Board of Education candidate Ann De Lacy says she has become “frightened” by the torrent of online criticism that has been lobbed her way as she wages a controversial campaign to get a seat on the school board in Howard County.
She has been called 'volatile,’ 'arrogant' and 'ignorant' by her critics, words that have appeared on blogs and online forums across Howard County.
“I’m a 62-year-old woman who served the community as a teacher. I’m a grandmother. I’m a volunteer in schools. So, it’s shocking to me to be called names in such a vociferous way,” said De Lacy, 62. “It’s totally uncivil. More than uncivil, dangerous.”
In the 15-person primary in May, De Lacy, of Columbia, finished second with 28.6 percent of the vote. In the general election in November, she is competing against incumbents Janet Siddiqui and Ellen Flynn Giles and challengers David Gertler, Robert Ballinger and Jackie Scott for three open seats.
A central part of De Lacy's platform is her belief in equity across the school system, an issue she publicly stated former superintendent Sydney Cousin and his chief of staff did not go far enough to address.
“I sincerely believe they felt that if they dared to veer from the status quo, they would be deemed as doing so because they were Black and feared the results,” wrote De Lacy on a Howard County Public Schools forum.
Attempts to contact Cousin for a response were not immediately returned Thursday.
De Lacy has also lamented Race to the Top, a federal program that ties student test performance with teacher pay, saying: “all we do is teach to a test.”
‘Who Died And Made you God?’
De Lacy acknowledges that she has once been “uncivil” during the campaign, which has made her a target for critics.
During one exchange with a high school student who had dropped out of the school board race and had declined to endorse De Lacy, she wrote this on the public schools forum:
“Corey, who died and made you God?”
Corey Andrews, 18, the former candidate who was finishing up his senior year at Howard High School, had just written on the forum that he was supporting Ballinger, Giles and Siddiqui in the general election.
De Lacy acknowledged that it was rude of her to make the “Who died and made you God” comment about Andrews.
“That’s the only uncivil thing I’ve said,” said De Lacy.
The comment made waves.
Recently, De Lacy further clashed with Andrews on the online public schools forum after Andrews referred to her as a "union thug" on the forum on July 21.
They disagreed on teachers’ unions, and Andrews specifically wondered whether De Lacy's former involvement in the Howard County teachers' union made her a good candidate to change the school board.
At one point, De Lacy described Andrews’s comments on the teachers' union issue as “hate speech.”
De Lacy told Patch that people have told her not to respond to Andrews, but that she believes it’s harmful for him “to be so young and so bitter.”
On Wednesday, Andrews said he thinks De Lacy is "arrogant." He said during the primary, De Lacy had sent him an email asking him to drop out of the race and support her, to which he responded he’d rather stay in the race.
De Lacy taught at Owen Brown Middle School for 25 years. She has also served as president of the Howard County Education Association—the teachers’ union—for six years, from 2005 to 2011, and is currently a member of the HCPSS operating budget review committee.
Delegate Liz Bobo, a Democrat, is among those supporting De Lacy. She declared her support for De Lacy at a recent fundraising event.
“I’m supporting and planning to work for Ann,” said Bobo, who cited De Lacy’s courage, deep understanding of education and thoughtful decision making as reasons for her support.
De Lacy has also been endorsed by the HCEA and the African American Coalition of Howard County.
Making Waves on the Web
Tom Coale, a board member of the Columbia Association and author of HoCoRising wrote that De Lacy appeared “volatile” in public forums.
Woodcock, a former president of the Young Democrats of Maryland, wrote in one post that De Lacy is a “mean-spirited, divisive, ignorant individual with an ego approximately 80 times greater than [her] aptitude for service.”
After writing that, he added in the same post, “Leave my name out of your mouth. Either spoken or in writing. Because if you continue to go there, you are going to unleash eleven weeks of fury that neither you nor your tens of supporters will be able to control. I guarantee you that.”
According to Woodcock, he said De Lacy was using his name out of context in a forum post in which she said school leaders weren't doing enough to change policies negatively affecting African American students.
Woodcock told Patch in an interview regarding De Lacy's fear of being harmed, that she has a penchant for hyperbole.
"I mean her no harm and no ill will," said Woodcock on Thursday. He said that although he agrees with her on many of her positions on issues such as greater transparency and an expanded pre-kindergatern program, it has been her negative campaign that has drawn his criticism.
He said at a time when the board is reeling from divisiveness stemming from school board member Allen Dyer's lawsuits against the board, the board needs unity, which he doesn't see De Lacy bringing.
"I see her agenda as wanting to settle scores," said Woodcock.
Concern for the Future
De Lacy admits that some of this comes with the territory of running a campaign.
“If you’re going to put yourself out there like I have, you’re going to tick off a lot of people,” she said.
Still, she said she worries it could discourage future contenders from running.
“In light of all the shootings that have been going on, you don’t know what might set off another human being,” she said. “I just wonder that maybe people are not running for board of education or other things, maybe African Americans, because they are afraid of being targeted and called such names.”
Editor's Note: An original version of this story stated Sonoma's was in Oakland Mills, it's in fact in Owen Brown.