BOE: Activist-turned-candidate Frank campaigns for D3
A picture of a dirty water bottle from Bodkin Elementary changed Corine Frank. It inspired a passion in her to make things better, and it led to a PTA presidency, a directorship in the Maryland Republican Party-- and now, a campaign for an Anne Arundel County Board of Education seat in District 3 (Pasadena, Lake Shore), where she is a hot contender in a first-ever county board election. Three years ago, though, Frank was a Pasadena mother with two children, a nine- year-old son and five-year old daughter. When the mother glimpsed the picture of discolored school water in a bottle, she was horrified. Her son wouldn’t even drink it, because the discoloration, an almost bronze color, seemed unsanitary. Frank and a group of involved parents immediately testified to the school board to change the water supply. “It was definitely a sense of, ‘This should never happen,’” she said. “Something wasn’t being done correctly and something had to be done to fix it.” The discoloration is a result of iron and mineral buildup in the well water, which runs through pipes connected to the drinking fountains at Bodkin, Chesapeake Middle and Chesapeake High, school officials told the Capital Gazette in March 2017. Though the schools initially claimed it was safe to drink, they eventually buckled and installed water coolers. It was Frank’s first success at improving her community, and it left her with a sense of exhilaration and power to change things for good. “When I was testifying, it was a lightbulb moment for me,” she said. “I knew I had to fix it and I could do this.” Frank applied for an open Board of Education seat later that year. But she competed with a swath of candidates and the governor did not appoint her to the board. In 2018, the Maryland General Assembly approved a full-body election for Anne Arundel County’s school board, opening her district up for election. Frank filed right away. Family First Frank’s candidacy centers on improving the lives of both students and their families. School safety and the children’s well-being outside of the classroom, including nutrition and recess, are vital, she said. During an election year where schools are shut because of Covid-19, parents are losing jobs and uncertainty looms for all, Frank is running on a campaign of hope. Family first “is not so much a step to take as something to constantly consider,” she explained. “Sometimes [people] makes policies because they sound good. But it always has to come back to the kids and the family and what it means for them.” Frank served as PTA president at Bodkin before joining a number of political committees and campaigns to gear up for her board of education run. Frank was Vice Chair of the Anne Arundel County Republican Committee, and she even served a stint in the School Board Appointment Commission to appoint a replacement for a vacant board seat in Anne Arundel. Now, she is the executive director of the Maryland Republican Party. Frank’s political experience has opened her eyes to creating good policy, she said. “A lot of people get angry when they don’t get their way or they don’t understand how to work with people with different opinions,” she said. “I have really learned how to navigate that. It’s not about your cries or your agenda, it’s about moving forward.” Frank would wield this expertise on the board, creating better policy for all, she said. For one, she wants to increase recess time for children. Her own son has ADHD, and she found increasing the amount of playtime he gets each day has helped, forgoing the need to put him on medication. Extended recess also allows kids to interact with other children more. “We don’t give them time to solve problems with kids,” she added. “We give them stress but not the ability to manage it.” Frank is also an advocate for better nutrition, citing statistics that show children’s performance improve when they eat better. She wants “healthy, balanced meals” and increased lunch time, because the cafeteria lines can be long. “Sometimes when it’s a pizza day, the kids only get five minutes to eat,” she said. Frank has one volunteer for her campaign who is completely behind her message. Pauline Elliott has hosted fundraisers and posted yard signs supporting Frank. She even drives around with a sticker on the back of her van labeled in pink: “Corine Frank for Board of Ed.” When they met a year ago, Elliott said she knew immediately Frank would be “fantastic” for the board. “We need someone like her, with a strong backbone, who can really put their foot down,“ Elliott added. Frank’s experience improving the school’s water supply proves she can do just that.