Takeaways From Harford County Board Of Education Candidate Forum

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HAVRE DE GRACE - On Tuesday, the Harford County League of Women Voters hosted a forum for all Harford County School Board candidates.

All candidates were invited to the event, but only seven attended. Stephen Puopolo, Wade Sewell, Carol Mueller, Ariane Kelly, Carol Bruce, Diane Alvarez, and Sharon Jacobs were all at the forum.

The candidates spoke to over 60 people in the online forum about what issues are most important to them and why they should be chosen to represent their district on the board.

Havre de Grace is within Harford County District F, the only county to have both candidates attend the forum. Diane Alvarez is running against Sharon B. Jacobs for Harford County Board of Education District F.

Here is a breakdown of Alvarez's and Jacobs' responses to the questions asked at the forum.

What do you see as the primary work of the Board of Education?

Many candidates, including Alvarez and Jacobs, broadly agreed with each other on this issue. Alvarez said that "the primary goal is to oversee budget and policy" and added that the board has to do a better job listening to the people they represent.

Jacobs also said that she believes the board's primary role is to oversee the budget and advocate for the community.

Is there one particular issue that motivates you to serve on the Board of Education?

Alvarez decried the "alarming" number of teachers who have left the Harford County school system. Alvarez has lived in Harford County for over 30 years and said she was motivated to run for office after seeing changes to the traditional curriculum taught in Harford County.

"The dramatic changes that we've seen in the curriculum are steering us away from traditional education where children are taught how to write, compute, create and read," Alvarez said. "There has been more emotional control and things of that nature, and it has left our children unequipped for the workforce and unable to perform in the workforce when there's the slightest bit of discomfort."

Jacobs says her motivation comes from motherhood. While she does not currently have a child in the school system, she said her time raising a young child profoundly affected how she views public schools.

"No matter what I achieved in my life when I became a mother, I had to learn things I never knew," Jacobs said. "I think what motivates me is the children of Harford. It is seeing them doing things that they never could do."

What is one of the greatest challenges you foresee as a member of the board of education, and how will you address it?

Jacobs said that the most significant challenge would be the teacher shortage. She advocated for increasing teacher salaries as a means to attract new teachers and retain the ones they have.

In a departure from the answers given by the majority of candidates, Alvarez said that communication between the school board and parents would be the greatest challenge. She advocated for increased communication between schools and the PTA and having parents and the board "come together as a team" to fix issues.

Have you received a donation or endorsement from any group or person?

Alvarez has been endorsed by Moms for Liberty, Power to Parent, and the Maryland Alliance of Parents and Students. She said she had received $500 in individual donations and another donation from Mom's Demand Action. Alvarez also took time to praise the mission of Mom's for Liberty.

"Mom's For Liberty is a group focused on American values and education," Alvarez said. "They implore mothers to work with the government to protect the parental voice."

Jacobs said that the Harford County Education Association had endorsed her.

The candidates were also presented with questions from the audience on issues such as health curriculum, teacher diversity, book banning, and history curriculum.

When asked about book banning, Jacobs agreed with the majority of the candidates that the school board should not impose one parent's idea of a bad book on the entire student body. She said she supports the school system's creation of "a culturally responsible environment."

Alvarez said that she does not believe in book banning but wants to ensure that books are given to the appropriate age groups.

"Are we putting books in the hands of children who are not at that level of understanding in what they are reading?" she asked. "I think there is a balance that needs to be had here where we look at the books that we are providing for education."

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