- 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 school system’s financial health is the most important issue facing the HCPSS at this current time. The lack of stable resources limits the school to provide robust educational programming for all students and address equity issues. The current deficit is estimate to be $50M.
The health fund was not fully funded in the operating budget for several years. The HCPSS should examine all possible ways to stabilize the health fund and provide employees with quality health plans. A task force should be created to bring together members of the community, county government, businesses, and non-profit organizations with school system staff and employee associations to study the problem and generate a short and long term plan to address employee health care.
The school system must become financially solvent. The Board of Education members must collaborate with the Howard County Executive and the County Council in the development of long range budget planning. The BOE and superintendent and staff must employ zero-based budget development process to identify efficiencies. The BOE should encourage staff to seek grants for program development and enhancement.
Under my leadership as Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Technology, staff wrote grant proposals that yielded 14 million dollars of additional funding.
The BOE should encourage and recognize staff that proposes effective ways to save money without diminishing services.
- 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?
I feel that the BOE should embrace Dr. Martirano’s vision for diversity and inclusion and ensure it evolves into a viable strategic plan for the HCPSS.
For the more than 30 years I worked directly in the Howard County Public School System, my focus was on educational equity. At times, the staff and the greater Howard County Community coalesced with a laser-like focus but the intensity eventually waned with changing administration and board of education. While working at the Central Office, I was able to created the Department of Family and Community Services. This department was designed to connect the school system with parents, families and the community by providing specific services to address needs in certain populations. Some of the resources staff members provided included translation services, providing parent liaisons to help them navigate the complexities of the school system, and realigning budget priorities as they impacted these populations.
So how do we sustain equity and keep it at the forefront of our education system? As a board member, I will advocate for the development and adoption of a policy on equity. This policy will explicitly define what educational equity is and will be in Howard County. Equity in education is based upon fairness, inclusion, and access. Student’s personal and social circumstances should not be a barrier to student potential and academic success. The school system must ensure that all students have access to curriculum and programs in an inclusive environment. HCPSS must provide programs and resources for all students and schools and provide additional staff, resources, and programs based on needs such as English language learners and students with disabilities.
So why a policy? School system policies define what we want for our children, how we will provide it and how we know if we do it well. The policy on equity will serve as a framework by which the equity is infused into the school system’s education programs and operations. As a policy, equity cannot be ignored. It is time for all of us to reflect and examine our personal beliefs about educational equity. For me, it is a moral imperative.
- What is your approach regarding school safety plans?
I feel that a comprehensive security assessment should be conducted for each school in Howard County. Based on the results, each school should develop a safety plan based on countywide standards and be provided the necessary resources to keep students and staff safe. I support the placement of Community Resource Officers in all high schools and middle schools as needed. Additional physical security measures need to be implemented according to schools’ specific needs.
- What are your priorities regarding setting the school calendar?
My priorities for setting the school calendar are to make sure that HCPPSS meets state requirements, provides professional development days for teachers, and includes sufficient inclement weather make up days.
- How will you address redistricting and improving the balance of socioeconomic diversity across all schools?
Redistricting can be a difficult progress for communities, one that can cause division and angst. To prevent this, and make the process as smooth as possible, it is imperative the Board of Education remain open with the public regarding the process and invite public comment at every stage. To that end, this is how I envision a fair redistricting process.
First, the Board in collaboration with the Superintendent and staff, needs to create a public document that states the purpose, rationale, and goals of redistricting, describes the metrics and criteria for decision making, identifies the methods for gathering input form the community and staff, and defines the evaluation plan for each redistricting process. A major goal for redistricting is to improve socioeconomic diversity across all schools.
Second, the Board and staff need to develop a long-term plan for redistricting based on projected student growth and mobility.
To keep the community better informed about redistricting, the process should include:
Stage 1: Readiness: Provide the public with information about the proposed redistricting in advance of beginning the process.
Stage 2: Proposed Redistricting Process: Inform the public about the specifics of the process including purpose, goals, targeted schools, timeline, etc. and evaluation.
Stage 3: Implementation: Provide ongoing communication throughout the redistricting process and periodic status reports that include community input.
Stage 4: Decision Making: Inform the public about the final decisions including the rationale.
Stage 5: Transition and Support: Develop a plan to support students and families in the transition to their new school. For example, this could include sponsoring summer social events for the new students and families to meet the students, families, teachers, and administrators of the new school.
Stage 6: Evaluation: Conduct an evaluation of the redistricting process that includes feedback from students, parents, families, and school staff.
A well-designed and implemented redistricting process that is open, transparent, and effectively communicated to the public would reduce the level of divisiveness and improve the balance of socioeconomic diversity across all schools.