8 to vie for school board

Feb. primary will narrow field to 6 for three available seats

December 05, 2007|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,Sun reporter

Eight candidates - a mix of familiar faces and newcomers - are running for three seats on the Howard County Board of Education next year. The deadline for candidates to file was Monday.

The eight will run in the Feb. 12 primary election, and the top six finishers will advance to the general election Nov. 4.

Current members Janet Siddiqui and Ellen Flynn Giles are seeking to remain on the board, while Allen Dyer and University of Maryland student Di Zou, both of whom campaigned unsuccessfully for seats in 2006, are running again.

Newcomers who filed to run are Diane Butler of Ellicott City, Faenita Dilworth of Columbia, Betsy Grater of Ellicott City and Ruth Haxton Huffman of Clarksville.

Three seats will be up for grabs because the terms of Siddiqui and Giles expire next year and board Chairman Diane Mikulis is not seeking re-election.

Siddiqui, a pediatrician from Clarksville, was appointed to the board in January by County Executive Ken Ulman.

Giles is a senior editor and analyst with Platts, a division of McGraw-Hill Co., who lives in Scaggsville. She finished fifth in the 2006 election, and the fifth-place vote-getter that year received a two-year term instead of the standard four years. The term was shortened so that no more than four seats would be up for election in any one year.

Butler, who had served four years as president of the St. John's Lane Community Association and is now the group's vice president, said she wants the school system to increase academic rigor in the classroom.

A lack of academic offerings resulted in her decision to home school her daughter, she said. "We really need to push our math and sciences," said Butler. "I see very, very bright kids and very few are in school anymore."

Grater said she decided to run when she learned there was a lack of candidates. "As of Sunday, there were four candidates," said the retired bed-and-breakfast owner.

Grater, who has three grandchildren who currently attend Howard County public schools, served on a school board in Raleigh, N.C., in 1971. "I think I have a lot to offer with my background and age of wisdom," she said.

Dilworth, a consultant with Mary Kay Inc., said, "I hope that I can offer a diversified perspective. I am not an educator, but I am an educated parent."

Dilworth has three children, two of whom are products of Howard schools, and she has worked as a volunteer with the Black Student Achievement Program. "Sometimes the average child may get left behind," she said.

Haxton Huffman is a stay-at-home mother who works as a substitute teacher in Howard County schools.

A product of Howard schools, Haxton Huffman said she will focus on the needs of all children. "I have a passion for special education," said the mother of two, ages 3 and 5. "I have two kids with autism. I am very passionate about that."

Dyer, of Ellicott City, has been involved in school affairs for years.

In 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 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.

Dyer joined forces with Zou of Glenwood during the 2006 election. The pair wanted to bring back vocational education to local schools, provide more information technology training and provide online access to information that is public.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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