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Candidates for the Board of Education Respond to Results of Election

by Sanders Jett-Folk

On November 8th, voters went to the polls to vote on various political offices and policy issues. One of those offices was the Board of Education. Four candidates were on the ballot for the Board of Education. There were three open seats, meaning the three candidates who received the most votes would secure seats on the Board. Voters were allowed to vote for up to three of the candidates on their ballots.

Joy Schafer, the only incumbent running for re-election, scored the most votes, earning 61,420 votes (27.60%). Dr Ken Kerr, who ran for the second time, came in second with 57,230 votes (25.72%). The third place finisher was Michael Bunitsky, who earned 55,642% (25.00%). The only candidate who did not gain a seat on the Board was Cindy Rose, who obtained 46,942 votes (21.09%). Write-in votes made up 0.59% of the total vote count. [1]

Joy Schaefer, who will be returning for her second term on the Board, stated that voters should pay more attention to local races. “Local races are challenging because most voters are focused on the higher profile seats that are up.” She said her experience and strong campaign helped her win reelection. “I think that voters voted for me because of my voting record and my leadership over my first term as a Board of Education member. I talked to a great deal of voters who weren’t familiar with my track record, and I feel that my key goals resonated with them – decreasing class size, adopting new salary scales for all of our employees that honored their work but that had less of an impact on our budget each year, and a focus on students and the opportunities we can provide them as well as making sure we involve families and our entire community in our schools and school system.”
As far as her future plans on the board go, Schaefer said “I plan to continue the work of our Board, which is ongoing and we have several priorities and decisions to make in the coming months. However, one of the things I will prioritize is to welcome the new members, help them to acclimate to our procedures and their roles as Board members. The strength of our decisions comes from the strength of our process and how well we work together.”

Dr. Ken Kerr said his collaboration with the other two winners helped him to secure a victory. “Over the past six months, as we ran together, Joy, Mike, and I showed the voters we can collaborate and cooperate, we can set aside our personal goals for the greater purpose We demonstrated our understanding of the issues facing Frederick Schools and showed ourselves to be thoughtful, informed, and willing to hear the concerns of the voters.”
Of what he hopes to accomplish early on, he said “My first action will be to learn the job of course. But we have to jump right in on the budget which is due to the County Executive in the Spring. I’m sure we will be figuring out how to implement the governor’s executive order to start school after Labor Day and reconciling that with the dual-enrollment FCC classes that have to start two weeks earlier.”

Cindy Rose, the only candidate on the ballot who did not earn a seat, said establishment Union donors caused her to lose. “It’s hard to compete with Union money. My opponents had political mailers funded for them by the Union as well as advertising. During the primary when the Union was not involved and the public based their decisions on the candidate messages, I finished second. During the general election when the Union got involved they convinced two candidates to drop out, threw tens of thousands of dollars into campaigning for the race and send foot soldiers to door knock.

“As your average citizen, it’s hard to compete with that. It’s also hard to compete with an extremely misleading handout that says ‘Teacher Endorsed’. The teachers weren’t given an opportunity to endorse me, that’s not how their process works. The teachers are only allowed to endorse from a list of preselected candidates, my name was not on that list. The public is mostly unaware of that. I know, I used to be an apple ballot voter before I became more involved.

“This is why Union endorsements are sought, coveted even. The question now becomes, are the new members beholden to the voters or the Union who helped them get elected and who they will need to get re-elected?  Look to the school calendar for a hint at the answer. Question: Now that we have a mandated after school start, what off days are being removed to make room? Answer:  Student/family holidays. No mention of renegotiating teacher workdays or professional development even though the teacher contract gets renegotiated in 2017.”

As for a potential future run for a seat on the Board, she said “I’m not sure if I will run again; it’s not off the table. Regardless I will still be out here advocating and calling for Dr. Alban to resign.”

Mike Bunitsky, the third place finisher, did respond to a request for comment.

Once again, we thank all of the candidates for their contributions to WHS Lion’s Pride. It is our highest hope that Schaefer, Kerr and Bunitsky will represent the needs of all students, teachers and parents. Best of luck to them during their time on the Board of Education!

[1] https://ballotpedia.org/Frederick_County_Public_Schools_elections_(2016)