Dyer, Zou hope age, youth prove winning match

Lawyer, recent grad join forces to campaign for school board seats

October 11, 2006|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,Sun reporter

One is a seasoned lawyer who has challenged the Howard County school system on several occasions. The other, 41 years younger, is a recent graduate of the same school system.

It seems like an unlikely alliance, but Howard County Board of Education candidates Allen Dyer and Di Zou have teamed up to increase their chances of getting elected. As a result, they're wearing each other's buttons and have combined campaign posters.

"I'm young and Chinese," said Zou, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Maryland, College Park. "He's the experienced guy. We decided to come together because we felt that it would be better for the both of us."

After finishing in the bottom third in the Sept. 12 primary, the two realized they needed to retool their campaign strategies for the Nov. 7 general election.

"It gets my name out," said Zou, who claimed the 10th and final spot with 3.6 percent of the primary vote. Dyer finished eighth with 5.9 percent of the vote. "People see that I can work together with somebody and that is very important with education," Zou said.

Dyer, who also works as a computer consultant, said the two are trying to provide input that "is sorely needed on the Board of Education."

The two want to bring back vocational education to local schools; provide more information technology training and support; establish a feeder school system; and provide public information online that is supported by the Open Meetings Act.

"We've got two voices that we are adding to the process," Dyer said. "It will hands down make the board better."

Zou, a graduate of Glenelg High School, said he approached Dyer a few weeks ago. "He was [also] thinking about it," Zou said.

There was an instant connection between the two, according to the 59-year-old Dyer.

"We started talking and we found a lot of common ground," Dyer said. "We are both independent thinkers. We both like math and we both think that the board needs to broaden the scope of the discussion on the board. We think that will make the board better."

Current board member Courtney Watson said it is not unusual for school board candidates to join efforts and form a slate.

"I think when you combine your efforts, it is helpful," said Watson, who is running for a County Council seat in District 1. "You can share your polling workers, efforts. It is smart to maximize your resources."

Dyer is no stranger to the county school system.

In November 2000, he sued the Board of Education in Circuit Court for what he said were multiple violations of the state's Open Meetings Act. As a result, legislation was introduced and passed to strengthen enforcement of the law.

Dyer also represented four residents questioning potential water contamination and other environmental concerns in connection with a 400-seat addition at Glenelg High School. An administrative judge ruled against Dyer's clients in that case.

Zou has made a name for himself by speaking out at forums and not backing down to other candidates, including a memorable exchange at an August forum about vocational education with current board chairman Joshua Kaufman.

He also has been vocal about his displeasure with the system's vocational education offerings and current standardized tests.

Dyer hopes that he will be able to rely on his alliance if both are elected to the board.

"Someone has to second your motion," Dyer said. "I don't want to be a lonely nothing on the board."


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