Howard County Board of Education Candidates

*Denotes Incumbent

District 1

Matthew D Molyett

Why I’m running?

I am running for Board of Education because, as a father and a community member, I am concerned about the long term success, stability, and solvency of our community schools. The current Board of Education has shown itself unable to work together, find solutions, and make the hard decisions that the Howard County Public School System requires. As a technical leader at Cisco Systems I am required to make and execute plans and decisions regarding the handling of millions of events, network connections, and software inspections that occur daily. Understanding complex interoperating systems and processes and their underlying data is what I do. A school system the size of HCPSS is the embodiment of complex interoperating systems and processes, and these processes need to be refined and optimized. That is what I do.

Public education is under assault. Betsy DeVos is working to undermine public education from the inside. Here in Howard County we have Board Members, and candidates, who are advancing that agenda. I am not your local Betsy DeVos. I believe in the Constitutional right of every child to receive a quality public education. A robust, equitable public school system is the main path that maximizes the chances of success for all children. We need a healthy public school that can significantly level the playing field.

I am a graduate from public schools. My entire adult life was shaped by how the public school prepared me for success by aggressively meeting my personalized educational needs. That is the kind of focus and preparation I expect the school system to be able to deliver to all the students of Howard County.

My position on key issues is centered around equity. We must:

  1. Maximize academic success for all students
  2. Support our educators
  3. Plan for the future

District 2

Antonia Barkley Watts

Why I’m running?

I am running because it is urgent that we develop a school system where every child has access to an education that fits their needs. There is an opportunity gap in our community and it is important that we focus on closing it to achieve better outcomes for our students. I first started my work to close the opportunity gap in 2005. I was a volunteer serving as the program coordinator for a tutoring program run by the NAACP.  In this capacity, I worked to give students additional resources that they did not receive at school. It was a valuable experience because I worked hand-in-hand with community members and parents to fulfill the needs of the students. Currently, I volunteer on the Board of Trustees for the Howard County Library System. In this role, I am responsible for working with my colleagues to develop policies that relate to the management of the library and to the management of its CEO. The structure and responsibilities are similar to that of the Board of Education. This means that I have recent and relevant experience working on a policy board. With a background in education and an ability to analyze data and budgets, I am uniquely qualified for this role.

District 3

Jolene Mosley

Why I’m running?

For many in our community it is no surprise that I finally decided to run for Board of Education in District 3 given how active I have been over the last 13 years. I have supported public education by representing my children’s schools in Howard County Parents of School Music, OM Education Committee, GT Parent Academy, PTA volunteering, chaperoning field trips, as well as helping in the classrooms. I have supported the Board of Education through being a General Community member on the Policy Review Committee, Member and Vice Chair for Community Advisory Committee and a representative on Operating Budget Committee.

I am running because:

  1. I realized that District 3 has been historically underrepresented on the Board and needed a strong voice of an engaged HCPSS parent and active community advocate.
  2. I believe my professional background as a senior data scientist will be a tremendous asset. I will bring modeling and evidence-based decision making that is thoughtful and well-reasoned combined with vast K-12 school system experience as an HCPSS parent to the Board.
  3. My life experiences as a parent with GT and special needs children, my experience of having a child who survived cancer, my experiences of having four children who range from 4 – 17 yrs old all give me a unique perspective from which to advocate for all children.

District 4

*Kirsten Coombs

Why I’m running?

I want to ensure that our families have the same opportunities that my family has had in our time in HCPSS. Our system still needs to grow and thrive to give all of our children access to a top-notch education. As a parent who has been a part of high-needs community schools, I want to be a voice for children and parents who are not able to attend Board meetings and need help navigating the school system bureaucracy.

Our students, staff and community deserve someone who is invested in all of Howard County and I bring that to my service. This is a special place and I want to continue the progress we’ve made over the past three years. We’ve increased transparency, demanded more data to inform decisions, and lowered special education legal expenses. But there’s more to do: addressing reading disabilities, increasing access to social/emotional learning, narrowing the opportunity gap, increasing efficiency of technology for students & educators, and improving hiring & retention for all staff, especially people of color that represent our diverse community.

Three years on the Board have taught me a lot about the function of a Board and the daily happenings of a large school system. I worked in Accounting & Finance for 15+ years and can analyze budget and financial documents to ask informed questions. As Chair of the Legislative Committee, I’ve built strong bipartisan relationships with legislators, which led to more local control on areas like superintendency contracts. In addition, I work well with people through collaboration, rather than intimidation, to understand multiple perspectives.

Each year, we receive more children without receiving the associated funding. In a growing county, that means funding lags a year behind the actual student. That said, we must assure that programs are succeeding to justify the investment through quantifiable measures and stakeholder input when making tough budget decisions.

Our current deficit requires assistance from the County as we are not able to levy taxes or raise revenues in a significant manner to pay down the shortfall. I have been advocating for assistance from the County Executive and Council to address it. We should not address the deficit by forcing current employees to pay for past initiatives that diverted funds away from the Health Fund.

Dr. Julie Hotopp

Why I’m running?

I’m running for Board of Education because of my passion for education, particularly science education. I want to ensure that Howard County maintains the highest quality education system.

The school system needs to ensure every student has the best opportunity to learn and succeed in life. To do that, we need to start school later, we need a middle school science fair, and we need to recognize that a school is over capacity at 101%, not 110%, advocating for school construction that ensures every child has a seat in a brick and mortar classroom, instead of a portable. We should discuss and explore new initiatives that could improve educational outcomes, like year-round school—where the 40-week school year is not lengthened but is evenly spread through the year and which has been shown to reduce knowledge-loss over the summer. We need to ensure that every school that is eligible, participates in the federal Community Eligibility Provision that offers free breakfast and lunch to all students to ensure Hunger-Free schools and to remove the real or perceived stigma associated with free and reduced meals. We should investigate if a local program can be established to bring the benefits of the Community Eligibility Provision to all of our Title 1 schools. We need to address the growing achievement gap between boys and girls, and make sure that the curriculum is aligned with the developmental milestones of both genders, ensuring the success and positive self-esteem of all.

I support early intervention services as the least expensive solution with the most beneficial outcomes for the student. We need to ensure that every child who needs such services receives them. More also needs to be done to incentivize schools to both identify children who could benefit from intervention early and to develop intervention strategies. For example, as we have heard in numerous board meetings this past year, identifying and treating dyslexia early significantly improves outcomes for dyslexic kids while benefiting other kids in the classroom.

I am for neighborhood schools. The redistricting process needs to be overhauled. Not only did it break up neighborhoods and communities and increase transportation, but it will not fix any inherent inequities within the school district. It also unfairly stigmatized certain schools and students. Instead, I prefer the Rouse vision of demographically-integrated communities, which leads to integrated neighborhood schools. Neighborhoods and community are important for the social fabric of life. Howard County needs to ensure we have smart development that maintains the Rouse vision such that this is not even an issue for the school system.

I also support transparency and community involvement. We need to ensure that the public is engaged, and I promise to respond to and engage with constituents. They need to feel their voices are heard and valued. They need to have their elected representatives listen and respond with meaningful and timely dialogue.

*Jen Mallo

Why I’m running?

I am running for re-election in District 4.  Over the past year+ on the BOE, I have collaborated with my colleagues to problem solve and build consensus, have consistently done my homework to be prepared, and not shied away from tough decisions when they were necessary. I have been an active volunteer at Swansfield, Harpers Choice, and Wilde Lake for two decades.

I have progressive values that are shared by the majority in our county.

I am the ONLY candidate with the following experience:

  1. Leading the Community Advisory Council (CAC), the liaison between the BOE and the community; presenting the community’s voice to the BOE over many years
  2. Working on multiple policy reviews for the school system, being chairperson of the BOE’s policy committee
  3. Leading a PTA (Swansfield), cultural arts grant writing and execution (Swansfield, Harpers Choice), science fair, and more
  4. Working with school-based staff on school-wide literacy programs, reading programs, and phonics projects
  5. Serving on the response team for the school system to develop a system/infrastructure to address mold and other environmental hazards
  6. A background in economics and data analysis that is critical during budgeting
  7. Volunteer Blessings in a Backpack Coordinator to provide weekend nourishment to food insecure youth.

My experiences working in marginalized communities is a critical voice to the keep on the BOE.  More information can be found at https://votejenmallo.com

I am the only candidate in District 4 to stand fully against modern day redlining that a vocal minority tried to push forward during redistricting under the guise of “neighborhood schools”.

My demonstrated skills and values have earned me the endorsements of current and former Democratic elected officials as well as community groups.  I am endorsed by:

  • Senator Clarence Lam, MD
  • Delegates Terri Hill, MD, Eric Ebersole, and Jessica Feldmark
  • County Councilwoman and Chairperson, Deb Jung
  • Former County Executive and Delegate, Liz Bobo
  • Former County Councilperson, C. Vernon Gray
  • Former Delegate, Frank Turner
  • HoCo Indivisible

I am the only candidate with both the background and the backbone necessary to succeed in this job in the face of what appears to be a concerted effort to turn the Board of Education into a conservative enclave.