Two School Board Members Plan To Run for Re-Election

Two School Board Members Plan To Run for Re-Election

At-large member Dixon undecided

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From left: Shebra Evans, Rebecca Smondrowski and Jeanette Dixon.

Two members of the Montgomery County Board of Education said on Wednesday they plan to run for re-election in 2020.

The terms of Shebra Evans, Rebecca Smondrowski and Jeanette Dixon expire in 2020. Evans and Smondrowski said that they plan to run for another four-year term, while Dixon said she has not decided.

Nobody has officially filed for candidacy with the Montgomery County Board of Elections, but Evans and Smondrowski said they plan to soon. The filing deadline is in January.

The seven adult members of the board all run countywide on a nonpartisan basis, although those representing a particular district must be a resident of that district. Each receives a $25,000 annual salary, aside from the board president who receives $29,000.

There is also a student member elected annually by middle school and high school students.

Evans, the board president, has been on the school board since 2016 and is a member of the board’s Strategic Planning Committee. A Silver Spring resident, Evans has two children in MCPS.

In 2014, Evans ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat on board, losing to Jill Ortman-Fouse. She ran again in 2016 for the District 4 seat, vacated by Chris Barclay, and won.

“There’s still more I want to accomplish on the board,” Evans said in an interview on Wednesday afternoon. “In the first three years, you kind of get your feet wet and figure out what it’s all about, because looking in from the outside, you think you know what the job entails, but once you’re on the inside, you get a better picture of what needs [to be] done.”

Smondrowski, of Gaithersburg, has been a school board member since 2012. In that election, she replaced Laura Berthiaume, who did not seek re-election. In 2018, Smondrowski ran for a District 17 state delegate seat and lost.

Both Smondrowski and Evans highlighted recent improvements in available data about student achievement as key factors in their decisions to pursue another term on the board.

The new data will allow the board and MCPS to take a more targeted approach to address a nagging “achievement gap” between low-income students and their peers.

“We’ve spent the past three or four years building a system to do the things we want to do, and now we’re ready and poised to do them,” Smondrowski said. “I feel like we’re on the cusp of doing really great things for student learning and achievement and I want to continue being part of that.”

Evans, too, said there’s “more work to do.”

“We’ve been courageous in saying that while we have been doing so well for so many students, there are still some students we can do better by,” Evans said. “The work we’re doing now will help us close the gap.”

Dixon, of Silver Spring, was elected to her first term in 2016. On Wednesday, she said she has not yet decided whether she will run for re-election.

Dixon, a former MCPS principal, ran against eight-year incumbent Philip Kauffman in 2016 and won. She had not run for election to the school board before.

When she first ran for election in 2016, Dixon said she saw a need to do more to narrow the achievement gap and promote equity in MCPS.

She said she most enjoys visiting schools and with constituents to learn about their needs and opinions on topics that affect students and teachers.

Conversely, she said sometimes board members’ politics “get in the way” of their work. Dixon also cares for her mother who had a stroke four years ago and is partially paralyzed.

On multiple occasions, Dixon said she does “not believe” in board members serving more than two terms on the school board, so, if she does decide to run again, it would likely be her last time.

“I think that we have moved from being a board that’s just told what to do to leading. I think I’ve played an instrumental role in that,” Dixon said. “It’s been an honor to serve the students and citizens of Montgomery County. I will see how much I have left in the tank.”

Dixon said she will make her decision closer to the January candidate filing deadline.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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