Paulette Anders is running for the Frederick County Board of Education on a simple but influential message.
“We’ve got to get these kids back to school,” she said.
Anders, a mother of a senior at Middletown High School, became a new addition to the Board of Education race less than a week ago, but her name won’t appear on the ballot.
Because she filed her campaign with the Frederick County Board of Elections so late in the game, Anders is considered an official write-in candidate. Her ability to win, apart from her campaign, rests on voters both writing her name down and spelling it correctly. Her campaign’s Facebook page is filled with reminders that spelling variations on the ballot will not be counted.
She is one of many parents across the county who are disappointed with the current board’s lack of progress on returning students to school. Anders decided to take her disappointment one step further.
“It is no secret that I want kids in school...I find it absolutely awful that the Board of Education is not following the desires of the parents,” Anders said. “I felt compelled to represent the parents that responded to the survey in July that they wanted their kids back at some point.”
If she manages to win one of the three seats up for grabs, Anders understands she is only one vote and may not sway the direction of the board. She is hopeful that she will be able to enact change both with reopening schools and other issues, and she says is well-versed on a variety of education topics.
Anders has been in the education field for more than 25 years. She holds a master’s degree in education and has worked at both Mount St. Mary’s University and Johns Hopkins University. She has also done work for FCPS. She once co-chaired the Calendar Committee and has served as a long-term school counseling substitute.
Besides being focused on getting kids back into the classroom, Anders said she hopes to also focus on racial equity issues, if elected.
As the country has gone through its own reckoning of race relations, Anders said she has been trying to educate herself by researching and reading books that explore the topic.
She wants the FCPS curriculum to include more authors of different backgrounds and underrepresented communities and thinks modern-day content like the 1619 Project from the New York Times could be used in upper-level classrooms to have discussions around race and address current events.
“[Students] really appreciate frank, true discussion. They don’t want just the fluff. They really want to get real in the classroom with their peers and have a safe place to do so and training our teachers to facilitate real discussions, especially at the secondary level, I think is really important for the social issues,” Anders said.
Anders also wants to increase teacher pay but realizes it’s easier said than done. She admitted she is not a fan of teachers’ unions.
“For many reasons, I think [unions] hurts teacher salaries. I think these unions are great to make sure these teachers aren’t overworked...to support teachers if they’re not being treated fairly in the workplace,” Anders said. “I think where sometimes the unions hurt teachers is that there are teachers out there who are working night and day to make this virtual world work, and wouldn’t it be great if we could reward those teachers for doing that...and currently, right now, we can’t do that.”
She also knows that the virtual model of learning could continue for some time and said she appreciates that students get some sort of connection with teachers on a daily basis. Anders also said FCPS has done a good job of preventing and mitigating the number of tech outages or other issues.
However, Anders did say that she has been hearing from parents that students aren’t getting the required 3.5 hours of daily instruction required by the Maryland State Department of Education.
“There are teachers out there who are not doing their full live instruction on the times that they’re supposed to,” Anders said. “I do recognize parents are happier than they were in the spring because it is better than it was in the spring, but it is not yet where it can be, and just because it’s better, that doesn’t mean our students are getting the education that they deserve.”