Dixon, Kauffman to Face Off for School Board in November

Dixon, Kauffman to Face Off for School Board in November

Incumbent Kauffman will take on former high school principal in general election

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Phil Kauffman (second from left) and Jeanette Dixon (far right) will move on to the general election for a Board of Education at-large seat

Aaron Kraut

Updated at 12:20 a.m. – Two-term school board incumbent Phil Kauffman will take on former Paint Branch High School Principal Jeanette Dixon in November, after the two finished as the top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s primary.

Dixon, a retired county school system teacher and administrator, received 51,316 votes in the five-person race with all but two of Montgomery County's 254 precincts reporting. Her vote total garnered her 31.5 percent of the vote.

Kauffman, a retired federal employee and former PTA leader from Olney, got 45,570 votes, good for 28 percent

Sebastian Johnson, a fellow at a Washington, D.C., think tank and former student member of the Board of Education from Takoma Park came in third with 28,937 votes, or 17.7 percent. Gwendolyn Kimbrough, a former Washington, D.C., school system official, and Mike Ibanez, a former teacher from Montgomery Village, had 11.8 percent and 11 percent of the vote, respectively.

Both Kauffman, respected for his work on the county school system’s budget, and Johnson, a former staffer of County Council member George Leventhal, garnered endorsements from other local elected officials and community leaders during the primary campaign.

Johnson boasted a major campaign fundraising edge. Also,  council Education Committee Chairman Craig Rice indicated his support in a press release for Johnson’s campaign despite officially endorsing Kauffman. The 12,000-member county teachers’ union known for distributing its trademarked Apple Ballot at polling places didn’t endorse in the race.

Dixon repeatedly stated her stance that other county elected officials shouldn’t be making endorsements in the nonpartisan race.

During candidate forums over the past two months, Dixon and Kauffman rarely engaged each other in one-on-one debate. But Dixon made clear her displeasure with the way the board handled its deliberations concerning Superintendent Joshua Starr’s contract extension in 2015. Starr resigned in February 2015 after it became clear the board wasn’t likely to renew his contract.

While Kauffman was one of the board members who reportedly backed extending Starr’s contract, he defended in candidate forums the secretive nature of the process that led to Starr’s resignation.

Kauffman spoke often about his experience dealing with the details of the school system’s roughly $2.4 billion annual operating budget, saying he knows it “better than anybody.” He pointed to his role during his year as board president in negotiating an agreement with the council to use one-time funding sources to fully fund the school board’s budget request for the 2014-2015 school year.

Dixon said she would make the school system’s longstanding achievement gap between black and Hispanic and white and Asian students a standing item on the board’s agenda with regular updates required.

“That which gets monitored, gets done,” Dixon said during the campaign.

One other school board incumbent will face a challenger in the November general election. District 2 board member Rebecca Smondrowski is running for re-election against challenger Brandon Orman Rippeon. 

Shebra Evans, who narrowly lost the 2014 race for the board’s other at-large seat to Jill Ortman-Fouse, is running against Anjali Reed Phukan in November for the District 4 seat being vacated by Chris Barclay.

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