On Tuesday night, Frederick County Council members will field public comment from county residents on six candidates to replace Joy Schaefer on the Board of Education.
Schaefer is vacating her seat to serve as government affairs and public policy director in County Executive Jan Gardner’s office. The council interviewed the six finalists at Winchester Hall last Friday, and will vote to send three names to Gardner after the public hearing Tuesday.
Gardner will then pick one name for the council to confirm in a majority vote. Here is more information on the six finalists, listed in alphabetical order by last name:
Tracy Dunheimer is a longtime Frederick County resident whose children have all attended FCPS.
She is a former public school teacher who now works as a senior faculty specialist for the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership at the University of Maryland.
She said her vision for the Board of Education is to make sure the community is aware of all the resources available for students and that it doesn’t matter which school a child attends — they will still receive a good education.
Dunheimer said she could bring to the board a strong connection to outside resources that could be used to help improve the school system.
When asked her thoughts on charter schools, Dunheimer said she thinks the schools have a place in the county as long as they do not become exclusive in terms of the educational opportunities they provide.
“If we think what the charter schools is doing is valuable, I think we need to look at spreading what they’re doing around rather than isolating them,” Dunheimer said.
If appointed, Dunheimer said she is unsure whether she would run for election in December when the term ends, saying she would have to see over the next year how well the board position complements with her full-time job and whether she feels she can give equal dedication to both.
Rae Gallagher is a Frederick County parent with one child currently attending FCPS and another soon to enter.
She works as a program director for the Center for Supportive Schools, a nonprofit organization that helps schools improve decision-making and boost academic achievement.
“I have seen what having a high level of resources dedicated to schools can bring to students and to educators,” Gallagher said in her interview with the Frederick County Council on Friday. “I think the board has a unique opportunity to look at the changing demographics of the county and really think about what are the opportunities to make sure that all students have the resources that they need.”
Gallagher said she sees the Board of Education as setting the budget direction and policy priorities of the school system while the superintendent serves as the “beacon of leadership” and the one to be held accountable if results fall short.
When asked about merit pay, Gallagher said she feels it’s important to establish competitive base pay in order to retain and develop teachers. Merit pay, she said, can be used as an added motivator and recognition for going above and beyond in instruction.
Johnson has also never run for the Board of Education, but she has been a faculty member at Frederick Community College since 1997. The FCC website states that Johnson teaches courses related to business and technology and similar fields.
Regarding the academic calendar, Johnson said in her interview she would prefer the Board of Education set two years of academic calendars at once, versus annually.
“The first thing I would do is make sure we’re always working two years ahead,” Johnson said. “I know that when Governor [Larry] Hogan made the mandate, it forced everyone to go back and look at that.”
Working with two-year calendars is the policy at FCC, she added.
“We work on the two-year calendar, so we always pick our dates before we know what the school system’s are,” Johnson said.
Miller previously served on the Board of Education from 2010 to 2018, and ran for re-election last fall but was fifth in a race where four people were elected to the board. She currently serves on the Charter Review Commission, tasked with making recommended changes to the County Council about charter government.
In her interview last Friday, Miller said one of the areas she wished she had helped change in her prior time on the board was school start times. She said better sleep, fewer car crashes and other factors contributed to that reasoning.
“That was one of the decisions that got left on the table that I wish I could have gotten through,” Miller said.
“I didn’t want to completely reinvent the wheel, because ... it impacts the entire community when you change start times, and there’s a lot of factors to consider when you do that,” she added. “My idea for start times was actually to put the high schools at 8:30 [a.m], keep the middle schools at 8 [a.m.] where they had been, and then bring the elementary schools at 9:15 [a.m.]”
Ron Peppe served on the Frederick County Board of Education from 1997 to 2004. During that time, he also served for five years as board president.
He has also previously served on the Board of Education of the Falls Church school district in Virginia and the Falls Church City Council.
“I had to sit on the other side of the desk where the school board came and asked for money and asked for approval and juggled some of those priorities, so I’ve got that experience,” Peppe told the Frederick County Council in his interview last Friday.
Peppe feels that the main mission of the board is to set the standards, on which the superintendent follows through.
Board members provide “the vision, give the task to the superintendent, let the superintendent carry it out,” Peppe said. “Make sure the superintendent has the resources, the support to do those things, but at the same time the superintendent has to be held accountable ... for results.”
Peppe works for an international manufacturing company where he heads up the legal and human resources department.
Rose works at both Hood College and Frederick Community College. According to his LinkedIn page, he is an adjunct professor at Hood and the senior researcher in institutional effectiveness at FCC.
When county officials interviewed Rose last Friday, he touted his background in K-12 education policy, saying that would be a good skill set to add to the current Board of Education.
“Looking at the composition of the board, I thought my background in policy, K-12 policy specifically and program evaluation, in looking at how educational programs are evaluated and implemented in K-12 schooling could be something that would be an asset to this board,” Rose said.
“I know that Ms. [Joy] Schaefer had some bit of a policy background, but in a different arena, and so, once again, this seems like a good way to fill that void,” he added.