6. Chris Hilfiger. C-. Voters will not react well to the fact that he has “not attended a board meeting in person.” Yes, you are busy. We all are. Combating “waste and inefficiency” is not a unique point of differentiation. Yes, the message appeals to some voters, but they have other choices with similar priorities on the same ballot. Overall, he didn’t provide much in the way of meat in his responses. The average media and policy attentive voter is likely to come away thinking that he isn’t as immersed in the issues as the other candidates. The C- is a bit generous.
7. Anita Pandey. B+. Dr. Pandey is well-qualified based on her extensive education background. So why the (relatively) low grade? Whenever one writes more than Robert Miller (the BoE version of the Mendoza line), that is likely a sign that some careful editing would help. Even informed voters who take the time to delve deeply into policies and platforms have their limits. There is so much there there, that time-pressed readers might not locate the truly important information. In fairness, this is not a problem throughout her responses – but it is most apparent in the experiences section (Question 1) and in the equity reply (Question 6). I believe she has some excellent content in the “budget and financing” query (Question 4). The line that “the last place we should cut funding is the classroom” is simple yet powerful; and she backs it up with specific ideas as to how HCPSS might be able to realize some savings. She takes a novel narrative approach on equity, linking it up with the history of Columbia, which should have some appeal, especially with Columbia voters. She provides a great deal of supporting material but the central animating principle, which appears to be located at the end of the second paragraph in that section, is a buried lede. Her priorities response is what, ultimately, gave her a B+ and not a B. It was succinct, memorable, and well-rounded...moving from “outcomes…inclusive pedagogy,” to budget issues, and to “listening to/learning from students…to retaining and rewarding educators.” From a communications perspective, she ended on a strong note. She just needs to bear in mind the information delivery and exchange needs and preferences of the Howard County electorate.
8. Carleen Pena. B. There wasn’t much in her responses to the first six questions that stood out. If a voter was looking for a reason to vote for Pena, there wasn’t much until the “overcrowding” question (Question 7) where she went into some detail on her thoughts on the problem and possible solutions. That said, her choice of language on busing as it pertains to diversity might be off-putting to some segments of the electorate (and, in these times, a positive amongst others). Some language, “our school communities are more than just polygons” or “robbing Peter to pay Paul” was a bit boilerplate, she did best when she talks about what she is against or has concerns about (PARCC, arming teachers). I just don’t think there was enough, in this questionnaire alone, to change many hearts and minds in her direction.
9. Chao Wu. B-. If brevity is the soul of wit, then this response was the cleverest (although not humorous, pity). Very logical (engineering background, and it shows) but sorely lacking in detail. Voters might agree with his priorities, but without greater depth, some of his replies come across as platitudes (“I believe equity is great…”)… well, OK then. Concise, but not illuminating. This was a lost opportunity for Wu to connect with voters who prefer to receive information from candidate questionnaires.
Next up, Part III: the final four.