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Guest Commentary: Leadership Gap in Dist. 41 Needs to Be Filled by a Teacher

J.D. Merrill

While much attention has been paid to the circumstances surrounding Sen. Nathaniel Oaks’ resignation from the Maryland Senate, all eyes will now turn to the competitive race to replace him.


As was reported last week, I am not applying to complete the remainder of Sen. Oaks’ term. I believe the choice between the candidates running for state Senate should be made at the ballot box, not in a back room. Instead of trying to whip votes on the Democratic Central Committee, I’m focused on earning the trust of the hardworking people of the 41st District.


 J.D. Merrill


I am running and running hard because now more than ever we need to elect more teachers to the Maryland General Assembly. Here are three reasons why:


The Political Moment for Public Education

Right now, the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence, also known as the Kirwan Commission, is engaged in the important work of reimagining public education in the state of Maryland. Its recommendations will go before the General Assembly during the 2019 legislative session.


That means the 2018 election will determine who is at the table when decisions are made about how an entire generation of young people will experience public schools in Maryland.


The stakes are high. And not just for our kids. Maryland’s economic future and our ability to keep our children and families safe is on the line. We all do better when our schools do better.


To get this right in 2019, teachers need to have a seat at the table. And that starts by electing more of us in 2018.


Listening and Learning

Teachers understand the fundamental importance of listening to and learning from those they serve — students and families.


Elected leadership is no different. The depth and breadth of the challenges we face can be daunting.

But from listening to our neighbors across the district we’ve developed a Roadmap to Upward Mobility, a series of policy proposals in 12 different areas — from public safety, to job creation, to transportation — that will help us address these challenges and grow and strengthen the middle class.


I don’t pretend to have all the answers. But I do know where to find them — by doing my homework and listening to and learning from the people of the 41st District.


Showing Up and Working Hard

Effective teachers build meaningful relationships with those they serve. And they do that by showing up and working hard every single day for children and families. That’s the approach I’ll take as a state senator, too.


Our campaign has knocked on the doors of thousands of residents across the district. And we keep hearing how rare that type of hands-on engagement is — people tell me they haven’t seen their elected officials in decades.


That’s unacceptable. We need elected officials who want to do the work, not just collect a salary and a title.


Simply put, the leadership gap in District 41 needs to be filled by a teacher. As a former teacher, the value I will bring to the General Assembly goes beyond my background in education. I know how to listen to and learn from those I serve, and I know how to show up and work hard.


These should be basic prerequisites for holding elected office. But in the case of this campaign it seems to be what sets us apart.


J.D. Merrill

The writer is a Democrat running for state Senate in Maryland’s 41st legislative district. He is a former teacher and administrator in Baltimore City Public Schools. He can be reached at [email protected].


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Guest Commentary: Leadership Gap in Dist. 41 Needs to Be Filled by a Teacher