Montgomery County school board forums stack up as primary nears

Montgomery County school board forums stack up as primary nears

At-large race has 13 candidates; three in race for District 4

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This story was updated at 11 p.m. March 5, 2020, to correct the scheduled times for the March 16 candidate event.

Eight weeks before Montgomery County voters take to the polls for a primary election, local groups are organizing forums for residents to hear from school board candidates.

Montgomery County voters will narrow the field to two candidates each for the at-large and District 4 seats on the school board.

There are 13 candidates for one at-large seat and three for the District 4 seat. Each race will be whittled to two candidates in the April 28 primary election.

At-large candidates are: Mitra Ahadpour, Stephen Austin, Anil Chaudhry, Sunil Dasgupta, Paul Geller, Jay Guan, Lynne Harris, Collins Odongo, Dalbin Osorio, Cameron Rhode, Darwin Romero, Pavel Sukhobok and Lumpoange Thomas.

District 4 candidates are: Ehren Park Reynolds, Steve Solomon and incumbent Shebra Evans.

There are only two candidates for the District 2 seat — incumbent Rebecca Smondrowski and Michael Fryar. There will be no primary election for that seat. There is only a primary in a nonpartisan race if there is more than twice as many candidates as there are open seats.

The first candidate forum among the notices Bethesda Beat has seen is on Thursday evening. Hosted by the Potomac Glen Homeowners Association, the forum will feature only eight candidates — six at-large and two District 4 — who the association identified “as supporting neighborhood schools,” according to an announcement from the group.

The reference is to those who are skeptical of a pending boundary analysis for Montgomery County Public Schools.

The candidates who will attend, according to the email announcement are Ahadpour, Austin, Chaudhry, Geller, Guan, Sukhobok, Solomon and Reynolds.

Community groups are not bound by any rules or laws on who they must include in a forum, but some who were not invited say the event will not present a complete picture of the election.

In a message Harris sent the homeowners association, and shared with Bethesda Beat, she wrote that it is a disservice to use only one criterion for selecting candidates for a forum.

“Our county and our students need and deserve individuals serving on the Board of Education who have a wide and deep knowledge of our schools, and understand that the purpose of our schools is to serve every student well, and ensure every school is excellent, and make whatever data-driven, evidence-based decisions are necessary to achieve that purpose,” Harris wrote. “Any ‘forum’ which doesn’t provide those attending a full opportunity to learn about, and hear from, all candidates is not serving voters well.”

Representatives of the homeowners association could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

The forum will run from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at 13651 Hayworth Drive in Potomac.

Other school board candidate forums Bethesda Beat has seen publicized include:

  • 7 to 9 p.m. March 10 at Poolesville Baptist Church, sponsored by the Fair Access Committee for Western Montgomery County
  • 6:30 to 7 p.m. (Districts 2 and 4), 7 to 8:30 p.m. (at-large) March 16 at Potomac Community Center, sponsored by the Federation of Republican Women
  • 2:30 to 4 p.m. March 22 at the Islamic Center of Maryland, sponsored by the center
  • 7:30 to 9 p.m. March 26 at the Aspen Hill Library, sponsored by the Aspen Hill Civic Association and Aspen Hill Friends of the Library
  • 7 to 9 p.m. March 27, location to be determined, with only at-large candidates, sponsored by the Chinese American Parents Association
  • 3 to 5 p.m. March 28 at Beall Elementary School, sponsored by the Montgomery County Muslim Council
  • 7 to 9 p.m. March 30 at MCPS central offices in Rockville, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, NAACP Parents Council, MCCPTA and Identity
  • 7 to 9 p.m. April 1 at Thomas S. Wootton High School, sponsored by the school’s parent-teacher association
  • 5 p.m. April 2 at the Leisure World Clubhouse.

If your group or organization is planning a school board candidate forum not listed here, please email details to Caitlynn Peetz at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com.

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