Mike Smith (Maryland)

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Mike Smith
Mike Smith (Maryland).jpg
Former candidate for
Board member, Howard County Board of Education, At-large
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 4, 2014
Next generalN/A
Term limitsN/A
Campaign website
Mike Smith campaign logo
Ballotpedia's school board candidate survey
Ralph Mike Smith was a candidate for an at-large seat on the Howard County Board of Education in Maryland. He advanced from a primary election on June 24, 2014, to face seven other candidates for four seats in the general election on November 4, 2014. He lost the general election.


Smith is an attorney who specializes in labor and employment law. He has three adult children including two who graduated from district schools.[1]



See also: Howard County Public Schools elections (2014)


The June 24, 2014, primary ballot included incumbents Sandra H. French and Cynthia L. Vaillancourt as well as challengers Bess I. Altwerger, Corey Andrews, Tom Baek, Zaneb K. Beams, Olga Butler, Allen Dyer, Maureen Evans Arthurs, Dan Furman, Leslie Kornreich, Christine O'Connor and Mike Smith. French, Vaillancourt, Altwerger, Beams, Dyer, Furman, O'Connor and Smith faced off in the general election on November 4, 2014.


Howard County Public Schools, At-Large General Election, 4-year term, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngCynthia L. Vaillancourt Incumbent 15.9% 44,142
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngSandra H. French Incumbent 15.4% 42,810
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngBess I. Altwerger 13.6% 37,774
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngChristine O'Connor 13.5% 37,561
     Nonpartisan Dan Furman 11.9% 33,114
     Nonpartisan Zaneb K. Beams 10.6% 29,548
     Nonpartisan Allen Dyer 9.9% 27,663
     Nonpartisan Mike Smith 8.8% 24,449
     Nonpartisan Write-in votes 0.4% 1,152
Total Votes 278,213
Source: Maryland State Board of Elections, "Official 2014 Gubernatorial General Election Results for Howard County," December 2, 2014
Howard County Public Schools, At-Large Primary Election, 4-year term, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngCynthia L. Vaillancourt Incumbent 13.5% 15,851
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngSandra H. French Incumbent 12.5% 14,688
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngBess I. Altwerger 10.9% 12,733
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngDan Furman 10.1% 11,880
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngZaneb K. Beams 8.6% 10,042
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngChristine O'Connor 7.2% 8,477
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngAllen Dyer 6.6% 7,724
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngMike Smith 5.7% 6,730
     Nonpartisan Leslie Kornreich 5.4% 6,388
     Nonpartisan Olga Butler 5% 5,849
     Nonpartisan Maureen Evans Arthurs 4.9% 5,752
     Nonpartisan Corey Andrews 4.9% 5,744
     Nonpartisan Tom Baek 4.7% 5,482
Total Votes 117,340
Source: Maryland State Board of Elections, "Official 2014 Gubernatorial Primary Election results for Howard County," accessed October 18, 2014


Smith reported $620.00 in contributions and $295.76 in expenditures to the Maryland State Board of Elections, leaving his campaign with $324.24 on hand as of August 19, 2014.[2]


Smith was endorsed by the Howard County Administrators Association.[3]

Campaign themes


Smith provided the following statements on his campaign website:

A substantial gap continues to exist between the academic performance of children from affluent families and those from less affluent families. Meanwhile, 30% of our high school graduates must take remedial English and/or math when they enroll at Howard Community College.

I will vigorously advocate for measures to rectify this situation by:

  1. Implementing a more rigorous curriculum and providing the support and resources needed for ALL students to succeed
  2. Funding an effective pre-K program for all children starting at age 3
  3. Upgrading classroom instruction by hiring, training, supporting, and retaining highly qualified teachers who are paid commensurate with the critical role they play
  4. Establishing career, technology, and vocational programs for students who may not attend college

I will strive to form a consensus for implementing those and other measures by educating and reaching out for input from parents, professional educators, business leaders, government leaders, and other stakeholders.[4]

—Mike Smith's campaign website, (2014)[5]

Why I Decided to Run for the Board

People frequently ask why I decided to run for the Board of Education at this point in my life. I tell them that I have been interested in education since 1966 when I was a freshman at Colgate University. For example, I served on student-faculty committees that recommended that Colgate, which was then all male, become coeducational and that the liberal arts Core curriculum be reformed to include more courses with a global focus.

As graduation approached, I had the choice of going to law school or pursuing a Ph.D. in history and I finally chose to attend the University of Chicago Law School. If I had decided to attend graduate school in history, I intended to move into college administration after teaching for a few years.

Before enrolling in law school, I served two years in the Marine Corps and was assigned to the base education office where I helped Marines obtain high school GEDs and enroll in college or vocational schools. I also initiated a program that enabled Marines to attend college courses taught on the base by the University of San Diego.

After practicing law for 20 years, I tried without success to obtain a teaching position at a law school and as a general counsel at a college in the U.S. In a strange twist of fate, I served for a year as the General Counsel for the American University of Afghanistan which is located in Kabul. I was selected for that job in 2009 because I had done pro bono legal work in and related to Afghanistan since 2003.

As you can see, I continued to be drawn to education since I was a young man. The final nudge in that direction occurred after I joined the Clarksville Rotary Club in early 2013. A series of speakers, such as Renee Foose, Beverly White Seals of the Community Foundation of Howard County, the Director of Head Start, a founder of Bright Minds, and a man who had adopted four foster children, made presentations at our weekly meetings that provided information about the Howard County public school system which I found VERY distressing.

That information, augmented by reading books about education in the US and abroad, dispelled my notion that our schools were providing ALL of our children with a superior world-class education. That notion has been fostered by political leaders who portray Howard County as a middle-class nirvana and camouflage the serious deficiencies in our public schools and the level of poverty in our midst with their implications for our children and society.

For instance, 30% of our high school graduates who attend Howard Community College must take remedial English and/or math. In addition, a substantial amount of poverty exists, mostly invisible, in our midst as illustrated by the fact that 9,000 students in our schools come from families that federal law defines as “poor” because their annual income is less than $20,000. Test results and other data show that our education system has allowed a significant disparity to develop between the academic achievement of children from such families and students from affluent families. That disparity, which has serious implications for our children and society, has persisted despite a series of legislative initiatives intended to eliminate it.

During my college years, the following maxim mobilized many of my contemporaries to commit themselves to serving others and reforming our nation’s economic and political system: If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. I decided to run for the Board of Education because I realized that I need to be part of the solution in improving and reforming our school system so ALL students receive the education that they deserve and we can easily afford to provide. Indeed, we cannot afford to delay any longer taking action because we are at a critical juncture for the public education system as we want it function.[4]

—Mike Smith's campaign website, (2014)[6]

Why I Support The Common Core Standards

A primary benefit of the Common Core Standards is its focus on implementing a rigorous multi-disciplinary curriculum that provides children the knowledge and skills, such as thinking critically, reading, and communicating effectively orally and in writing, needed to succeed, enjoy what our culture offers, and participate in our democracy. The Core holds students and teachers accountable for reaching specific milestones as each grade is completed and some type of standardized testing may be used to evaluate progress. The breadth of the Core curriculum reduces, if not eliminates, the potential for “teaching to the test” that plagued prior reform efforts that focused narrowly on teaching English and math skills.

Professional educators, such as Diane Ravitz, and studies of public schools in other nations, such a Finland, Singapore, and Poland, have concluded that the Core’s “liberal arts” approach produces excellent results for all students, not just those from affluent families. Keys to those results are: (1) strict adherence to a curriculum that is rigorous, not watered down to make students and teachers look good; and (2) improving the quality of classroom instruction.

The major challenges to implementation of the Core are:

  1. A misperception exists that the Core usurps local control over education, but a careful review of the program shows that it does not. To the contrary, local school systems and even individual teachers will continue to exercise a large measure of discretion in developing course content, selecting reading materials, formulating teaching methods, etc. The Core merely articulates goals that students should achieve. All of the stakeholders must be made to understand what the Core will actually do.
  2. Implementation of the Core may be disconcerting to some who feel that they have a vested interest in keeping the status quo or are made uncomfortable.by such changes. A concerted effort must be made to allay their concerns.
  3. Missteps will probably be made in implementing this major, but necessary, change in our approach to education. Hopefully, proper planning and a spirit of cooperation will minimize such problems and sufficient support will be provided to teachers so they are able to make the transition more smoothly and without undue anxiety..

I firmly believe that, if allowed to proceed, the Core offers a great opportunity for us to ensure that our children get the education they deserve and will need to succeed, function as productive citizens, and better enjoy life.[4]

—Mike Smith's campaign website, (2014)[7]

What was at stake?

Issues in the election

Ethics claims against Cynthia Vaillancourt

On May 8, 2014, the Board of Education approved a resolution by a 5-2 vote admonishing member Cynthia L. Vaillancourt for violating board confidentiality. The resolution stated that Vaillancourt disclosed information from closed sessions to outside parties and interfered with work done by the county's five-member ethics panel. Vaillancourt accused her fellow board members of inserting themselves into the 2014 election by engaging in "nasty politics" and following "base motives." She also argued that fellow board members left her out of e-mail threads about ongoing ethics investigations, which forced her to directly contact the county panel. Outgoing board member Brian Meshkin, who joined Vaillancourt in voting against the resolution, also criticized the board for damaging the board's integrity with these accusations.[8]

Board president Ellen Flynn Giles stated after the resolution that the board had previously warned Vaillancourt about her communications with outside parties regarding confidential matters. The resolution could be the first step toward future actions against Vaillancourt including official censure and impeachment. Giles and fellow board members Janet Siddiqui, Sandra H. French and Frank Aquino were involved in the attempted removal of board member Allen Dyer in 2011.[8] Dyer remained in office through the end of his term in 2012 due to legal challenges to the board's actions.[9]

Suspension, resumption of Corey Andrews's campaign

Corey Andrews suspended his campaign for a board seat on May 19, 2014, in response to an increasingly negative tone in the election. Andrews cited the board's resolution against Cynthia L. Vaillancourt and claimed that board members have abused their powers to maintain their positions on the board. Andrews sent the following e-mail to supporters on May 19, 2014, to explain his campaign's suspension:

I got into this race to make a difference for the Howard County Public School System. It is important that we protect this local treasure.

The fact is, there are forces preventing those who want to make a difference from doing so. The Howard County Board of Education exposed its corruption a few weeks ago when it abused its power and censured Cindy Vaillancourt in the attempt to smear her name before the upcoming election. Board members have had their personal emails breached by school system staff. Critical documents have been withheld from some Board members. There have even been attempts at physical intimidation by other Board members.

Several Board members, along with a select few candidates, have been coordinating an effort to control the Board and who is on it. Two candidates have resorted to extremely negative campaigning behind closed-doors.

This is not the first time I have run for this position. When I filed to run, I was prepared for a heated campaign. I was not prepared to deal with corruption and abuse of power and am not interested in serving on a Board with people who use such unethical tactics.

Therefore, I am immediately suspending by campaign for the Howard County Board of Education.

Sometimes, it feels like the "bad guys" are winning. The people of Howard County deserve better than this.


The Baltimore Sun, (2014) [10]

Andrews reconsidered his withdrawal and resumed his campaign on June 10, 2014. In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Andrews stated that he received supportive e-mails and phone calls after his withdrawal that encouraged resumption of his campaign. Andrews withdrew from the race after the deadline to remove names from the ballot so his name would have appeared on the primary ballot if his campaign remained suspended. He placed 12th in the primary election and did not advance to the general election.[11]

About the district

See also: Howard County Public Schools, Maryland
Howard County Public Schools is located in Howard County, Maryland
Howard County Public Schools is based in Ellicott City, a city located in Howard County, Maryland. Howard County is home to 304,580 residents, according to the United States Census Bureau.[12] Howard County Public Schools is the sixth-largest school district in Maryland, serving 51,555 students during the 2011-2012 school year.[13]


Howard County outperformed the rest of Maryland in terms of higher education achievement in 2012. The United States Census Bureau found that 59.5 percent of Howard County residents aged 25 years and older had attained a bachelor's degree compared to 36.3 percent for Maryland as a whole. The median household income in Howard County was $107,821 compared to $72,999 for the state of Maryland. The poverty rate in Howard County was 4.4 percent compared to 9.4 percent for the entire state.[12]

Racial Demographics, 2012[12]
Race Howard County (%) Maryland (%)
White 62.3 60.8
Black or African American 18.1 30.0
American Indian and Alaska Native 0.4 0.5
Asian 15.7 6.0
Two or More Races 3.4 2.5
Hispanic or Latino 6.2 8.7

Party registration, 2014[14]
Party Number of registered voters
Democratic 93,491
Republican 56,260
Unaffiliated 42,856
Other 2,302
Libertarian 868
Green 493
Total 196,270

Note: The United States Census Bureau considers "Hispanic or Latino" to be a place of origin rather than a race. Citizens may report both their race and their place of origin, and as a result, the percentages in each column of the racial demographics table may exceed 100 percent.[15][16]

Recent news

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See also

External links

Suggest a link


  1. The Baltimore Sun, "Attorney from Ellicott City seeks school board seat," April 22, 2014
  2. Maryland Campaign Reporting Information System, "View Filed Reports," accessed October 20, 2014
  3. The Baltimore Sun, "Administrators union endorses three for Howard BOE," October 17, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  5. Smith Board of Ed, "About," accessed October 18, 2014
  6. Smith Board of Ed, "Why I Decided to Run for the Board," accessed October 18, 2014
  7. Smith Board of Ed, "Why I Support The Common Core Standards," accessed October 18, 2014
  8. 8.0 8.1 The Baltimore Sun, "Howard BOE accuses member Vaillancourt of confidentiality breach," May 8, 2014
  9. The Baltimore Sun, "Administrative law judge upholds Dyer impeachment," December 6, 2012
  10. The Baltimore Sun, "Andrews suspends campaign for Howard BOE," May 20, 2014
  11. The Baltimore Sun, "Andrews says he's back in race for Howard BOE," June 11, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 United States Census Bureau, "Howard County, Maryland," accessed June 3, 2014
  13. National Center for Education Statistics, "ELSI Table Generator," accessed June 3, 2014
  14. Maryland State Board of Elections, "Voter Registration Activity Report," March 2014
  15. United States Census Bureau, "Frequently Asked Questions," accessed April 21, 2014
  16. Each column will add up to 100 percent after removing the "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin percentages, although rounding by the Census Bureau may make the total one- or two-tenths off from being exactly 100 percent. This Ballotpedia page provides a more detailed explanation of how the Census Bureau handles race and ethnicity in its surveys.