Updated: Mar 6, 2020
Anyone who's been in the advocacy trenches with me for the past 10 years knows that I have a passion for empowering people to speak to the issues they care about, and for emphasizing how important it is to go to the polls fully informed about those who seek to be hired with your votes and paid with your taxes.
You will understand why I was so disappointed to learn that a local homeowners association, in pursuit of an agenda that does NOT seek to support ALL students and ALL schools, was hosting and widely publicizing a restricted forum, to which only some candidates are invited, because inclusive views are not welcome.
Disagreements are part of life. But seeking to stifle and silence perceived opposing views is something very, very frightening.... particularly when our students and schools are at stake.
Here is my Open Letter to that Homeowners Association, and here is a list of all open forums scheduled as of March 2.
An Open Letter to the Potomac Glen Home Owners Association:
I recently learned details of Potomac Glen Homeowners Association’s (PGHOA) March 5 Board of Education candidate forum, to which many of the 13 individuals running for the at-large seat on the Board of Education have been excluded. Information about the forum was forwarded to me by two individuals, from different areas of Montgomery County, each of whom received a flyer promoting the PGHOA forum through their respective Civic Associations.
I join these individuals in being both puzzled and disappointed at the restricted nature of PGHOA’s “forum”. In Montgomery County, the Board of Education is a non-partisan election and every registered voter casts a ballot for every seat. Being fully informed about all choices is essential to exercising the privilege of voting. However, the PGHOA flyer states that PGHOA has “identified” certain named candidates as supporting “neighborhood schools”. The flyer lacks many essential details: who, precisely, “identified” candidates? What objective criteria and transparent process was used in this identification? What is the definition of “neighborhood schools”? The flyer also does not clearly state that the PGHOA forum has failed to invite half of the candidates who will appear on the primary ballot in April.
It is unclear to me why PGHOA believes it must pre-select candidates from whom its residents will hear, particularly given that the pre-selection is based on an arbitrary and undefined criterion. Given the array of issues with which the Board of Education is presented on a daily basis, it is also unclear why PGHOA has chosen the undefined “neighborhood schools” as the litmus test for candidates.
The Montgomery County Public School district is now the nation’s 13th largest, in the 2019-20 school year serving over 166,000 students. The issues affecting every student, and impacting their opportunity to fully achieve, are vast. The Board of Education annually directs the expenditure of a $2.5 billion operating budget, and a capital budget ranging from $250-$300 million. Our county and our students need and deserve individuals serving on the Board of Education who have a wide and deep knowledge of our schools, and understand that the purpose of our schools is to serve every student well, and ensure every school is excellent, and make whatever data-driven, evidence-based decisions are necessary to achieve that purpose.
Any “forum” which doesn’t provide those attending a full opportunity to learn about, and hear from, all candidates is not serving voters well. I have faith that the residents of Potomac Glen, like their peers throughout Montgomery County, can make their own decisions about who is best prepared to serve on the Board of Education. I doubt they need PGHOA to tell them who to listen to, or in any other way limit the full discussion of issues and free flow of ideas.
As you have chosen to host a restricted, non-inclusive forum, perhaps you will share with your residents a list of opportunities for them to hear from every candidate, so that they can make a truly informed choice. I am attaching a list of all inclusive forums scheduled as of March 2, 2020.
At-large Candidate for the Montgomery County Board of Education
Montgomery County Board of Education Candidate Forums (as of 3/2)
Tuesday, March 10, 7p-9p
Poolesville Baptist Church - 17550 W. Willard Rd,
Fair Access, Stand Upcounty – Poolesville
Monday, March 16, 7:00p-8:30p
Potomac Community Center - 11315 Falls Rd, Potomac
Federation of Republican Women
Sunday, March 22, 2:30p-4:00p
19411 Woodfield Rd, Gaithersburg
Islamic Center of Maryland
Thursday, March 26, 7:30p-9:00p
Aspen Hill Library 4407 Aspen Hill Road
Aspen Hill Civic Association, Aspen Hill Friends of the Library
Friday, March 27, 7-9 pm (tentative)
Chinese American Parent Association of Montgomery County
Saturday, March 28, 3-5 pm
Beall Elementary School - 451 Beall Ave, Rockville
Montgomery County Muslim Council
Monday, March 30, 7-9pm
Carver Educational Services Center – 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville
League of Women Voters, NAACP Parent’s Council, MCCPTA, Identity
Wednesday April 1, 7p-9p
Wootton High School
Wootton HS PTSA
Thursday, April 2, 5-7 pm
Democratic Club of Leisure World
Wednesday, April 15, 6-8 pm
Northwood-Four Corners Civic association