"Zany" Veteran teacher-mentor Baughman runs for BOE D3
Ken Baughman, candidate for District 3 Ken Baughman has dedicated most of his life to mentoring. There’s his sister, who has special needs. His younger friends. And, perhaps most importantly, the students he’s taught for 40 years. “I love teaching,” he said. “It’s my lifelong work. I can go anywhere in town, and kids know me and I know them.” Baughman, 64, has taught at schools across Anne Arundel County during his long career. He plans to extend his altruistic reach a little further this year by running for the Anne Arundel County Board of Education in District 3, which covers Pasadena, Lake Shore and parts of Severna Park and Glen Burnie. Baughman believes there have been too few teachers on the board. “I would like the board to know the teacher’s point of view,” he said. Baughman has joined the race along with two other candidates in an unprecedented election. For the first time, voters will elect a candidate in District 3-- rather than the governor appointing one. Baughman promises to bring a veteran teacher’s perspective to the board, who will tackle long-standing issues such as low teacher pay, proper teacher certification, and an expansion of post-high school opportunities for students. Baughman is now retired and a substitute teacher at Chesapeake middle school, but the former career teacher has a proven track record. He launched the Foundation of Educational Excellence in 1991, an organization that clothes local children in the county and hands out scholarships. He even chaired the Maryland State Teachers Association. “I have a unique perspective that the other candidates don’t have,” Baughman said. “I teach the kids here. I know a lot about what’s going on in the classrooms.” A Lifelong Mentor When he was just 14, Baughman had it all figured out. His civics teacher asked him what he wanted to do, and he responded quickly: a technology-education teacher who works with special needs children. Baughman began his teaching career in January 1978 at Severn River Junior High, soon transitioning to schools around the county, always teaching technology, science or special education. At Northeast High in Pasadena, he met a student he would take under his wing for life-- Jarred Mercer. “When we first met, he seemed like this small, zany character,” Mercer quipped. “But he got me on the straight and narrow. I wasn’t going to college, it wasn’t financially in my wheelhouse, and he mentored me and helped me choose a profession.” Mercer is now an electrician who lives in Pasadena, not far from his old teacher. The two remain friends: Baughman became a “father-figure” to him when he was in school, and that hasn’t changed. “He’s a great candidate for the board,” Mercer added. “He really has dedicated his professional life to students.” ‘Still Coming Down’ As a candidate, Baughman has promised to increase vocational opportunities for students, so schools can “broaden the horizon” and provide more opportunities outside of college. He would raise student awareness of labor trades by bringing companies into schools, just as colleges come and present to students. “College education is a good thing,” he said. “But trades are good, too, and many of them would get better pay in a trade.” The Kirwan Commission, appointed by the state legislature in 2016 to create successful education in Maryland schools, concurs. They have vowed to increase vocational opportunities as well, finding that the state could “profit” from the expanded job market. Baughman prioritizes student mental health as well, promising to hire more school counselors. He supports the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, legislation passed by the state legislature this year at the Kirwan Commission’s recommendation. Among a drastic overhaul of the Maryland public education system, it includes record funding to increase pay for teachers--and ensure they are properly certified, something he believes is commonly overlooked. “We have to do something,” Baughman said. “It’s becoming more of an issue. I don’t want an uncertified teacher teaching these kids.” And because the novel coronavirus has shuttered school doors, Baughman said some students with inadequate resources are “further behind” with their online work. To address this, the candidate wishes to give chromebooks for every student who needs one. Baughman has run into a few roadblocks during the pandemic, too. He had to cancel a fundraiser and he can't go door-to-door. To get around the issue, Baughman has settled into phone banking, and even informing residents of the election at grocery stores. Even with his hands tied, he’s still “fairly optimistic” about turnout in the June primary, when two of the three candidates in District 3 will advance to the general election in November. Whether he wins or not, Baughman’s advocacy days are not over, said Ned Carey, a House of Delegates Representative in District 31a, and a former board member himself. “I’ve known Ken since my days on the school board--he was out there advocating for teachers, for students,” he explained. “Now, even as a retired teacher, I still see him coming down” to advocate.