Two Parent Advocates Lead Eight-Person Field in School Board’s At-Large Race

In District 3, unofficial totals show incumbent Pat O'Neill sailing through the primary

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Karla Silvestre, left, and Julie Reiley

Via Karla Silvestre/Julie Reiley

Two parent advocates are poised to square off in the school board’s at-large race after Tuesday’s primary election, while a five-term incumbent and a Silver Spring businesswoman could face each other for another board seat.

At-large candidates Julie Reiley and Karla Silvestre each watched from home as the election returns moved them into the two top spots in their race. By about 11:30 p.m., with 250 of 255 election day precincts reporting, Reiley had about 32 percent of the vote, and Silvestre was in second place with about 28 percent, according to the unofficial totals.

In the District 3 race, with 62 of 65 election day precincts in, board member Pat O’Neill was miles ahead of the competition, with about 60 percent of the vote. Lynn Amano, a businesswoman and parent advocate, was in second place with 23.5 percent.

The top two vote-getters in the races for at-large and District 3 seats will go on to compete in the Nov. 6 general election.

Even though five precincts had yet to report, and the absentee and provisional ballots hadn’t yet been tallied, both at-large candidates were feeling optimistic as midnight approached.

“I’m especially pleased because, having been an advocate for students with special needs for so many years, it’s gratifying that as I’ve campaigned, so many people have spoken to me about either their own kids or family members who have special needs and have been supportive,” Reiley said by phone.

Silvestre said she was eager to tell voters why she was the right person for the post.

“I’ve been saying that I’m running because I feel that the school board has been slow to react to the changing demographics in our county,” she said in a phone interview. 

Eight candidates jumped into the fray for the at-large seat that opened up when incumbent Jill Ortman-Fouse made the 11th-hour decision not to run for re-election and to instead pursue a post on the County Council.

In District 3, a three-way contest included incumbent O’Neill, who is seeking her sixth term on the school board, and parents Amano, 52, and Laura Simon.

All school board races are nonpartisan, so they were the only contests that appeared Tuesday on the ballots for unaffiliated voters in Montgomery County.  

Silvestre and O’Neill, 67, of Bethesda, were buoyed by endorsements from the Montgomery County teachers union, which listed its preferred candidates’ names on the influential “apple ballot” passed out at the polls.

O’Neill has swept the endorsements in the District 3 race, winning support from The Washington Post and CASA in Action in addition to the Montgomery County Education Association.

CASA in Action also endorsed Silvestre, 45, of Silver Spring, who works as the director of community engagement for Montgomery College and has served as the Latino community liaison for the Montgomery County government. She has advocated for expanding early childhood education opportunities and dual-language programs as a way for tackling academic disparities.

In the at-large race, the Post gave its backing to Reiley, 54, a retired trial attorney and law school lecturer. Reiley of Bethesda has been a special education advocate and has called for addressing the achievement gap for students of color, students in poverty, English language learners and students with special needs.

School board candidates Pat O'Neill, left, and Lynn Amano. Courtesy Pat O'Neill/Lynn Amano.

In the District 3 contest, O’Neill sailed to victory, while Amano, 52, a Silver Spring resident who co-owns a small-batch distillery with her husband, was a distant second. Simon, 50, a health activist and yoga instructor from Potomac, will be knocked out of the running after finishing in last place, with the current standings.

The at-large candidates who weren’t shaping up to make the cut were: Ryan Arbuckle, 33, of Kensington; Timur Edib, 55, of North Bethesda; Marwa Omar Ibrahim of Gaithersburg; Brandon Orman Rippeon, 46, of Darnestown; John A. Robertson, 50, of Clarksburg; and Stephen Sugg, 40, of Rockville.

Four seats on the eight-person school board are up for grabs this year, but only candidates for the at-large post and the District 3 seat faced a primary battle. Since there are only two contenders for the District 1 post and one for the District 5 seat, candidates in those races are moving on automatically to the general election.  

Incumbent Judy Docca, 79, of Montgomery Village, and Maria Blaeuer, 42, who lives near Laytonsville, will square off for the District 1 seat in the general election.

Brenda Wolff, 65, of Silver Spring, a retired U.S. Department of Education official, is the only candidate remaining in the District 5 race to replace outgoing board President Michael Durso. Paul Pykosh, 52, dropped out of the running in May after moving from Olney to Gaithersburg, outside the district boundary.

The new board members, who will be paid $25,000 annually, will be sworn in to their four-year terms on Dec. 3.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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