Saturday, October 16, 2010

Montgomery County Board of Education- O'Neill vs. Smith

Montgomery County Board of Education candidate Patricia O’Neill has become all too distant from Montgomery voters to deserve reelection. Consider the following:

O’Neill has no reelection website. This is the access point of choice for many constituents in the 21st century, but O’Neill is the only incumbent that has made no attempt to establish this connection. I recommend voters visit Karen Smith’s website at

O’Neill completed a 15 question MCEA election questionnaire in just 651 typed words. Perhaps this is a lesson in efficiency, or perhaps she does not feel it necessary to spend much time communicating with the public or earning the ever important Apple Ballot recommendation. Regardless, with these several words she was able to win the endorsement of MCEA.

I emailed her opponent Karen Smith my own three questions (Smith was not asked by MCEA to complete a questionnaire). Smith answered the three questions I posed with more than 700 thoughtful and well organized words. I asked O’Neill to answer the same three questions via email but she did not respond. Lest you think I’m bitter- I intend to endorse three other incumbents who did not directly respond to my questions.

When O’Neill has communicated to the county she has preferred to communicate to citizens via editorials and press releases that often tout data of dubious educational value. For instance, she celebrated a rise in the average SAT scores in 2010 as if had nothing to do with the historic drop in SAT participation. In fact, over the last 5 years the percentage of graduating seniors earning a college ready score of 1650 has actually declined. The Gazette has reported similar concerns about the data frequently championed by O’Neill.

Lastly, O’Neill has proved to have a narrow and unyielding policy agenda despite valid and conscientious concerns voiced by the public. When some questioned the speed at which a new contract between a for profit education company and MCPS was recently finalized and approved by the Board of Education, including two of its own board members, O’Neill simply replied that some people will always say ‘no’ and “maybe they ought to run for Board of Education.”

When you have served on Board of Education for more than 12 years, I’m sure you become very well connected and have a keen sense of how to get things done. But I wonder if one is likely to forget how that seat was earned in the first place- at the foot of the people. From what I have researched and learned of Karen Smith voters should rest assured- your voice can still be heard loud and clear should you choose to vote in the upcoming Board of Education election.

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