The Sunil Dasgupta School Board Controversy [2022]

Paul B. Ellis and Sunil Dasgupta

Sunil Dasgupta’s unsuccessful 2020 Montgomery County Board of Education campaign was mostly unmemorable.

He lost, FYI.

But in May 2022, Mr. Dasgupta touted an endorsement from Paul Ellis.

So, who is Paul Ellis, and why should we care?

Paul Ellis managed Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin’s congressional re-election campaign.

Paul Ellis endorses Sunil Dasgupta

“I’m personally endorsing Sunil Dasgupta for MoCo Board of Education At Large because he has the experience, vision, and endorsement of our public educators to chart a path for quality public education’s continuance post-COVID,” Paul Ellis wrote.

Mr. Ellis also wrote that he “had positive professional experiences” with Lynne Harris, elected to the Board of Education in 2020.

“Sunil’s experience is a better match for the job in these trying times.”

The Washington Post endorsed Lynn Harris.

Harris defeated Dasgupta in the 2020 Montgomery County Board of Education general election.

Paul Ellis Attacks Stephen Austin 

When Ellis endorsed Dasgupta, he urged Montgomery Countians not to vote for Stephen Austin.

Ellis claimed Austin would “exacerbate inequality in our [Montgomery] county.”

Stephen Austin, Ellis wrote, “openly stokes racial hatred” and “is abhorrent to the values that make Montgomery County an incredible place.”

Of course, Ellis’ statement was complete nonsense.

Nevertheless, Sunil Dasgupta’s campaign thanked Paul Ellis for endorsing Mr. Dasgupta.

“Look forward to working with you on behalf of all our students,” Dasgupta said.

Stephen Austin responds to Paul Ellis’ Dasgupta Endorsement

“I hate that I have to keep writing about my opponents, but this is beyond the pale,” Stephen Austin said, blasting Ellis for maligning him.

Austin said he holds Dasgupta “just as responsible” for publishing Paul Ellis’ attacks on his campaign Facebook page.

“This is getting out of control,” Austin wrote.

“It is absolutely disgusting.”

Austin continued, writing, “Sunil has so far ‘stayed out’ of the fray by letting his One Montgomery goons do all the punching (and lying). He has entered into the same despicable arena they traffic in by posting his endorsement from Jamie Raskin’s former campaign manager.”

Stephen Austin’s 2020 Board of Education campaign

In 2020, Austin decided to run for the Montgomery County Board of Education.

Austin and his wife had two children in Montgomery County Public Schools.

He and his family have since moved out of Montgomery County.

Austin’s 2020 Board of Education campaign focused on returning accountability to parents and the community and closing the achievement gap.

A finance professional, Austin campaigned on finding “innovative budget solutions” and fiscal responsibility.

MCPS Boundary Study 

MCPS conducted a countywide boundary analysis to determine which public schools students would attend.

The study aimed to analyze whether school boundaries “impede students’ access to diverse, adequately enrolled schools within walking distance of their homes,” reported MoCo360.

WXY Architecture + Urban Design conducted the study on behalf of Montgomery County Public Schools.

Dasgupta and Austin were often at odds over the necessity of the boundary study.

In February 2020, Mr. Austin joined A Miner Detail Podcast to discuss his Board of Education campaign.

Austin’s Facebook Group 

Austin launched his Facebook group in 2019 to “activate parents and community members in support of MCPS students attending neighborhood schools.”

In 2021, Austin changed the name of the Facebook group to “MoCo Neighbors for Local Schools.”

The group has more than 8400 members as of April 2022.

Ellis regrets statements and retracts comments aimed at Austin 

A Miner Detail emailed the Raskin campaign with a request for comment.

Ellias later responded through his Raskin campaign email account.

“As my friends know, I am a lifelong resident of Montgomery County and a proud graduate of MCPS.

“I have strong feelings about the future of public education in our county.”

Ellis is a 2014 graduate of Montgomery Blair High School and a 2018 graduate of The Ohio State University.

He continued:

“I made statements about this year’s Board of Education at-large race on my personal Facebook page that (sic) interfere with doing my job to strengthen and increase Democratic voter turnout on June 2.

I regret and retract those statements, which were mine and mine alone.”

Ellis encouraged voters to “take time to examine the platform, experience, and activities of all the candidates” for the Montgomery County Board of Education.

It is unclear who is responsible for updating Dasgupta’s Facebook page and whether Dasgupta agreed with Ellis’ comments aimed at Austin.

In 2020, the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) endorsed Dasgupta.

During the contentious 2020 election, Dasgupta and Harris often remained silent when their supporters attacked Austin (or other candidates).

The Anti-Austin Ring Leaders

Former Montgomery County Board of Education member Jill Ortman Fouse and former at-large Montgomery County Councilman George Leventhal (D-Takoma Park) aggressively attacked Austin (and his supporters) on social media throughout the 2020 primary.

Leventhal and Ortman-Fouse co-lead the attacks on Stephen Austin, viciously attacking Austin and even his family.

Jill Ortman-Fouse 

In 2018, Ortman-Fouse tossed and turned over running for re-election to the Board of Education or running for the Montgomery County Council.

Ortman-Fouse eventually launched her campaign for an at-large county council seat but was defeated in the 33-person Democratic primary.

George Leventhal 

Term limits prevented George Leventhall from running for another team on the Montgomery County Council.

Leventhal ran for Montgomery County executive that year but was defeated in the Democratic primary.

Jeffrey Slavin 

Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin (D) also joined Ortman-Fouse and Leventhal in personally attacking Austin.

Slavin even sent a trove of aggressive emails to Mr. Austin’s wife attacking her husband.

Sunil Dasgupta’s Board of Education campaign 

Sunil Dasgupta is a political science professor at The Universities at Shady Grove.

He was one of 13 candidates who ran for the Montgomery County Board of Education in 2020.

Dasgupta joined A Miner Detail Podcast in 2020 to discuss his Board of Education campaign.