12 candidates file to run for five seats on Howard County school board

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Feb. 12—By Thomas Goodwin Smith — thsmith@baltsun.com and Molly Fellin Spence — mspence@baltsun.com

PUBLISHED:February 12, 2024 at 3:06 p.m.| UPDATED:February 14, 2024 at 12:16 p.m.

Twelve candidates have filed for candidacy in this year's race for five seats on Howard County's Board of Education. The filing deadline was 8 p.m., Friday.

Three of the candidates are current members of the non-partisan board: Antonia Watts, who represents District 2; Jolene Mosley, who represents District 3; and Jennifer Swickard Mallo, who represents District 4. Neither District 1 member Robyn Scates nor District 5 member Yun Lu are seeking reelection.

This is the second election cycle that school board members will be elected by district. During the 2019 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed a bill changing the way Howard County residents vote for school board members. Five of the seven school board members are elected by voters in their respective County Council districts.

The remaining two members are elected at-large, meaning any registered voter can vote for them. The at-large seats will be up for election in 2026. School board members are paid $16,000 annually.

The board also includes a voting student member, who is elected by public school students to a year-long term.

For each of the five districts, the top two vote-getters in the May 14 primary will square off in the Nov. 5 general election. Early voting for the primary takes place May 2-9. For information about registering to vote, go to elections.maryland.gov.

District 1

The current representative of District 1, Robyn Scates, of Elkridge, was sworn in on April 13 to fill a school board opening created by the resignation of Christina Delmont-Small in February 2023. County Executive Calvin Ball considered 14 applicants for the role and nominated Scates, who was approved by the County Council.

Scates did not return a message for comment about why she chose not to run to retain her seat.

Three candidates filed to run for the District 1 school board seat: Andre Gao, Pravin Ponnuri and Meg Ricks.

Ricks, of Elkridge, a teacher's assistant at East Columbia Preschool and parent of three HCPSS students, was one of eight candidates who ran for two at-large school board seats in 2022. She did not receive enough votes in the primary to proceed to the general election in that race.

According to his website, Ponnuri is an IT professional and a native of India who moved to the county in 1996. His two children graduated Howard County public schools. Ponnuri said he served as co-chair of the school system's Asian American and Pacific Islander Advisory Committee and also worked on the Calendar Committee.

Gao did not return messages seeking comment and does not yet have an active campaign website.

District 2

Candidates for the school board seat in District 2 include incumbent Antonia Watts and Larry Doyle.

Watts, of Elkridge, was a first-time candidate in the 2020 race, she won the District 2 school board seat with 72% of the vote. She holds bachelor's degrees in mechanical and bioengineering and a master's degree in secondary education, and has worked as a classroom teacher, instructional technology specialist and an ESL teacher. She is the parent of two county public school students.

Doyle is a Black student achievement liaison for Ducketts Lane Elementary School, in Elkridge. Achievement liaisons work in collaboration with administrators, staff, families, and the community to accelerate the academic achievement of all African American/Black students in the county's public school system.

District 3

Incumbent Jolene Mosley is running unopposed for her seat. Mosley won the District 3 primary in 2020 with 66% of the vote, after which her opponent suspended his campaign. Her four children have all attended the county's public schools.

District 4

Incumbent Jennifer Swickard Mallo of Columbia is running for her third term on the school board. She won reelection in 2020 with 51.6% of the vote. She is the current chair of the board and also chairs the Policy Committee and is a member of the board's Legislative Committee and serves as the board's representative on the Maryland Association of Boards of Education Legal Services Association. Her three children have attended the county's public schools.

Hiruy Hadgu and Julie Kaplan are also registered as candidates in District 4.

Hagdu ran as a candidate for the Howard County Council in 2018, but did not advance beyond the Democratic primary.

District 5

The current representative for District 5, Yun Lu, did not file to run for reelection. Lu, the current vice chair of the school board, won her seat in 2020 with 65% of the vote.

Other candidates include Catherine Carter, Andrea Chamblee and Trent Kittleman.

Carter, who works as a sales and marketing specialist, said in an email that she is a former English and ESL teacher, a small business owner and an education policy advocate. Carter has advocated on behalf of her children to demand accommodations related to vision disorders in the county's public school system.

Chamblee is an attorney and an associate adjunct professor at George Washington University. She graduated from Glenelg High School in 1979 and her mother was a teacher in Howard County public schools. Chamblee's husband, John McNamara, was a Capital Gazette sports reporter and was among five staff members who were killed in June 2018 by a gunman who entered the Annapolis newsroom.

Kittleman, widow of state Sen. Robert Kittleman and former head of the Maryland Transportation Authority in the administration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., was a Republican member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 2015 to 2023, representing Carroll and Howard counties in District 9A. She lost her reelection bid in November 2022 to Democrats Chao Wu and Natalie Ziegler. Kittleman ran an unsuccessful race for county executive in 2010. Her stepson, Allan H. Kittleman, is a former state senator and Howard County executive.


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