Karen Yoho

Yoho

Editor’s note: The Frederick News-Post is profiling candidates for various public offices in Frederick County leading up to the July 19 primary elections. Each school board profile will include an audio recording of the full interview.

Frederick County Board of Education member and retired public school teacher Karen Yoho said she’s prioritizing communication and leaning on her experience in her bid for reelection.

Yoho taught first through fifth graders in Frederick County Public Schools for 25 years. During that time, she served on the government relations committee of the Frederick County Teachers Association, often helping the union interview candidates for local office and choose people to endorse.

“I always had this interest in how politics worked,” Yoho said. “Near the end of my career, I told my husband, ‘Someday, I’m gonna run for school board.’”

When she was elected in 2018, Yoho said, she said she looked forward to being a voice for educators on the board, advocating for better pay and lower workload. She wasn’t prepared for the challenge of leading the school system through a pandemic.

The board entered “survival mode,” Yoho said.

“You run for school board and you think redistricting is the worst thing you’re going to have to go through,” Yoho said.

Though she acknowledged missteps in communication throughout 2020 and 2021, Yoho said she was ultimately proud of FCPS’ response to COVID-19. But she saw many community members lose patience with the board as the pandemic — and the restrictions that came along with it — wore on, which made the question of whether to run again a difficult one.

“At one point, basically everybody was mad at us,” Yoho said. “And you think, ‘Whew, I’m not going to have any base left.’”

Now in the thick of her re-election campaign, Yoho said she would focus on improving communication between the system, the board and the community if granted another term. She maintained that board members learned about the details of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into FCPS’ use of seclusion and restraint against students with disabilities at the same time the rest of the community did: when The Frederick News-Post published an article about it on Dec. 1, 2021. Former FCPS superintendent Terry Alban signed a settlement with the DOJ that day.

“We were really caught off guard,” Yoho said. “And people don’t always believe that, and I’m sorry for that. But to think that not one of us would have done something is just not realistic.”

”How did we not know? That’s a whole other question to delve into. It’s a good one to delve into.”

Yoho would work with incoming FCPS Superintendent Cheryl Dyson to improve the district’s special education programs and further open communication between the school system and the board, she said.

She would also like to see the board expand the Career and Technology Center so it can accommodate more students.

Yoho said she was proud of the role she played in securing a raise for FCPS educators. She’s spent four years learning what’s under the board’s purview and what isn’t, she said, making her better prepared for the work than other candidates.

“The Board of Education position is rarely what people think it is,” she said. “Basically, the first thing they tell you [when you’re elected] is, ‘Forget all your campaign promises, because you really can’t do most of those things.’”

If re-elected, Yoho said, she would largely aim to continue the modest style of leadership she’s tried to embody so far.

“I am not out to make major changes,” Yoho said. “I’m out to improve on what we need to improve on and keep doing what we’re doing great.”

The other candidates in the school board race are: Nancy A. Allen, Olivia Angolia, Liz Barrett, Ysela Bravo, David Brooks, Heather Fletcher, Rae Gallagher, Mark Joannides, April Marie Montgomery, Ashley A. Nieves, Tiffany M. Noble, Rayna T. Remondini, Cindy Rose, Dean Rose and Justi Thomas.

Follow Jillian Atelsek on Twitter:

@jillian_atelsek

Education reporter

Jillian Atelsek covers education for The Frederick News-Post. She grew up near Woodsboro, attended Walkersville High School and graduated from the University of Maryland in 2020 with degrees in journalism and history.

(13) comments

sej58

Will not vote for anyone who voted to lay off the lowest paid school employees, bus drivers and food service workers.

jjmrlife

I've had the honor of knowing Karen since 1997 when I was PTA Council President, when she was the representative for the Urbana Feeder Area. She was and is a hardworking, dedicated, honest, and trustworthy individual who has and is always dedicated to education of students. The P and T in PTA represent the parents and the teachers. Karen has worked diligently to support both families and teachers in her advocacy. I believe what she says and have no doubt in my mind that she speaks the truth. Her credibility and her reputation are solid in my book, and she's got my vote. She has the background and the knowledge to see things from a variety of perspectives and she's a leader I can trust. I've seen things from both sides of the fence as a parent, PTA spokesperson and leader, and a teacher, now 1 year retired. Karen has both perspectives too! That's what makes her an excellent candidate! She will fight for the transparency needed and keep advocacy alive for all!

Boomer631B

No to Yoho... to closely tied to the unions and would like her to make her Email correspondence prior to and during and after the DOJ report was issued regarding our special children of FCPS available for review just to see how transparent she really was about what she knew of the situation and her actions thereafter... glad she got the teachers a needed raise and believes in the technical career training...

Hayduke2

Yes to Yoho!!! Come on boomer - sour grapes...

Boomer631B

Sour grapes about what... she is quite liberal and last thing we need...

Hayduke2

What is your basis for saying she is liberal. Nothing I read support let that or implies she is liberal???

Boomer631B

Actions while on the board... not just words...

Hayduke2

So you have nothing….

KAYoho

You are certainly free to submit a request to see our emails (PIA). Contact the FCPS legal office. April Miller and Colleen Cusimano were on the board in 2017, the first year that the DOJ looked at for its investigation. They said nothing either. Nor did the Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee. We all care about kids. Certainly someone would have spoken up if any of us had known.

Fredginrickey

[thumbup][thumbup]

Boomer631B

Thanks... you can release your own emails by doing the same thing you instructed me to do... that way we would see your transparency... I would think the board members would automatically release the info if they truly believe in transparency..

public-redux

I’m dubious that certain segments of the electorate would believe that all of the relevant emails had been released if done so voluntarily.

kfmd

Do the work. Make the request. And release them all to the public if you think it will make a difference. It’s called civic duty.

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