high quality, new educators. The idea is to encourage people to stay in their jobs and to ask them what support they need to stay and be successful.

A: No, I do not believe that the Board of Education should capitulate to efforts to restrict the content available to students in school libraries. Book bans are restrictions on free speech that I do not support. Books in libraries should be age appropriate, as determined by subject matter experts who have taken multiple courses in human development. These are librarians and teachers who we entrust our children to every day and we should trust them in this work. Art and Literature challenge us to think differently, to build empathy and compassion, and to find out who we are and what we believe in. Why would we want to restrict growth and human development by taking away someone else’s views of the world? Moreover, the books available in school libraries should be accurate and up front in addressing our history and our realities, which includes slavery, racism, bigotry, misogyny, and violence. Many of the books that are being challenged are those that affirm the LGBTQ+ community. Students should have access to books that allow them to see themselves and others in true and authentic ways. For LGBTQ+ youth, this has a direct correlation to reducing the incidence of suicide.

A: Capacity should always be the first consideration on school boundaries. After capacity, the other factors outlined in the school system’s redistricting policy should be balanced. If we do not first focus on capacity when redrawing school boundaries, it is unlikely that the state will continue to fund capital improvements, new buildings, and other renovations. Board members should then weigh the other factors outlined in the policy and take those items into consideration and the boundaries should be optimized for improved outcomes across the many considerations. At this time, I do not believe that the Board of Education will have another redistricting until we open a new school or have a school with a substantial capacity addition.

A: It is the role of the Board to build and maintain sufficient schools to ensure that students have a safe and adequate facility in which to learn. Since the Board of Education does not have taxing authority in Maryland, our efforts are limited to expressing the needs of our students and staff while using the allotted funds appropriately. As chairperson, I worked this past year with staff and the Board to form a capital budget criterion standardization workgroup. My hope is that this workgroup will be able to recommend standard criteria so that limited capital budget dollars can be allocated to the locations with the highest needs, with priorities not swinging wildly from year to year. I want to bring long term planning and stabilization to the process so that our funding authorities can adequately fund our needs. Furthermore, it is my hope that by holding this workgroup, we are able to maximize our ability to leverage state funding and not leave money on the table as we have in the past.

A: I am unique among the candidates with six years on the Board and decades of education advocacy, policy work, and early childhood education. I am the only District 4 candidate who will not need years of “on the job training” to come up to speed. With at least two new Board members guaranteed, my experience is needed now more than ever. As Board Chair, I moved to institute changes to our contracting process to ensure future Board-approved contracts contain appropriate damage provisions as well as financial controls. I helped eliminate the nearly $50 million health fund deficit two years ahead of schedule and passed record high, financially-sound budgets funded in collaboration with our elected officials. I brought in air quality and infectious disease specialists to advise us during the pandemic, resulting in air filters in every classroom, prioritized vaccine access, and rapid purchase of Chromebooks for virtual instruction. I have identified problems and implemented solutions to create better policies for students. During my tenure, we revised nearly all of HCPSS’ policies, implemented the first-ever equity policy, and enacted a student-centered dress code. I am the most qualified candidate in District 4.

District 5 — Dayton, Lisbon, Highland, Woodbine

Name: Catherine Carter

Age: 44

Personal: Married 22 years, 5 children, lives in Woodbine

Education: Bachelor’s degree, English teaching secondary education.

Experience: First time running for public office. Recently appointed by Gov. Wes Moore’s office to the Maryland Board of Examiners of Optometry as a consumer member

Endorsements: None.

Notable donors: No campaign finance contributors


A: As a candidate for the Howard County School Board, I advocate for three core priorities in our school system budget: 1. Balanced School Budget: Maintaining fiscal responsibility is essential to ensure the efficient use of taxpayer funds while meeting the needs of our students and educators. A balanced budget allows us to allocate resources effectively, sustaining vital programs and services in all our schools. 2. Decreasing Classroom Size Through Educator Support: Smaller class sizes are crucial for fostering personalized learning experiences and improving academic outcomes. Achieving this goal requires prioritizing resources to retain our current high-quality educators and attract new talent to our district. By investing in competitive salaries, professional development opportunities, and supportive working environments, we can decrease classroom sizes and enhance the educational experience for our students. 3. Increased Funding for School Construction: Adequate facilities are essential for creating safe, modern learning environments conducive to academic success. Investing more funding into school construction allows us to address overcrowding issues, improve facility conditions, and accommodate our growing student population. By prioritizing school construction projects, we can ensure that every student has access to high-quality educational facilities that meet their needs.

A: As a school board candidate and former teacher, I advocate for a balanced approach to disciplinary measures in our schools, ensuring the safety and holistic development of students. While maintaining a safe environment is paramount, it’s equally crucial to address underlying issues and foster positive social-emotional growth. Alongside fair disciplinary actions, we must prioritize strategies to address bullying and promote kindness and empathy. This includes providing resources, implementing prevention programs, and teaching conflict resolution and empathy skills. Educating students about safe social media practices is essential in today’s digital landscape. By instilling online etiquette and responsible usage habits, we empower students to navigate online spaces securely. Moreover, offering students a list of quality community service opportunities encourages kindness and empathy. Engaging in meaningful activities helps students understand empathy and the value of community service. Additionally, a balanced approach involves firm disciplinary measures when necessary, ensuring a safe environment for all students. However, these measures should always be accompanied by supportive interventions aimed at addressing underlying issues. By integrating these approaches, we create a positive and supportive school culture where every student can thrive. If elected, I am committed to implementing these initiatives in Howard County schools, prioritizing both safety and holistic student development.

A: Recruiting and retaining top-notch educators is crucial for Howard County. We’ve long been known for our competitive pay scale, which helps attract talented teachers. We need to maintain this reputation by ensuring our salaries remain competitive within Maryland. Additionally, fostering a supportive environment is key. Mentorship programs and opportunities for career advancement show educators they’re valued members of our community. Unfortunately, our classroom sizes have been increasing over the years. To address this, we must prioritize reducing class sizes to offer a more personalized learning experience for students and a more manageable workload for teachers. By upholding our historically competitive pay scale, providing a supportive environment, and addressing increasing classroom sizes, we can recruit and retain the best educators for Howard County’s schools.

A: As a candidate for the Howard County School Board and a former teacher, I firmly oppose efforts to restrict the content available to students in school libraries. I believe in upholding the principles of intellectual freedom and academic inquiry, which are essential for a vibrant and inclusive learning environment. Book banning undermines these principles and limits students’ access to diverse perspectives and ideas. Instead of censoring books, I support the existing process in place to ensure that library materials are age-appropriate and aligned with educational standards. This process involves professional librarians, educators, and community stakeholders who carefully evaluate books for their academic worth and suitability for students. Furthermore, restricting access to certain books deprives students of opportunities for critical thinking, empathy, and understanding of diverse experiences. As educators, our goal should be to foster a love of reading and lifelong learning by providing students with access to a wide range of literature that reflects the complexity of the world. I believe that empowering students to make informed choices and engage critically with literature is far more beneficial than imposing restrictions. Therefore, I stand against any attempts to limit students’ access to books in school libraries and advocate for maintaining an open and inclusive learning environment for all students in Howard County.

A: As a candidate for the school board, I believe the top priority when redrawing school boundaries should be affordability. Our district is facing significant challenges, including budget constraints that have led to the elimination of teaching positions and degraded academic standards. Redistricting decisions must be made with careful consideration of our financial resources. We cannot afford to implement changes that result in ballooning budgets and unnecessary transportation expenses. We must prioritize the well-being and educational needs of our students, ensuring they have access to quality education without undue burdens. Moreover, redistricting should not disrupt the sense of community for students and families. Moving children further from their neighborhoods can isolate them and deprive them of the support networks they need to thrive. It’s essential to maintain a strong sense of community and provide adequate support to students affected by boundary changes. In essence, affordability, student well-being, and community cohesion should guide our decisions when redrawing school boundaries. We must prioritize responsible fiscal management while ensuring quality access to education for all students in our district.

A: As a candidate for the school board, I advocate for a balanced approach to funding school construction/renovation while keeping property taxes low. Implementing a multiyear budget plan allows for strategic resource allocation over time, prioritizing essential projects without burdening taxpayers. Collaboration with stakeholders, such as the Howard County school capital budget stakeholder group, is crucial for identifying cost-saving opportunities and maximizing efficiency. Additionally, leveraging state funding from the Interagency Commission on School Construction helps alleviate the financial strain on local taxpayers while addressing critical infrastructure needs. However, the Board of Ed’s decisions have overlooked our children’s needs and financial struggles, as even acknowledged by the County Executive in his letter to the Board. Our schools are not making data-driven decisions on renovations, and fiscal constraints are evident—schools unable to afford printing awards for student athletes reflects our fiscal state. The county owes our children money for their schools; we should demand more funds, not less. Redirecting spending from projects like the $71 million cultural center and the $143 million library toward our schools is vital. Investing in education is an investment in our community’s future, and it’s time our budget reflects that historic truth.

A: I am a dedicated education advocate with nine years of experience advocating for national and state resources, legislations, and policy changes to benefit our children’s learning. As a cybersecurity small business owner, I prioritize a balanced budget and equipping students with future workforce skills. With a background as an English and ESL teacher across multiple school settings, I understand the importance of empowering schools and supporting classroom teachers. As parent of several students in HCPSS, some who receive special education services, I understand the importance of ensuring our schools are providing the resources our children need. Running for School Board in District 5, I see a broken system that needs fixing. The Board must make affordable decisions. We must stagger school times to reduce costs associated with deadhead and idling buses, enabling students to attend their closest schools, while also avoiding unnecessary expenses on redistricting, excessive waivers, and inefficient contracts. These choices jeopardize essential services like transportation, staff recruitment, class size reduction, and innovative programs. Continued cuts to our schools undermine what makes Howard County attractive, leading to further program disparities and community divisions. I advocate for a balanced, multi-year budget plan involving stakeholders to address these challenges strategically.

Name: Andrea Chamblee

Age: 63

Personal: Widow of John McNamara, who was murdered in the Annapolis Capital Gazette 2018 shooting, remarried in 2022, grew up in Howard County and currently lives in District 5

Education: Bachelor’s degree, journalism, University of Maryland, College Park; graduate of University of Maryland Law School.

Experience: First time running for public office. Holds unelected positions as a regulatory affairs professional fellow and with Everytown for Gun Safety.

Endorsements: Howard County Education Association, Columbia Democratic Club, Howard Progressive Project

Notable donors: No campaign finance contributors.


A: HCPSS has an Operating Budget and a Capital Budget. Capital investments are one of my top priorities overall, but assuming the question refers to the Operating Budget, my top three priorities are: 1. Classrooms: Smaller class sizes and more teachers, counselors, special educators, and paraprofessionals. 2. Transportation: Smaller walk zones and more bus routes. 3. Staff Compensation (85% of total budget) All of the above greatly impact the safety and overall well-being of our students and staff.

A: No, we need better disciplinary measures, not “stronger” ones. Specifically, we need evidence-based disciplinary practices that address the root causes of disruptive behavior. Student and staff safety should be prioritized when determining the appropriateness of disciplinary measures. Punishment for serious infractions should include mandatory referrals to behavior management tools, mentoring opportunities, and counseling. Schools that prioritize deliberate, intentional relationships and community building have significantly fewer behavior issues. Too often such initiatives are abandoned before they have had enough time to make a difference. There is no quick fix. It takes time and extra effort to change school climate and culture. Moreover, it’s disingenuous to talk about school discipline without acknowledging the enormously disproportionate impact on specific student groups. We cannot deny the existence of bias when over 80% of HCPSS students who receive suspensions and office referrals are Black and Brown. Furthermore, economically disadvantaged students are suspended ~9 times more often than students who do not receive Free and Reduced-priced Meals. Students who receive Special Education services are suspended ~7 times more often than students who don’t. HCPSS refers to this as a “persistent trend,” year over year. At a minimum, this trend is indicative of an urgent need for anti-bias training and more appropriate responses to disability-specific behaviors.

A: New hires shouldn’t need a second job to make ends meet, and salary increases for veteran teachers shouldn’t stop as they approach retirement. We have to pay teachers well above mandated minimums if we want to recruit and keep talented people in the classroom. We must prioritize morale. Teachers should like where they work and who they work for. They should not have to constantly feel the toxic uncertainty of not knowing whether their positions are being cut. Successful recruiting is heavily reliant on a high-functioning Human Resources department. If we take too long to respond to applicants or give them too many unnecessary hoops to jump through, they will go to the employer who offers them a job first. In an effort to encourage more young people to enter the profession, we must initiate more university partnerships, offer grant-funded incentives like housing vouchers, and advocate for college loan forgiveness. We must do all of this with an emphasis on tapping into the rich diversity of the talent pool. Students who have teachers who look like them do better in school, with better attendance and graduation rates. HBCU partnerships are crucial. Language that is not inclusive should be removed from application forms and on-boarding paperwork. Bias awareness training should be mandatory for everyone who works in HR.

A: No, primarily because these large-scale efforts are motivated by bigotry. On very rare occasions, parents may discover that their school library contains a book that is not age-appropriate. That is why HCPSS has a Resource Reevaluation Committee composed of students, teachers, parents and community members. There is a process that allows for challenges and reevaluations and I would like to see that robust process remain in place. But the book banning campaigns we’re seeing now are gratuitous. The current effort underway in Howard County targets 46 books at once, all of which depict or represent the experiences of marginalized communities; 46 titles that were all carefully selected by subject matter experts and highly trained professional librarians.

A: When I was an HCPSS student, I was redistricted five times before high school. I’m very well aware of how disruptive redistricting is to students and their families. We should do it as infrequently as possible and only as a response to capacity issues. And when we have to do it, we must bend over backwards to be as transparent as possible and make plenty of opportunities for community feedback.

A: Property taxes are not under the purview of the Board of Education, therefore school board members are not burdened with the responsibility of balancing them against anything. The school board is, however, responsible for the condition of our schools. The buildings keep our kids safe, or not, and learning, or not. Their condition affects our property values and their futures. We have avoided investing in our schools for too long and they are falling down on our kids, literally and figuratively. Overcrowded buildings impact everyone. Portables are substandard learning environments, in addition to being unsafe. And moldy air makes people sick. We can’t keep kicking this can down the road. Whether it is in my capacity as a board member or as a county resident, I will continue to advocate for new revenue streams that can be used to fund our capital projects.

A: I am deeply passionate about public service and public safety. My entire adult life has been devoted to both. About 20 years ago when I began teaching graduate courses, I discovered I had a passion for teaching too, so I never stopped. Howard County is my home town and it has given a lot to me over the years. I would be so proud and honored to give back as a member of the HCPSS Board of Education — but more importantly, I have skills that this board needs. I have professional expertise in the areas of contract scrutiny and vendor accountability, and I have been trained to anticipate and consider the potential consequences of making changes to complex systems. My entire career with the FDA I balanced the priorities of the government, the American consumer, and a variety of pharmaceutical and medical vendors. I have extensive experience with legislation and policy that will translate well to the board of education. Families know that they can trust me to prioritize safety in all the forms it takes. And educators know that I value and support them for the unsung heroes that they are.

Name: Trent Kittleman

Did not respond to biographical questions.

Age: 79

Personal: Widow of State Sen. Robert H. Kittleman, 2 children, currently lives in West Friendship

Education: Bachelor’s degree, English, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; master’s degree, English literature, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; graduate University of Maryland School of Law; executive leadership coaching certificate, Georgetown University.

Experience: First elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 2014; served in that role until January 2023.

Endorsements: None.

Notable donors: No campaign finance contributors.


A: Academics; Safety, from home, to school, in school, and back home; Special Education

A: Schools should institute disciplinary measures that actually work to stop misbehavior from being repeated and should implement such measures. consistently. Restorative Justice is a valuable first step in addressing bad behavior. Often, serious communication among students is limited, at best, and straight talk can often help them understand the impact of their behavior on others. But if it does not prevent the student from repeating their misbehavior, more traditional disciplinary measures may be imposed

A: Start listening to what the school-based teachers and principals are telling you. Reduce paperwork & workload in general. Encourage more open communication

A: When parents believe their children are being exposed to subjects or materials they feel interfere with the family’s culture, religion, or moral code, higher-income families have the option to provide an alternate education for their children. Lower-income families do not have that option. There are an ever-growing variety of these alternatives, but most cost money, and homeschooling generally requires at least one parent remain home rather than work. The greatest inequity in our State’s public school system today is its opposition to allowing lower-income families the opportunity to escape failing schools — or ones that offend their family’s culture, religious, or moral beliefs

A: The purpose of any redistricting is to balance out the numbers of students among schools that are overcrowded and those that are under capacity. My two most important considerations in designing new districts are: (1) move the fewest students possible, and (2) preserve community integrity

A: While serving as Deputy Secretary of Transportation I worked on several Public Private Partnerships (P-3s), Although there are pluses and minuses to P-3s, the primary values they bring are: (1) the ability to fund and build things quickly, as Prince George’s County did to get six schools built in just three years, and (2) elimination of the need to provide most of the funding up front, spreading the cost of the construction over a considerable period of time. With a more dependable path for funding school construction, the Board should be able to have better control of maintenance spending that would allow them to create an objective 5-year plan identifying priorities that do not change from year to year

A: I have a lengthy career and educational background in law, leadership, and finance and have worked in the federal, state, and local government, as well as the private sector. I have led unique and successful group efforts to achieve major accomplishments as Deputy Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Transportation. And, importantly, I care about and have been involved in the Howard County School System in many ways for many years. I have been a judge for the 5th grade Simulated Congressional Hearing program for the last 13 years, judging at an average of six schools a year. I write a well-researched monthly Newsletter titled “A Voice for Parents.” As a Delegate, almost every day I talked to Howard Countians. The most compelling conversations were with the representatives of the groups advocating for Special Education. That includes teachers who came every year hoping for some relief from the overburdensome paperwork requirements of the job that diverts time from teaching. And finally, since I am retired, I can and will devote all of my time to the duties of the Board if I am elected — and I have five grandchildren in the HCPSS who keep me informed, involved, and on my toes.