Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008

School board chief to seek council seat

Navarro’s election to the council would shake up school board, reunite her with Valerie Ervin

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School board President Nancy Navarro will run in the special election to fill the District 4 County Council seat, which had been held by Marilyn J. Praisner until her death Feb. 1.

‘‘I feel like it’s an important continuation of the work I’ve been doing for the county,” Navarro said. ‘‘I believe that I’m ready.”

The board in December re-elected Navarro to a second term as president. After the vote, she told her board colleagues that she would not serve another term as president.

‘‘Obviously, it’s a very unexpected position,” said Navarro, a 42-year-old Democrat. ‘‘But when I looked at my experience, it parallels the experience of Marilyn Praisner.”

Praisner served eight years on the school board, including two years as board president, before being elected to the council in 1990.

Navarro was first appointed to the school board in 2004 to fill the District 5 school board seat held by Henry Lee, who left the board to spend more time with family.

She is the second person to announce a candidacy for the vacancy. Last week, activist Steve Kanstoroom of Ashton announced his bid.

A Navarro victory would further shake up a school board that is already undergoing some changes. Vice President Shirley Brandman (At-large) of Bethesda would assume the president’s duties until the full board votes on its leadership.

Sharon W. Cox, who has been on the board seven years, is not seeking re-election in November. Candidates Philip Kauffman and Tommy Le will battle for the seat.

Longtime board member Stephen N. Abrams is locked in a race against attorney Laura V. Berthiaume for the District 2 seat.

Navarro’s move would pair her once again with Valerie Ervin, who left the school board in 2006 after being elected to the County Council.

The two, who both live in Silver Spring, sat on the school board together and often pressed Superintendent Jerry D. Weast and his staff on efforts to close the achievement gap.

‘‘I am very excited about Nancy’s candidacy,” Ervin said. ‘‘She has proven herself to be a leader. She’s someone who’s not afraid to make tough decisions.”

Navarro’s appointment to the County Council could also mean a further realignment of its education committee, which meets regularly with school system officials to get updates on initiatives.

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Navarro has lived in Montgomery for 16 years. She is married with two children.

During an interview, Navarro said ‘‘there’s no doubt” she would want to serve on the education committee, which recommends school system funding to the entire council.

She is also interested in serving on the Health and Human Services committee, but it’s ‘‘a matter of ‘What are the openings?’ I welcome any opportunity to serve,” Navarro said.

The school board passed a $2.11 billion fiscal 2009 operating budget proposal Feb. 6 that aims to roll out the system’s middle school reform plan to 10 schools. The budget still has to pass through County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who will include it in his budget recommendation to the County Council.

The council, which has the final say on all budgets, will make its decision in May.