Newcomers Grace Rivera-Oven and Julie Yang were sworn in to serve four-year terms on the county's Board of Education on Thursday. Credit: Gianna Gronowski.

Montgomery County community members and politicians alike packed into the auditorium at Rockville’s Carver Educational Services Center on Thursday for the new school board’s swearing-in ceremony.

Newcomers Grace Rivera-Oven and Julie Yang took the oath of service alongside re-elected members Karla Silvestre and Brenda Wolff. Each will serve a four-year term on the county’s Board of Education.

Attendees included County Council President Gabe Albornoz, Councilmember Sidney Katz, State Sen. Susan Lee, Delegates Julie Palakovich Carr and Lily Qi, Rockville Mayor Bridget Newton and former board president Michael Durso.

Former board member Jill Ortman-Fouse said she’s been friends with Rivera-Oven for many years and is delighted to see her finally join the board.

“I’ve always admired her understanding of the challenges that our most privileged often don’t come across and don’t understand,” she said. “She’s a passionate and strong voice for parts of our county that are most likely to be neglected.”

Ortman-Fouse also expressed excitement at seeing more Asian-American representation.

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“It’s hard to believe we’re just now getting Asian representation on the board when our Asian community is very strong and a vital part of our school community,” Ortman-Fouse said. “I’m glad [Julie] is going to be there.”

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Several board members fought back tears as they bid farewell to outgoing members Judy Docca and Scott Joftus. Docca opted to retire from the board after 16 years of service and did not file for re-election by the May deadline.

“Dr. Docca always spoke up for the most vulnerable children in our system,” Silvestre said, adding that the new board pledged to continue in Docca’s footsteps.

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Joftus was appointed to the board to fill out the remaining year of Pat O’Neill’s term after her sudden death in September 2021. He lost his bid for a full term after losing to Yang.

Student board member Arvin Kim spoke warmly of Joftus, sharing a joke he said he promised Joftus’s daughter he would tell.

“I was excited to get to work with my friend’s dad, and now I’m excited to go to school with my friend’s daughter,” Kim said.

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Docca and Joftus were both presented with personal reserved parking spot markers, and Wolff handed Docca notes of appreciation from U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-District 8) as well as several members of the Maryland General Assembly.

The new board will convene for its first meeting 9 a.m. Dec. 6.