Rae Gallagher is the newest member of the Frederick County Board of Education, but she wasn’t a unanimous pick.
County Council members voted 5-2 Tuesday to confirm Gallagher after she was announced by County Executive Jan Gardner (D) as her pick on Monday to fill a vacancy on the Board of Education. Councilmen Phil Dacey (R) and Steve McKay (R) were the two no votes.
Dacey and McKay said before voting that they appreciated the transparency of the process, but they would have preferred another candidate over Gallagher.
McKay said he still preferred someone who had prior experience with the Board of Education and its budget process; that would have meant finalist Ron Peppe out of the three names forwarded to Gardner. Susan Johnson was the other candidate.
McKay and Dacey also said since the position is normally an elected seat — versus volunteer board and commission seats the council confirms — the council should act as more of a check on the executive.
“When we’re talking about an appointment to an elected position, we have to treat it a little different ... particularly for what was most important for me in this decision, I do have to vote no,” McKay said.
But council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) and Councilman Kai Hagen (D) both said their colleagues should consider that Gardner included them in the process at all, something not required by law.
“We have never done that before. I think it sets us apart as being extremely transparent,” Keegan-Ayer said about the process. “And I would encourage my colleagues to recognize that was a huge improvement, and I think it would behoove us to vote to support the nominee.”
Tuesday marked the end of a monthslong process initiated in early November when Roger Wilson, the county’s director of government affairs and public policy, announced he was stepping down from that post.
Wilson’s replacement, Joy Schaefer, who was serving as the Board of Education’s vice president, led to the vacancy. Wilson is guiding Schaefer through the responsibilities of the job, and he will permanently step down next month.
Seventeen county residents submitted their names for consideration for the vacancy. Of those, council members interviewed the following six at Winchester Hall: Tracy Dunheimer, Gallagher, Johnson, April Miller, Peppe and Caleb Rose.
Gallagher, a program director for the Center for Supportive School — a nonprofit organization that helps schools boost academic achievement and better decision-making — said Monday she was planning on running for election this fall for the seat.
One area Gallagher said she agreed with Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent Terry Alban was reducing class sizes. That way, teachers can more properly focus on their students, Gallagher said.
“l think that’s probably increasing hiring and retention of our teachers,” she said of one way to address that issue. “[And] I think, of course, it comes down to the budget and what will be possible in the short term.”