With same cast, St. Mary’s school board faces change -- Gazette.Net


Three St. Mary’s County Board of Education incumbents up for re-election this year easily won their races in Tuesday’s election and plan to rely on their experience to help navigate changes that will be facing the public schools during the next four years.

Cathy Allen, Marilyn Crosby and Mary Washington each staved off challengers in Tuesday’s election. The three will be sworn into office in early December to continue their work on the school board.

The board of education will have plenty on its plate next year, including overseeing the schools’ transition to a new statewide curriculum, finalizing a new teacher evaluation process and deciding whether to renew the current superintendent’s contract after he will have served for eight years.

“We are in a state of great transition right now,” Superintendent Michael Martirano said.

The continuing national movement for education reform will have impacts locally, including putting in place new curriculum and lessons at all grade levels, giving new statewide assessments, and putting in place a new method to judge school progress. All of that is either under way or being planned now.

“It’s a completely different ballgame, and that causes me some concern,” Martirano said.

Crosby of Lexington Park will continue to serve in the at-large seat for her second term after winning the race with 64 percent of the vote, or 24,036 votes, to challenger James Tomasic’s 13,487 (36 percent).

Tomasic of Dameron challenged Crosby for the at-large seat. Tomasic said he would have to consider what his next step would be, since this was his third unsuccessful campaign for a school board seat. He added that he would continue volunteering with the schools and offering his expertise to help the county’s education system.

“It is unfortunate that the board of education will not have a parental voice representing all three levels in the school system,” Tomasic said in a statement. “It is an important voice and it will surely be missed.”

He said he would ask the school board to “make it a priority to reach out and engage at various levels on a more cooperative level with the parents in the community.”

Crosby said as a retired teacher and grandmother she still has a close connection with schools. She said she relied on old friends and colleagues to help in her campaign, but that now it was time to “get back to business.”

She said school staff have their hands full with state mandates, and the board needs to work for more resources in the schools.

“We have such a huge task ahead of us” with the new teacher and principal evaluations as well as the new curriculum and associated tests that are still being planned, Crosby said.

“At some point, we’re going to have to compensate the teachers better or we’re going to lose some good people,” she said.

Washington of Lexington Park will continue serving on the District 4 seat after handily defeating her challenger, Rose of Great Mills, with 72 percent of the vote. Washington had the widest margin of victory with 27,736 votes to Rose’s 10,756 votes (28 percent).

Washington said Tuesday night she enjoyed the election, especially talking to her constituency. “It was good seeing democracy in action,” she added.

“I think that means the citizens are satisfied with the quality of services we do” in St. Mary’s public schools, Washington said. She has represented District 4 on the school board for 16 years and beat newcomer Rose.

Rose said he was happy he was able to get his name and ideas out to the community and is looking forward to running for the school board again. He praised Washington for her victory. “I look forward to continue being an active community member in the schools,” Rose said Tuesday night.

Jim Davis of Leonardtown, who ran against Allen for the District 2 seat, said it seemed many people just automatically cast their votes for the incumbents.

Davis said he knew he had a tough race going into it, but does not regret his effort. “I congratulate Cathy. She ran a clean race,” Davis said. “It’s hard to beat an incumbent.”

Voters chose Allen of Hollywood, who has been on the school board for 12 years. She defeated Davis by getting more than twice his number of votes. Allen won 68 percent of the vote with 25,455 votes to Davis’ 11,915 (32 percent).

“I think the board has been working hard at what we do and trying to do the best for the students and the county,” Allen said Tuesday night. “I’m really honored” that voters re-elected her.

“I am very, very pleased with the results of the election. I have great respect for all three individuals” who won, Martirano said. “They put the time in ... They’re engaged in the process.”

Martirano said the hefty margins by which the three incumbents won was “a true endorsement of the current board.” He said the challengers did offer good views, and that “we’ll take all that under advisement,” including the need for better communication with parents, for which some challengers called.

The other two members of the school board were elected in 2010, when incumbent Sal Raspa won the District 1 seat by beating Tomasic and newcomer Brooke Matthews was awarded the District 3 seat in an unopposed race. Their seats are up for election in 2014.