Board of Education candidates discuss various issues in an online forum

On October 14, candidates for the Board of Education participated in a forum organized by the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County. Candidates had to answer a wide range of questions, including on teacher recruitment, school accountability and school policing.

Questions have been submitted by the forum’s many sponsors, who included NAACP-Montgomery County, Identity, Inc., American Association of University Women, METRO DC PFLAG, Asian Pacific American Advocates, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Chinese American Parent Association of Montgomery County, Montgomery County Progressive Asian American Network, ElevateHER and Asian American MOVE.

The candidates are Mick Erickson and Karla Silvestre for the ensemble, Grace Rivera-Oven and Esther Wells for District 1, Scott Joftus and Julie Yang for District 2, and Valerie Coll and Brenda Wolff for District 5. All candidates were present at the forum with the exception of Erickson.

In light of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) struggling to find enough teachers, teacher recruitment was a major topic of the forum. Solutions varied: while Joftus and Wells proposed raising teacher salaries in all subject areas, Silvestre and Rivera-Oven argued that MCPS should encourage students to eventually teach at MCPS.

Another important topic discussed was oversight and accountability. Wolff and Coll wanted the funds to be directed to proactively meet student needs, while Joftus stressed the importance of tracking the progress and implementation of county initiatives. Additionally, both Yang and Oven mentioned the need for transparency in how school funds are spent.

Finally, the candidates shared their views on police presence in county schools. Yang and Rivera-Oven do not support police involvement in county schools, especially given concerns about the negative effect police could have on students of color. “Having ORS in schools is not the magic answer to all school safety issues,” Rivera-Oven said.

Wolff said that while MCPS needs to consider those concerns, the county can still work with the police. “[Police] should be part of a comprehensive support system that must include mental health, wellness and prevention services,” Wolff said.

Wells and Silvestre added that while there are ways police can help and work with MCPS, clear boundaries should also be established.

The Montgomery County School Board general election will be held November 8