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Itís that time of year again. The kids have gone back to school. There is a chill in the air. Football is back! And last but not least, we are being inundated with campaign ads. It is so important that we are involved in this process of picking our leaders and it is our right and duty as American citizens.

Every time we have an election people ask me why teachers endorse when it is bound to cause dissension. It is simple. Everything about my profession is decided by a politician, an officeholder in either our local, state or national government.

We as teachers must be involved in choosing our leaders because there is so much at stake for us and our students. The future of this country depends on leadership that will respect our professional opinions and expertise and make decisions that will mean the best possible education for the children.

There are many out there who spend their time vilifying the teacher unions, but if you take a look at our resolutions, bylaws and policies, you will see that we are about much more than a contract. In fact those documents have just a small portion dedicated to the negotiated agreement. The majority of those documents speak to diversity, safety, teacher training, licensing, pedagogy and a host of other things that effect kids.

Your classroom teachers, those men and women who come to work early and stay late, give up their weekends and spend money out of their own pockets for their students; they are the union and they want you to listen to what they have to say about leadership in this country, leadership for the next generation.

I wonít go on and on about our choice for president and the House and Senate. Most people know who we support for those offices. We support people who will not tear down public education and send our profession back by 50 years in terms of our quality of life, student success and professional satisfaction. I will, however, share with you our picks for the St. Maryís County Board of Education seats.

In the race between Cathy Allen and Jim Davis, we support Cathy Allen. Cathy is a person of integrity. She has been an active member of the board for some time. She is in the schools regularly; she takes advantage of training opportunities. Her participation at board meetings is active and insightful. She makes herself available to teachers when we have issues that need to be addressed. She has lots of energy and applies herself to understand the issues that impact us as teachers and our students. She is also ever mindful of those decisions that will impact the future.

In the race between James Tomasic and Marilyn Crosby, the Education Association of St. Maryís County supports Mr. Tomasic. The board of education is lacking a very important voice, the voice of a parent with children attending our system. Mr. Tomasic is an amazingly committed parent. He has 20 years of involvement with our schools. He has taught science programs in elementary schools, and participated in school and county PTAs, school improvement teams, science fairs, advisory panels and committees such as textbook adoption and achievement issues. He attends board meetings and communicates with members of the board as well as the leadership for the teachers. We feel he would bring a vital component to our system and strongly recommend him for this position.

In the race between Mary Washington and Joel Rose, we are in favor of re-electing Mrs. Washington. She is a tireless advocate for kids and makes herself available to teachers whenever we ask. She visits schools regularly and gets involved with their special programs such as Read Across America, Black History Month activities and many more. She has participated in several training programs in order to improve and maintain her leadership skills. Our schools are her No. 1 priority; this is her only job and we want her to continue doing it.

The teachers of St. Maryís County are the professionals who make this system great. These are the people we have endorsed because we feel they are the best candidates to help us continue to build this quality system. We hope you will consider our choices for this very important job when you go to vote on Nov. 6.

Anna M. Laughlin, California

The writer is the president of the Education Association of St. Maryís County.