A father of two from Silver Spring is running for an at-large seat on the Montgomery County Board of Education, aiming to “modernize” operations and improve communication with the community.

Domenic Giandomenico will challenge incumbent Karla Silvestre for the four-year term.

In an interview on Monday, Giandomenico said he would train a “more critical eye” on MCPS happenings and bring a new level of curiosity “about what options are out there” when making decisions.

Now, Giandomenico, 41, is a stay-at-home father to Phoebe, his 3-year-old daughter who has autism, and Jake, who was born in October.

Previously, he worked on education and workforce development policy for agencies such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Democrats for Education Reform and Project Lead The Way, according to his campaign website.

Project Lead The Way is an engineering program offered in several MCPS high schools.

“I’ve gone coast to coast dealing with these issues in school systems,” Giandomenico said, “and when I started seeing the pattern myself in my own school district and for my daughter so quickly … I’ve seen the best and the worst out of MCPS in a really short period of time. That compels me to action.”

While the MCPS employees who have worked with his daughter in the infants and toddlers program and preschool education program have been great, Giandomenico said, there are systemwide problems. Many hinge on communication.

It’s too difficult to get answers to basic questions, he said, or find out who to ask.

“I found a system that was an absolute nightmare to navigate,” his campaign website says. “… It has become crystal clear that MCPS needs modernization, vastly improved communication to and with parents, and more options for students to meet them where their needs are.”

Giandomenico pointed to some recent troubles in the district — like an incident in which a 5-year-old kindergartener was berated and screamed at by police, a shooting at Col. Zadok Magruder High School, a vote of “no confidence” in administration by the teachers union — as reasons he would want to bring more skepticism to the dais.

“I get the overwhelming sense that [MCPS leadership] felt like everything is OK or fine or adequate, and … there’s a little bit of a self-congratulatory feeling to school board meetings sometimes and, frankly, I don’t always feel that the interest of students is what’s coming first,” he said. “I feel like the adult’s interests are taking a higher priority at times with MCPS and that’s absolutely something that needs to change.”

Giandomenico said he believes education is critical because it will ultimately affect other aspects of the community, like public safety and the economy.

“I think far too often we overlook the raw fact of the matter that what we do with the Montgomery County Public School System, and what we do in educating and raising our children, will echo for generations,” he said. “So, it really behooves us to make sure that we’re getting it right and make sure that every family has the education that their children deserve and the education that they need. We need to make sure that we have a system that’s capable of serving parents and families where they are.”

Giandomenico and Silvestre are the only two who have filed for the at-large seat on the school board.

Originally, the filing deadline was Feb. 22, but that has been extended to March 22 as some newly-drawn districts are challenged in court.

Three other board seats are also on the ballot this year.

The District 1 seat is held by incumbent Judy Docca, who has not announced whether she plans to run for re-election. She has been on the school board since 2006. Jay Guan, an aerospace engineer from Clarksburg, is the only candidate who has filed for the seat.

Incumbent Scott Joftus and challenger Julie Yang have filed as candidates for the District 3 seat. Joftus has been on the board since December. He was appointed to serve the last year of Pat O’Neill’s term. O’Neill died in September.

Brenda Wolff has also filed for re-election in District 5. She is the only candidate in that race.

The primary election is scheduled for June 28 and the general election is Nov. 8.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com