BOE Survey Gian Alfeo – District 3
- How long have you lived in Howard County? Which voting district would you represent?
I have lived in Howard County for 30 years in District 3. I attended Howard County Public Schools such as Dasher Green Elementary School (Now Cradlerock, Owen Brown Middle School (Now Lake Elkhorn), and I am a proud graduate of Oakland Mills High School. I am running to represent. District 3.
- What is your experience with and interest in public schools?
I am a proud graduate of Oakland Mills high School. I have a 6th grader and 4th grader currently in HCPSS. My oldest son is a student with Autism. I have been an active member in the Cradlerock PTA in the past when my children attended there as well as being a delegate to PTACHC from Cradlerock Elementary from 2012-2016. I became involved because of the treatment of my child with special needs and to help remove the old Superintendent Renee Foose for her abuse of power and poor treatment of the HCPSS Special Education Program.
- Considering many schools are still overcapacity, how should the BOE address this continued concern?
This is one of the very reasons I am running for Board of Education! We need to take a true look at our schools and their true needs and capacity. We will need to redistrict according to capacity issues when High School 13 is finally built and ready to receive students. We need to do our best to adjust boundaries while maintaining natural boundaries, with respect to existing neighborhoods and feeds, and make common sense decisions to not interrupt the flow of existing communities and not creating small feeds or creating islands within existing communities.
We also need to start looking now for how redistricting should be done so when High School 13 is built we have a plan or an idea to follow. We need to be honest and up front with the communities we serve and the overall Howard County citizenry. We need to get crucial feedback from them and actually listen to them. This is their community and I am being elected to serve them.
I believe the 2019 redistricting was rushed and not based off data that was provided. The BOE and the Superintendent ignored the data they paid $400,000 to receive and instead when off an idea of a select group of well-intentioned but grossly misinformed people on the Superintendent’s committee. The idea was not about lowering capacity in our schools to help our students and teachers now, it was based almost solely on socio-economic ideas and making failing schools look better by balancing FARM rates in certain schools. They destroyed existing communities and lowered the bar for HCPSS in regards to false data and community gossip. The plan finally push through was a hack job of the Superintendent’s plan that was not fully vetted and tore Howard County apart.
- How should the BOE ensure that resources reach the students who need them most?
It is the BOE’s responsibility to create a budget and supervise the Superintendent to ensure the proper utilization of that budget by the Superintendent and his staff at Central Office. The BOE should review all programs designed to get resources to the classroom to ensure there is no waste or misuse of resources that may prohibit them from reaching our students and teachers. We need to make sure when we make cuts it is from non-instructional areas. We need to review programs and purchases to ensure the funds are used properly to help reduce and hopefully end wasteful spending. My goal is to stop the wasteful spending at HCPSS and to funnel the funds to the classrooms and our deferred maintenance projects.
- What should the relationship between the BOE and the teachers’ union be?
We should be a collaborative group working towards the goals from helping our students and teachers in the classroom to the best of our abilities. We need to work as a team to ensure resources are reaching the classrooms. We should also be looking at how we can improve the environment of the classroom. We have to same goals to create to the best and optimal education for the children of Howard County and we should be working together to ensure this goal is met and not against one another.
I realize unions of political, but I am a union member at my career and I understand how they work. We should do our best to keep these politics out of the BOE and do what is best for the needs of all of Howard County’s children, their Educators, and their classrooms.
- What should be the approach to school safety? What is working and what could be done differently?
My approach to school safety and security comes from a 20 year career as a Military Police Officer and a Security Contractor for the US Government. It is a topic very important to me because our children are our most valuable, but vulnerable, resources. We need to identify all who are entering the building and why, which overall HCPSS already does and with my experience with my children does a pretty good job. It does bother me that school HCPSS schools are buzzed in within sight unseen and requires a walk through the halls to sign in. Cradlerock and Lake Elkhorn in District 3 are like this. How can we improve this for the safety of our children? We have cameras in our schools that watch our hallways, and we have an RSO in schools, which is great but we need to improve this method.
Unfortunately, HCPPS got many things wrong in regards to school security that as a professional in security and as a parent, I can’t ignore. One the cameras can be viewed by visitors in the office, which gives possible perpetrators an advantage. Staff can’t reliably view the cameras from their desks privately, as in some schools it is above and behind the staff member. Not all schools have the ability to make visitors enter the office first, as mentioned before, and the visitor is granted access and has to walk to the office. What stops this person from making a turn into the school? We also must ensure that the community understands that they must not hold the doors open for someone coming into the school under any circumstances, even if they know them. I have seen this at every HCPSS school I have ever been to or visited. While this is polite it puts the children at risk and violates security and rules of HCPSS.
I would like to see greater security at our schools to ensure the safety of our children, educators, and staff. There is so much we can do with current technology to keep them safer. We need to make these necessary security upgrades before there is an incident, not after something has happened.
We also need better trained para-educators and staff to help our most vulnerable students, those with special needs. We had several incidents last year where children, staff, and educators were injured due to not have the proper training to handle situations that do arise frequently with students with special needs. Some were staff out right abusing the child and other incidents the child harmed staff or other children. This needs to stop and is horrifying. They need proper training to keep these incidents from occurring more frequently in the future.