BOE Survey Cindy Vaillancourt – District 5
- How long have you lived in Howard County? Which voting district would you represent?
I have lived in HoCo since 2000, so 20 years. I would be elected from D5, but would be representing all students, families, and citizens of HoCo.
- What is your experience with and interest in public schools?
My two children attended HCPSS schools, one k-12, and one 5-8. I served on the Board of Education from 2010-2018. I have been an advocate for special education in addition to the more comprehensive advocacy and work on the Board of Education. I am a passionate advocate for public education.
- Considering many schools are still overcapacity, how should the BOE address this continued concern?
The BOE will be required to revisit attendance areas in order to open HS13 in the Fall of 2023. Between now and then, the BOE and HCPSS must evaluate all possible options to balance capacities, including changes to programming and calendars in addition to attendance area adjustments known as “redistricting”. Creating an International Baccalaureate HS or Performing Arts Academy, for example, that provide additional options and voluntary school choice would be one possibility. Developing a comprehensive vo-tech High School would be another. Additionally, providing a number of schools at the elementary and middle school level that operate on a 9 week on, 3 week of calendar can provide significant benefits, particularly to our most vulnerable students, and working families, and have demonstrated positive impacts on closing achievement gaps.
- How should the BOE ensure that resources reach the students who need them most?
Each and every child in our school system should be provided with the resources, interventions, enhancements, and supports they need in order to become the best versions of themselves. The BOE needs to commit to providing adequate and appropriate professional and properly trained staff so that each child’s needs can be evaluated, met and monitored as the individual children that they are. The BOE must actively lobby for appropriate funding at the local, state and federal level in order to meet the individual needs of children. And, the BOE must work cooperatively with other groups and agencies tasked with providing supports to children and families.
- What should the relationship between the BOE and the teachers’ union be?
The BOE and the HCEA, educators’ association, should maintain a mutually respectful and cooperative relationship. The educators have committed their professional lives to the education, care and nurturing of our community’s children. They are a valuable resource for information and guidance on what is needed in the classroom, as well as assistance in figuring out what is needed outside of the classroom in order for children to thrive. Their expertise and commitment should be respected, sought, and incorporated into the plans made for all aspects of the operations within the classrooms, as well as seeking feedback and insight from their informed experience with regard to the operations of the overall school system. The HCEA can be an invaluable tool for the successful management of a large workforce as well. The HCEA has access to the most detailed and up to date information about what is going on in our schools and classrooms, and the HCPSS should be eager to hear from them.
- What should be the approach to school safety? What is working and what could be done differently?
Obviously there has been a large push for the creation of a shell of physical safety around our schools in the past two decades. However, in spite of the investment of billions of dollars in locks, scanners, and guards, as well as emergency drills and evacuation plans, we still see horrendous acts of mass violence, as well as more frequent episodes of individual violence within schools and classrooms. I believe a much greater emphasis needs to be directed at appropriate sized classes, adequately staffed with well trained educators, who can develop meaningful relationships with their students as well as encouraging and nurturing healthy relationships among students. Schools should not be cattle cars or assembly lines. Students and educators require humane, healthy, and respectful environments. It is the job of the community to provide that, and the Board of Education must be an effective liaison between the schools, the communities, and the funding authorities.