Rachel McCusker is the elected voice of classroom educators on 14-member board
It took two years of lobbying by educators across the state, but there’s now an active teacher on the Maryland State Board of Education (SBOE). Carroll County educator Rachel McCusker was elected to the SBOE which, with a new parent member joining as well, brings the total members on the SBOE to 14. McCusker will serve for two and a half years, when another election will be held.
MSEA fought back in August when draft regulations from the SBOE suggested candidates for the position would be required to have approval from their superintendent to run for the position. The board backed down, but MSEA President Cheryl Bost and former Howard County educator Del. Eric Ebersole, who sponsored the 2019 legislation, remained concerned about the exhaustive requirements of the application process for the teacher seat compared to the traditional requirements of gubernatorial appointees.
The MSEA Board of Directors recommended McCusker among the nominees who sought MSEA’s endorsement because of her advocacy for common sense testing reform, her experience as a mentor, her negotiation and diplomacy skills, and her record of leadership and consensus building. McCusker, an elementary school music teacher and 2015–2016 Carroll County Teacher of the Year, won the November election which was open to anyone with an active Maryland teaching certificate.
“The duties of a member of the State Board of Education are clearly outlined but I believe I will be setting the standard for how a practicing teacher executes those duties and for making sure those duties are executed in a spirit of collaboration,” McCusker says. “I want to be sure we are student-centered and focused on opportunities for every student.
“It’s important for me as the first teacher member to hold myself to a very high standard and be sure I get input from across the state. I want the information that I give — and my contribution on the board — to represent what you’re seeing across the state.”
McCusker joins the SBOE as virtually the only member with public school classroom teaching experience; one member taught in public schools 50 years ago and one is a former principal who has since founded a private religious all-boys school. Several others are long-standing advocates for charter, for-profit, and private schools — a situation Bost views as untenable. “The current make-up of the board makes it vitally important that we have an on-the-ground educator at the table.
“I can’t wait for the first day that there will be a seat reserved especially for an active teacher,” said Bost. “I’m excited to watch Rachel walk in, take that seat, and be the voice that we’ve long wanted and needed on the state board.”