Carleen Pena

1. What do you feel is the most important issue facing HCPSS at the current time? What steps should the BOE take to address this issue?  

The budget is by far the the biggest and most pressing issue currently facing HCPSS.  The current deficit is causing problems with everything from class size to the programs being offered.  Past Boards have approved programs without funding sources and treated the budget as if it would just magically keep the money flowing.  Future boards must ensure this never happens again. The budget must be reviewed carefully to ensure that all funds are being used wisely/  There must be stronger competitive bid process. HCPSS is currently failing to identify and apply for grants that could benefit ours students and this must change.

2. How do you think the BOE should implement Dr. Martirano’s Strategic Plan for Diversity and Inclusion (ensures academic success and social-emotional well-being for each student in an inclusive and nurturing environment that closes opportunity gaps) across the levels?

The Board of Education’s role is focused on policy while HCPSS implements the policies. I completely support Dr. Martirano’s plan for diversity and Inclusion. The addition of Dr Gilbert to the staff is also a move in the right direction. I support the use of Restorative Practices in the schools with proper training.

3. What is your approach regarding school safety plans?

Schools shootings are awful and have become much too frequent.  Safety must be a top concern, however we do not want our schools to become a scary place or feel like a prison.  Teachers should never carry guns. That is not their job. Rather than spending millions on adding features to the schools, I would rather see  funds being spent on training staff on proper Restorative Practices and increasing the counselors in schools. Restorative Practices are based on developing and strengthening relationships between staff and students and student to student.  The culture and community of the school will be improved through this process and the more supportive the school culture, the safer the school will be. I would support an increase in our SRO program where officers are screened and trained about working in a school environment and with students rather than simply assigning random police in the schools.

4. What are your priorities regarding setting the school calendar? The school calendar should be based around the best practices for our children to learn.  

Unfortunately the state has mandated certain parameters that place the importance on tax revenue more than the children, but we must work with what we have.  Howard County has made strides towards recognizing a variety of religious holidays but more can be done so that students do not have having to choose between a religious observance and school.

5. How will you address redistricting and improving the balance of socioeconomic diversity across all schools?

Several  of our current school districts are gerrymandered.  This needs to change. As we redistrict schools due to   overcrowding and the opening of new schools, the diversity of all our schools needs to be evaluated. Balanced diversity in our schools is important and benefits all of our students.  I will not be swayed by the loudest voices or colored t-shirts when deciding which children will attend which school. I believe in strong feeds and when possible keeping neighborhoods together and I  will always look for ways to increase diversity in our schools.