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 $50 million school deficit is a huge problem. It creates uncertainty for the staff, teachers, students and the community. HCPSS need work hard internally and externally.
Internally HCPSS needs to evaluate the funding progress such that illegal line item transfer which caused this $50 million dollar deficit in the last several years, should never happen again. We must bring accountability and transparency back to school. Externally HCPSS should work with the county council, county government, state government, teacher union and other stakeholders to find a long term plan to get rid of this deficit gradually. With the deficit hanging over the school budget and county budget, it is very difficult for program planning and to start any strategic initiative.
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?
Dr. Martirano’s plan is a good start. As the BOE board members come and go and the superintendent comes and goes (average superintendent tenure nationwide is 3.2 years), we must be careful to start any major initiative with too ambitious goal. I believe we need provide a sustainable plan to address the diversity and inclusion problem. Realistic, actionable and measurable goals should be established step by step. Performance of such programs should be evaluated consistently. Diversity and inclusion does not come from school alone. The parents and community should get involved outside the classroom. By working together, we can make sure each student feel inclusive, motivated to work hard to achieve their full potential.
3. What is your approach regarding school safety plans?
We must take several approaches simultaneously. First we must include facility entrance check point, alarm system, etc. We must protect our students and staff with the highest priority as banks protect their money and families protect their homes. Second we must have a community collaborative effort to address the mental health issue, increase social work/family visit, apply restorative justice, build up mutual assistance student group and create safety awareness. Third, we must respond to any bullying or safety related issues promptly and always follow up with the responses. Recently I was involved with case when a student was bullied and he fought back. The inaction or slow reaction from our school staff to help the student is a huge concern to me. We must always prevent small accidents escalating to a dangerous level with early intervention.
4. What are your priorities regarding setting the school calendar?
We must make sure the school calendar meet students’ and families’ needs and the calendar setting is the best for our student and for the education. We are a diverse community with many traditions, cultures and religions. We want to make sure our calendar to be inclusive while not negatively impact our academic need.
5. How will you address redistricting and improving the balance of socioeconomic diversity across all schools?
Redistricting is one part of strategies to solve the overcrowding issue. I was involved in the redistricting process last year by applying for the Area Attendance Committee (the selection process was not transparent, to say at least), attending community meetings, engaging with community members, exchanging ideas with HoCo Collaborative Community Plan group, I have learned a lot thought my first- hand experience. We should improve both the process and methodology for school redistricting. We need accurate, complete and clean data for a data-driven solution. We need to develop in house capability to process redistricting data in real time while discussing this important topic. We need a more objective goal while moving polygons around. In policy 6010, we should assign each criteria a weight (for example, each criteria 7.69%) objectively and evaluate the overall performance while doing the adjustment. We should not let one criteria dominate all of other factors. In order to improve the socioeconomic diversity, we should always try to give parents and families options and choices such that they can choose what is the best for them.
A top-down approach by telling what is best for a family authoritatively is not working at all. The struggle to satisfying the need of the growing student population falls back to problem in the new housing development. The county wishfully keeps developing high density housing in the same place, expecting less school overcrowding in those areas and creating socioeconomics diversity. The county council should pace the development with what the school can handle at a reasonable level and build affordable housing units across all spectrum.
For more, please visit my website www.chaowu.org