Sue Johnson always wanted to be in Frederick County. In 1996, she decided to leave the United Kingdom where she had been working for many years and return to the U.S., and there was only one place on her radar.
“I actually made a conscious decision, of any place in the world that I could live in, I chose Frederick County,” Johnson said.
The current Frederick Community College professor has worked in the county as an educator and volunteer firefighter and EMT ever since.
With more than 20 years of working with Frederick County students, Johnson said she felt like she could do more, which is why she decided to run for the Frederick County Board of Education.
“I felt like I do have something more to offer because I’m a member of the community, I have a son in the school system, I know a lot about education, and I see the result of what Frederick County Public Schools produces at FCC,” Johnson said. “I just thought it would be a bigger way to make a contribution.”
Johnson initially applied for the vacant position left on the board by Joy Schaefer’s resignation in January to take a job with the county, but she did not get selected.
Her platform is simple. She wants to help ensure that FCPS continues providing excellence in education.
Her priorities include securing more funding for the school system and expanding successful programs like the Career and Technology Center.
“Imagine what we could do if we did make a more significant investment in our students,” Johnson said.
Securing more funding comes from developing good relationships with legislators both at the county and state level, Johnson said, adding that she feels she is equipped to do that, having been the driving force behind a bill related to the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act that was signed into law earlier this year.
“I went through the entire process, having never done it before, and out of the 3,000-plus pieces of legislation that were introduced, the one that I ushered through was one of the 600 bills passed,” Johnson said.
With the right funding, Johnson says other priorities like higher teacher salaries can be achieved.
When asked how she would handle the budget process, Johnson said she would follow guidelines and keep the goal of delivering the best education at the forefront of her mind.
“Everything has to be focused on delivering education and doing the best we can,” Johnson said. “I’m not saying throw money at it but let’s be really smart and strategic ... because a well-educated community is going to result in a better community ... and will produce economic results for the county.”
The most pressing issue for her right now though, as a candidate, is how FCPS is going to move forward from the coronavirus pandemic.
Johnson is a parent of an FCPS second-grader and said although she has seen teachers go above and beyond to help their students, she wonders how prepared the school system was for such an extended closure.
The biggest issue for her is the lack of cohesion around how students are receiving their education. Johnson said her child has multiple logins for multiple educational platforms which in turn, has made distance learning challenging.
“I don’t see a single platform that FCPS is using ... and who knows what it’s going to be like in the fall, he could have a teacher that’s using a different methodology. It’s really critical that you have continuity,” Johnson said.
Her experience with FCC and helping put structures and systems in place to deal with situations like extended closures is something Johnson hopes to bring to the board.
She admits that she doesn’t have much background regarding early childhood and elementary education but feels her strong suit for working with a wide array of people will help bridge the gaps.
Johnson does have a deep knowledge though about the county and the students it produces and she hopes that will be a valuable insight as a potential board member.
“I care about education, I’m committed to it and I’m also committed to our community. I have been for over two decades,” she said.