Karla Silvestre and Brenda Wolff officially began an “often thankless” job on Monday afternoon, but did so with five colleagues poised to help them find success.
Silvestre and Wolff were sworn in Monday as new Montgomery County Board of Education members, officially beginning four-year terms representing At-Large and District 1 communities, respectively, and replacing outgoing board members Jill Ortman-Fouse and Mike Durso.
“The work of this board is complex and challenging and much more difficult than most people realize,” Schools Superintendent Jack Smith said during Monday’s ceremony at the Carver Education Services Center in Rockville. “… I will just say to each of you, Ms. Wolff and Ms. Silvestre, I’m so excited that we’re going to get to work together, both individually and collectively, and I look forward to all you will bring to the table for our students.”
Both Silvestre and Wolff are Silver Spring residents and serving in their first elected offices. What they lack in experience working in public office they make up for in education experience, other board members said.
Silvestre, 46, is director of community engagement for Montgomery College and has served as the Latino community liaison for the Montgomery County government. She has advocated for expanding early childhood education opportunities and dual-language programs as a way for tackling academic disparities.
“All of our students, regardless of their background, if given opportunity and access to a high-quality public education, can achieve their full potential,” Silvestre said. “While we have big challenges ahead of us, I firmly believe that in this county, together, we have what it takes to solve our problems.”
Wolff, 65, is a retired U.S. Department of Education official and ran unopposed for the District 5 seat. Wolff previously worked as acting director of the National Institute on Education of At-Risk Students and program manager for the National Assessment of Education Progress.
In her campaign for school board, Wolff advocated for expanding early childhood education and increasing school board accountability with the public.
“You may think this day is about me and the others that are being sworn in today. I want to make it clear that it’s really about the future of students at MCPS,” Wolff said. “I will do my best to support policies and goals that will allow our students and staff to reach their highest potential.”
School board members Shebra Evans, Rebecca Smondrowski, Jeanette Dixon, Pat O’Neill and Judy Docca all voiced support of the incoming board members during Monday’s ceremony and said they’re excited to get to work Tuesday, during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting.
“This job is a thankless job a lot of the time, but I very much look forward to embarking on the task of continuing to move our county forward with your collaboration and help,” Smondrowski said.