School board primaries in Maryland and Utah reveal tensions over ethics, Common Core
By Nick Katers
Former Howard County school board member Allen Dyer is aiming for a comeback in the district's primary election on June 24, 2014, despite efforts by fellow board members to remove him from office in 2011. He was targeted for impeachment over accusations of misconduct and bullying, although appeals allowed him to remain in office long enough to lose his re-election bid in 2012. Dyer's situation is not an isolated incident in the district, since the same board members who sought his removal voted to admonish a current board member, Cynthia L. Vaillancourt, for ethics violations in May 2014. The board majority who attempted to remove Dyer and who criticized Vaillancourt includes Sandra H. French, who is running for re-election. A total of 13 candidates are hoping to advance from the primary election in Howard County, which will narrow the field to eight candidates for four at-large seats in the general election on November 4, 2014.
Howard County joins 16 other school districts in Maryland and Utah among the nation's largest school districts in holding primaries on June 24, 2014. These elections have highlighted concerns over fiscal responsibility by board members in Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland and a difficult relationship between Canyons School District and Jordan School District in Utah. The election year spotlight expanded to Montgomery County school board members Christopher Barclay and Rebecca Smondrowski, who are not on the ballot. Barclay and Smondrowski face scrutiny for charging more than 100 lunches and a few local hotel stays to district credit cards.
Residents of Jordan School District and Canyons School District are concerned about how the split of the original Jordan School District into two separate school districts in 2009 impacted per-pupil spending and educational quality. Total per-pupil spending in Jordan School District was $1,522 before the split, and a gulf developed between Canyons School District ($2,087) and Jordan School District ($1,136) in the year following the separation.
There are 27 incumbents and 118 challengers running in the June 24, 2014, primaries for 45 seats in these districts. A total of 73 seats will be on the general election ballot on November 4, 2014, with 27 seats advancing without primary races.
Spotlight: Alpine School District
Alpine School District's primary election has been overshadowed by an unusual lawsuit filed against the district regarding its use of the Common Core State Standards. The parents of an 11-year old student in Alpine School District filed suit in February 2014, claiming that the district refused to create an individual education plan (IEP) for the student. This lawsuit also suggested that the district ignored frequent requests for help, acted callously in district emails and engaged in unethical behavior. The parents further allege that the district engaged in retaliatory behavior because they sought assistance from a source who advocated against Common Core.
Two out of the four seats up for election in Alpine School District feature competitive primaries. Incumbent Wendy K. Hart faces a primary challenge in District 2 from newcomers Lynne Brockbank Mower, Caroldean Neves and Annette Kindt. The crowded District 5 primary pits Board Vice President JoDee C. Sundberg against six challengers. Districts 1 and 3 will have competitive races in the general election but did not have enough candidates by the filing deadline to force primary elections.
Note: An (i) next to a candidate's name indicates incumbent status.
- School board elections, 2014
- Maryland school board elections, 2014
- Maryland elections, 2014
- Utah school board elections, 2014
- Utah elections, 2014
- The Baltimore Sun, "Administrative law judge upholds Dyer impeachment," December 6, 2012
- The Baltimore Sun, "Howard BOE accuses member Vaillancourt of confidentiality breach," May 8, 2014
- NBC Channel 4 Washington, "Montgomery County School Board Scrutinized Over Use of Government-Issued Credit Cards," June 13, 2014
- Deseret News, "Poll: Jordan District split resulted in inequity," March 9, 2010
- Truth in American Education, "Anti-Common Core Lawsuit Filed in Utah," February 7, 2014
- Politichicks, "Utah Family Sues Over Common Core Retaliation," February 7, 2014