Incumbent and New School Board Members Expect Smooth Transition

New members’ priorities align with current board’s priorities

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Despite two new faces joining the county school board in December, the Montgomery County Board of Education’s priorities are expected to remain largely the same.

On Tuesday night, Karla Silvestre was elected to fill the open at-large seat on the school board, and Brenda Wolff won her unopposed election to represent District 5, while longtime incumbents Judy Docca and Pat O’Neill were re-elected to represent Districts 1 and 3, respectively.

And because the elected candidates agreed on most issues throughout their campaigns, both new and sitting board members say they expect a smooth transition when board members are sworn in on Dec. 3.

“I think we have a good mix of great women who will all work toward the same goals,” Docca said Tuesday night.

Silvestre, of Silver Spring, was unique in her campaign, branching out from issues focused on by other candidates to highlight the need for increasing access to dual language and immersion programs, as well as expanding career and technical education. Though armed with a long list of issues she hopes to address, Silvestre said she intends to build a strong relationship with her colleagues on the school board rather than tackling her to-dos alone.

“People keep asking me what the first thing I’m going to do is, and that is to build a team with the school board,” Silvestre said. “I’m new so I want to build relationships and trust so we can act in the best interest of the school system.”

O’Neill says she believes the board’s top priority should be to finalize the school district’s fiscal 2020 capital budget and amendments to the fiscal 2019-2024 capital improvements program, both with preliminary suggestions presented by Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Jack Smith in late September.

The 20-year incumbent has been working directly on the budget and CIP amendments for the past few weeks, fielding insights from constituents about issues of severe overcrowding in several MCPS clusters. So, to O’Neill, easing those concerns is most pressing.

“Finding space for all of those kids that we have and all of the kids that are coming is a real issue that’s going to take some serious work,” O’Neill said.

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