(Clockwise from top left) Baltimore County Board of Education candidates Robin Harvey (District 1), Rebecca Chesner (District 2), Maggie Litz Domanowski (District 3), Samay Kindra (District 4), Diane Jean Young (District 3), Jane E. Lichter (District 2), and Cory Koons (District 1).

The Local News Network at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism sent a questionnaire to all 155 school board candidates to get their views on important issues. The results are compiled in the Capital News Service Board of Education Voter Guide.

Read responses from candidates in the school board races for Baltimore City and Howard County, as well as Maryland’s other jurisdictions in the complete Capital News Service Board of Education Voter Guide.

Below are the responses from the candidates for the Baltimore County Board of Education in District 1 (Robin Harvey and Cory Koons), District 2 (Rebecca Chesner and Jane E. Lichter), and District 3 (Maggie Litz Domanowski and Diane Jean Young), and District 4 (Samay Kindra).

District 4 candidate Brenda Hatcher-Savoy did not respond to the questionnaire.

No responses are available for the uncontested races in Districts 5-7. Those candidates who are running unopposed are Julie C. Henn (District 5), Christina Pumphrey (District 6) and Rod McMillion (District 7).

Robin Harvey

Baltimore County Board of Education District 1 candidate Robin Harvey.

Campaign email: contact@robinharvey.org

Website: www.robinharvey.org

Facebook: facebook.com/supportrobinharvey

Age: 51

Employment: Executive Director, Maryland Department of Human Services, Office of Licensing and Monitoring

Education: Master of Social Work, University of Pennsylvania.

Why are you running for the school board?

I believe that every child has a right to a quality education that propels them toward opportunity, and that taxpayers should see the return on our investment. I am running for the Baltimore County Board of Education in District 1 because a good public education is the promise of America and I believe that I can contribute to fulfilling that promise for our children.

What makes you a good candidate for the board?

Being a social worker gives me a unique vantage point in problem-solving. I’m trained to meet people where they are with a particular focus on listening so that we can begin to solve problems in a way that meets everyone’s needs. I am certified in Results-Based Accountability which is a disciplined way of taking action to improve program performance and quality of life. These are all skills conducive to working collaboratively and strategically to get the outcomes we seek for our children.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.

A public leader I admire is (Maryland House) Speaker Adrienne Jones. She is a consensus-builder. Speaker Jones has the ability to quietly get things done on behalf of Marylanders. Her quiet persistence makes her an effective legislator and advocate for all Marylanders.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected?

Student performance is the most important issue facing public education. Strategies to improve performance and close the performance gap include ensuring that schools have qualified/certified teachers, supporting thriving and active parent participation programs, using data to direct resources, supporting all students in their learning, and applying consistent standards across all schools for construction and renovation.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it?

Children cannot learn in environments where there is fear or chaos. It is a reasonable expectation that students behave appropriately in the school setting. It is also reasonable to consider their socio-emotional development, including brain development, the presence of Adverse Childhood Experiences as they all impact how a child “shows up” for school. Discipline is often reduced to punishment-consequences for bad choices. Instead, schools should take a balanced approach to accountability, discipline and character development in order to foster self-discipline so that students, teachers and staff can learn in safe environments.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they?

My concern is always that history is being taught accurately, factually and fully.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed?

Books in school libraries should be selected based on age-appropriateness, their contributions to emotional and intellectual development, relatedness to subject matter, and with consideration for different learning styles.

Cory Koons

Baltimore County Board of Education District 1 candidate Cory Koons.

Campaign email: koonsie@yahoo.com

Website: www.corykoons.com

Age: 42

Employment: Vice President of an environmental testing laboratory

Education: Bachelor of Science in Engineering and Management, Clarkson University

Why are you running for the school board?

My observations through my two children have shown structural failures in the school system, and I cannot stand by and not try to help

What makes you a good candidate for the board?

My background and experiences as a scientist and evaluator of data would be a powerful asset to the board. No one on the board or running for the board would have a similar body of work or experience. My focus would be on the physical state of the schools. Building Quality and Safety, bussing and transportation, food service, and technology usage.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.

I am not sure that I can name a single public leader that I admire. My aim is not to become a politician by running for Board of Education. Board of Education should not be a politically charged position nor should it be a stepping stone for future political aspirations. It should be about improving the opportunities and outcomes for children of Baltimore County.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected?

The largest single issue facing the school system in Baltimore County is student performance, and educational outcomes are below expectations. The core job of the schools is to educate. Before we can fix the issue we have to identify what components are going into these outcomes. Having 60% of third grade students reading at below grade level is unacceptable. With a per student allocation of over $15,000/student annually we need to do better. Between teachers, bus drivers, support staff and overall facility conditions, much can be done. We have to reverse the attitudes. Getting students to buy into their own education and retaining teachers who are engaged are both critical to outcomes.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it?

School safety is obviously a major concern. With recent events of weapons in schools and incidents we cannot be blind to issues. One thing that is a major concern is the appropriate use of discipline. Without consistent enforcement of school policies, up to and including removal of problem students, students find no consequence and teachers find no recourse for disruptions of class. Actual consequences for actions must be understood by students and consistently applied by administrators.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they?

My focus is on the physical state of the schools. My experiences are not in curriculum development. I would need to evaluate specific instances of “How history is taught.” I believe history should be taught from a factual and neutral perspective.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed?

Books must be age-appropriate. Sexualized materials do not belong in Elementary School Libraries. Parents should be allowed to have a voice in the materials that are used in the classroom.

Rebecca Chesner

Baltimore County Board of Education District 2 candidate Rebecca Chesner.

Campaign email: rebeccachesner@comcast.net

Website: www.votechesner.com

Age: 63

Employment: Retired school psychologist

Education: Master’s and certificate of advanced study in school psychology from Towson University

Why are you running for the school board?

As a former school psychologist for Baltimore City Schools, I loved working and advocating for my students. During the lockdowns and mask mandates I also saw how many of them suffered from not being in the classroom. The social isolation and loss of academic learning took its toll. The data now coming out is revealing significant delays for our students in academics, cognition, speech and language, as well as social skills. Student mental health has also been impacted. I jumped into this race, though I am not a politician, because I really care about kids and want to make sure this never happens again. I also believe we need to start having our schools focus on education without politics.

What makes you a good candidate for the board?

As a former school psychologist, I have spent 25 years advocating for students and plan to do that on the school board as well. Our children deserve academic excellence, including graduating with the necessary skills needed so that they can be productive citizens as adults. Supporting programs that focus on students’ strengths and providing them with opportunities to do that, whether it be volunteer opportunities or learning to play a musical instrument or participating in sports etc., are wonderful ways to address and increase positive mental health and wellness. Finally, I will fight for bringing back common sense policies and transparency to create positive and safe school environments.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.

I always admired Dr. (Martin Luther) King’s message to judge a person by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. I think he would be saddened today to see that there is a movement that is being pushed in our schools to polarize children instead of unite them.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected?

There are several issues that I am passionate about, but I will focus on the most important ones to me, including providing transparency to parents, including curriculums that respect their values, promoting safety policies in our schools that work, and let our teachers teach and our children learn, and making sure there are no more lockdowns and mandates.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it?

Yes, I am a big advocate for school safety. Over the past decade we have seen a culture of lax discipline policies that were politically driven. I will advocate for policies that protect our teachers and students and get students whose behaviors are out of control the proper consequences and supports, such as alternative placements so that they can be helped as well.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they?

I believe in curriculums that promote unity and not division. We have enough polarization in our society and it is not helpful to push school pedagogy that focuses and creates groups of victimhood. We can still teach history appropriately without focusing on identity politics. Public schools should be transparent about their curricula and teach content that fosters a civil society where everyone can flourish.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed?

Yes, I believe that the sexualization of our children is inappropriate and robs them of their childhood and innocence and that books that do that have no place in our schools. Protecting our children is key.

Jane E. Lichter

Baltimore County Board of Education District 2 candidate Jane E. Lichter.

Campaign email: jlichter.lichter@gmail.com

Website: https://janelichter.com/

Age: 60

Employment: Adjunct staff, New Leaders

Education: Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, Loyola University of Maryland

Why are you running for the school board?

My commitment to BCPS is deep-rooted. I’ve lived in District 2 my entire life and worked my entire career in BCPS. I am running for the board to be part of the solution, give back to my community, ‘roll up my sleeves,’ and restore BCPS to a status of high academic excellence. In addition, my 37 years in education will allow me to bring the educators’ lens to the board, to make certain that the work teachers and principals do every day is included in decision-making.

What makes you a good candidate for the board?

My commitment to the county as a lifelong resident and my varied experiences as a special educator, curriculum coordinator, school principal and executive director provide me a strong understanding of teaching and learning and the work that educators are doing daily. Using this knowledge and insight, as a board member, I will ask the relevant and difficult questions, study information and data, listen to stakeholder feedback, and ensure that the focus of the board remains on improving student achievement.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.

I admire Liz Cheney for putting her country first, following her oath of office, and doing what she knows is right for America.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected?

BCPS must improve the academic achievement of all students. Too many students are not achieving at grade-level standards. BCPS must commit to a vision of high expectations, where curriculum and instruction are yielding positive outcomes for all students. Classrooms must be free of distractions, allowing teachers to teach and students to learn. BCPS must attract the best teaching candidates and ensure their longevity with the system. Identified benchmarks of success must be identified and actionable improvement plans created. Board members must advocate for the resources needed, monitor the data that tracks progress, and hold the system accountable for doing the work and gaining the results.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it?

Classrooms must be safe environments where teachers are able to teach and students are able to learn. We must identify root causes of discipline issues and ensure that solutions align with the cause of the behaviors. Discipline policies need to ensure teacher voice in decision making, as well as appropriate autonomy for principals when determining next steps for student discipline. With increased autonomy is the need for principal support. Designated school-based staff should be allocated to schools to assist principals with the day-to-day support of students experiencing a range of social emotional needs resulting in disruptions to teaching and learning.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they?

Information is needed to ensure that the history being taught is inclusive and accurate.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed?

School systems should have a process to review materials that the public feels should be removed from libraries and/or classrooms. Criteria needs to be established as part of the process. It is critical that books are available for students to read about the world in which they live, as well as books that help students understand lives that are different than their own.

Maggie Litz Domanowski

Baltimore County Board of Education District 3 candidate Maggie Litz Domanowski.

Campaign email: maggie.litz@gmail.com

Website: https://electmaggielitzdomanowski.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/electmaggielitzdomanowski

Age: 43

Employment: Full-time Administrative Assistant

Education: Bachelor’s degree at Towson University

Why are you running for the school board?

I am running for three very important reasons, my three public elementary school children. I want to see that they, and all our children in Baltimore County, receive the best education possible.

What makes you a good candidate for the board?

I am everything that a Baltimore County Board of Education member is supposed to represent. I am a parent of three public school students who has lived in Baltimore County all 43 of my years. I will represent our students, parents and community’s best interest in Education.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.

The son of an Italian immigrant, Vince Lombardi lived the quintessential American dream. At 15 he was studying to be a priest, 40 years later he won his fifth NFL Championship. He was an exceptional teacher and motivator who defined what it means to be a winner: “You don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all of the time.”

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected?

According to the most recent reports, only 39% of our second graders are reading at or above grade level and only 34% are there in math. Who knows where are third, fifth, eighth, and 10th graders are because there is no data. The most important issue is getting all of our students up to or above their grade levels in all core subjects.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it?

I am very concerned about school safety in our schools for students and teachers. Teachers and students need to know that when rules are broken there will be real consequences. There should be zero tolerance for any act of violence that happens inside a school building.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they?

Teaching history the way it happened doesn’t mean you are agreeing or promoting it as acceptable. Our history made us who we are today and our children need to keep learning from it. I believe history should be taught exactly the way it happened, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed?

I don’t believe there is a place in our public school libraries for books that present fiction as nonfiction or books that are sexually explicit.

Diane Jean Young

Baltimore County Board of Education District 3 candidate Diane Jean Young.

Campaign email: cali59@comcast.net

Website: friendsofdianeyoung.com

Age: 76

Employment: Retired from Baltimore County School system

Education: Two master’s degrees, Towson University and Goucher College

Why are you running for the school board?

I am running for a BCPS School Board position because I believe in a quality public education for all children. We know early learning is critical for a child’s development and we need to assure that all children have this opportunity. We are not where we need to be, our students have suffered academic, social, and emotional losses during the pandemic and they need our support and quality instruction with a challenging academic curriculum now.

Our high school students should all have the opportunity to participate in career and technology education. Learning a skill, earning certifications, earning college credits, and practical experience in a career field is valuable for all students.

What makes you a good candidate for the board?

I believe in a quality public education for all students and will work to make that possible. We need to improve and probably in some areas make substantial changes. We are educating students to be informed and knowledgeable citizens and also to be prepared to excel in jobs and careers that might not currently exist. All students should be in classrooms that challenge them to do their best. I am willing to work hard, use data to make informed decisions and always put students first.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.

I admired Cathi Forbes, she is a delegate representing 42A, the greater Towson area in Baltimore County. My friendship with Cathi Forbes goes back almost 20 years. Throughout this time I have witnessed what an outstanding community activist she has been. She spearheaded Towson Parents United to work toward a new elementary school, was instrumental in obtaining renovations and additions for other schools. She has worked with the Students Support Network, particularly during the pandemic. She collected food, delivered it to the site, and volunteered. Cathi works tirelessly in the community and the state legislature. She is always ready to listen and help.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected?

We have several issues, however one is the inability of board members to work together in a civil manner as a group. As a board, school facilities, retaining teachers, and providing a challenging academic curriculum for all students would be top priorities. Building a more efficient school system so that we are making the best use of our funding and our employees is critical also.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it?

I am concerned about school safety, I believe we all are. It is too easy for individuals with mental health issues to obtain weapons. There are steps that we can take. Let’s make it clear to teachers, students, and parents that if they have a concern or see something they need to report it immediately. Identify students that we may have concerns about and reach out with assistance. We need to look at laws that would limit access to weapons for individuals that are under twenty-one, especially automatic weapons. Individuals have a right to own a weapon, that is not the issue, the issue is protecting our students and staff.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they?

I believe that we should teach history as it actually occurred. We need to acknowledge historically what we did right and where we made mistakes. We need to do this for other countries as well. We need to look at the accomplishments of all our citizens as our students need role models and often it is difficult to find them in history books,

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed?

Yes there may be circumstances when books should not be allowed, however I believe that the school systems do an excellent job of reviewing books and placing them at appropriate grade levels Books that promote hatred of people, cultures, and religions should not be allowed.

Samay Kindra

Baltimore County Board of Education District 4 candidate Samay Kindra.

Campaign email: contact@samaykindra.org

Website: www.samaykindra.org

Facebook: facebook.com/samaysinghkindra.org

Age: 24

Employment: Law Student, University of Maryland Carey School of Law

Education: Bachelor’s degree, International Business, University of Maryland, College Park

Why are you running for the school board?

As a lifelong Baltimore County resident, community activist, and product of K-12 BCPS education, I know our community and our schools firsthand. I have been active in our community since high school, and I am committed to the advancement of my community. I have a unique and valuable perspective to bring to the board as a Sikh-Indian American who graduated from BCPS in the recent past and is now a young professional. My recent matriculation through the BCPS system allows me to understand problems from a firsthand perspective. Through my diverse background and commitment to my community, I know I can help build a world-class education system for our students, teachers, and staff.

What makes you a good candidate for the board?

I would bring a fresh, new perspective to the school board by using my unique background to craft solutions to give every student the opportunity to succeed by charting a course for a more responsive, inclusive, and equitable education system and engaging with all our stakeholders—including teachers, staff, and parents—as we work to provide a world-class education for our students. Thus, creating my vision for Baltimore County Public Schools, where all students are successful post-graduation and are supplied with the tools to build a better future from an equitable and forward-thinking school system.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.

I admire former President Barack Obama because I have found inspiration in the way he broke barriers and persevered through great challenges and obstacles to achieve his goals while helping others in the process. He showed that no matter what you look like or where you come from, you can achieve your dreams even in the face of prejudice. Finally, I admire the way he stuck to the issues and policy while fighting the good fight and helping others instead of being torn down by the low-bore attacks that he faced. Everyone can look to President Obama to find an example of how one can carry themselves with grace while persevering through adversity.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected?

The most pressing issue within the county school system is ensuring that the school system’s primary focus is on student success after graduating, whether that is through college or other avenues. To accomplish this, we need to do everything we can to ensure Baltimore County Public Schools lives up to the promise of quality education for all by focusing on student well-being, which includes addressing financial literacy within the curriculum and providing adequate mental health education. If we teach students how to manage their wealth and their health, we are setting them up for success no matter their path.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it?

It should be a top priority for BCPS to ensure that all students and staff find themselves in a safe and healthy learning environment. BCPS has led Maryland in school arrests by student resource officers (SRO), with the largest arrestable offense being “disruption.” This highlights the problem of unclear delineation between situations where law enforcement intervention is appropriate and where school-based administrative procedures are appropriate. The board needs to create new, clear policies that dictate what situations are to be addressed by SROs and what offenses are to be dealt with solely by the administration and clearly communicate these changes with SROs, parents and administrations.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they?

History must be taught in the way that it happened. We must teach our students all of our history—good parts and the bad parts. It is essential that we do so, so that we are teaching our kids how to solve the problems of today and tomorrow by learning and understanding the successes and the failures of the past. We can not shy away from issues that make us uncomfortable. It is a disservice to our students and is detrimental to their future. We should not waver in the face of challenges, we need to tackle them head-on and provide a world-class education for our students.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed?

Books should not be removed from schools. It is important that all views of the world are represented and available for students to learn about in an educational setting. Banning books runs the risk of compromising a student’s development and stunting their learning and curiosity about the world. Removing books is denying students the chance to understand values and ideas that may not be readily apparent in their daily lives and shying away from issues that make us uncomfortable is contradictory to the goal of setting our students up for future success.