The Montgomery County school board this week narrowed a list of candidates hoping to fill a vacancy from 18 people to eight.

On Nov. 30, the board members will interview the eight candidates for 30 minutes each, beginning at 10 a.m. The interviews will not be televised, but the meeting will be open to the public.

The person who is appointed will serve the remaining year of Pat O’Neill’s term. O’Neill died on Sept. 14 at age 71. She had held the District 3 seat since 1998. District 3 includes parts of Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Kensington and Potomac.

The school board narrowed the list of candidates during a closed session meeting on Thursday.

The eight finalists who will be interviewed and a few details from their applications (in particular, current job and current or past experience with PTA or schools):

• Cynthia Anderson-Clay of Potomac: director of development for George B. Thomas Sr. Learning Academy; worked on a plan to have high school students watch younger students, so parents in Scotland community could attend PTA meetings; was secretary for Bells Mill Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association


• Ana Sol Gutierrez of Chevy Chase: Maryland state delegate from 2002 to 2018; Montgomery County Board of Education member from 1990 to 1998; former deputy administrator within the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Special Programs Administration; president CEO of IT consulting firm

• Scott Joftus of Bethesda: co-founder and president of FourPoint Education Partners, a consulting firm; adjunct professor of education policy, program evaluation and leadership at George Washington University

• Benjamin McDonough of Kensington: chief counsel for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in the U.S. Department of the Treasury; has held positions working with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; taught English in Finland


• Neal Orringer of Bethesda: founding president of Applied Science and Technology Research Organization (ASTRO America); senior technology leader for The General Electric Company; has held positions with Seven Locks Elementary School PTA and MCCPTA; served on MCPS Operating Budget Committee

• Debby Orsak of North Bethesda: president of Cagley & Associates, which works on general structural engineering of buildings; involved with PTAs at three schools and MCCPTA; part of some MCPS work groups

• Vashti Van Wyke of Cabin John: attorney; has been active in PTAs for Bannockburn Elementary, Chevy Chase Elementary and Pyle Middle schools; was a board member for Clara Barton Center for Children, a preschool in Cabin John


• Julie Yang of Potomac: Montgomery County Public Schools employee from 2011 to 2021 (instructional data analyst, then college and career coordinator); a member of some MCPS committees (anti-racism, COVID-19 advisory)

According to a statement from the school board, the interviews will be conducted in a question-and-answer format, and the candidates will know the questions in advance. They will be interviewed in alphabetical order by last name.

The questions will “focus on the candidates’ perceptions of the role of a Board member, professional and civic experiences, priorities, and their understanding of the complexity of the work,” according to the statement.


Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at

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