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Steven Blair and Carolie Owens are elected to join the school board following the April 2 election 

Carolie+Owens+participates+in+FHSD+Board+of+Education+meeting.+After+just+being+elected+early+this+month%2C+Owens+participates+in+her+first+official+board+meeting+on+Thursday%2C+Apr.+18.
Credit to Chris Brandt
Carolie Owens participates in FHSD Board of Education meeting. After just being elected early this month, Owens participates in her first official board meeting on Thursday, Apr. 18.

On April 2, Steven Blair and Carolie Owens were elected to the Francis Howell School Board. The newly elected members defeated Adriana Kuhn and Sam Young in the election. They replaced retiring Board Directors Chad Lange and Janet Stiglich and will hold office until 2027.

“It was very exciting,” Owens said. “And the best thing for me was seeing so many happy people. I’ve never felt that this is about me. As a teacher, you always feel like it’s about everybody.”

The new members have expressed wanting to focus on bringing more action to the Board’s collaboration with teachers in the school district. Blair and Owens both expressed discomfort with how the previous Board majority approached teachers and their concerns and saw changing that conversation as a key way they could create positive change.

“First up has to be repairing the culture that is pushing teachers away, including prospective teachers,” Blair said. “The problem is that the board over the last year has not listened to teachers’ complaints of feeling micromanaged and disrespected.”

Students were an active part of the recent controversy on the removal and reinstatement of Black Literature classes by the Board of Education. Their actions took many forms from participating in a walkout to speaking at monthly board meetings. Owens took a stance of listening to public discourse and student interest.

“I think we need more student activism because I think students have pretty much kind of backed off and not paid attention,” Owens said. “I think they need to pay attention to what’s happening in their society. They need to pay attention by voting when they’re old enough because voting is really your power in our Democratic society.”

Blair has expressed that he wants to build more cooperation within the Board to address divisive issues. The newly elected members claim to stand out because of their prior experience with getting people to cooperate and come to a conclusion.

“First, it starts by not vilifying the other side, whether it’s the other side of the board or other side of the community, and realizing that we have a lot in common,” Blair said. “From there, it includes trying to build consensus and conversation on a topic. In my opinion, the hotter the button topic, the more important it is for the leadership to be cool-headed and to have roundtable conversations around it.”

One plan that Owens has for expanding communication is meeting with the students of Francis Howell. Owens expressed her desire to spend time physically going into different schools to see what the day-to-day concerns of students and teachers are.

“I think if you’re going to serve at every school, you really need to know the schools,” Owens said. “So, as soon as I get sworn in, I want to start going around to the schools, and just kind of hang out and meet people.”

Whether the new Board members will be looked at fondly or not remains to be decided, but it certainly is clear that they are bringing new ideas to the Board of Education. Implementing those ideas may be difficult considering they are in the minority on the Board; however, many voters have been seen speaking out on the change they’re hoping to see.

“Ten years from now, I hope people see the 2024 election as the time that Francis Howell shifted back to what made it such a great school district, the number one school district in Saint Charles County,” Blair said. “That in 2024, Carolie Owens and I started this turnaround and that people saw our leadership, our passion for student success and supporting teachers.”

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