- 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 most important issue is the staff shortage. To address the staff shortage, I will request a review of the ground situation to discover the precise reasons teachers retire early or leave the school system. We must pay staff a decent salary and recognize a job well done through bonuses to retain our staff. We must provide more support for classroom teachers by adding paraeducators. We must improve HR services, streamline the application process, and adjust the hiring timing to attract new graduates. I believe it is worth pursuing and recruiting experienced people from industry and government as part time staff in areas of computer science, world languages, business, vocational technology, upper-level math and science, engineering and other subjects to expand our workforce, improve learning, and potentially free up classroom space by teaching these subjects virtually.
- What is your understanding of social-emotional learning and its impact on education and learning? What should SEL entail?
Only students can excel when they have good physical and social emotional well-being. HCPSS should have social emotional learning in grades as early as possible and build up school-family-community partnership.
- How will you address redistricting and improving the balance of socioeconomic diversity across all schools?
I believe that redistricting should only be used to address school capacity issues in a manner that is least disruptive to students. I believe in neighborhood schools and that students should attend their neighborhood schools. All that are eligible to walk / bike to school should attend the school they can walk / bike to without question. This encourages a healthy lifestyle for students and saves precious budgetary dollars on transportation by keeping money in the classroom where it belongs. As far as HS 13, the Board should only redistrict for that opening, at the HS level. As they have in previous years, they should open with Freshmen and Sophomores so as not to pull Juniors and Seniors from the school they currently attend. All high schools around HS 13 are overcrowded, so this will provide some relief, but only in reducing overcrowding not eliminating it. In addition, they should look at feeds into this school to ensure they look appropriate. Small feeds are not fair to students.
Although the social-economic disparity in Howard County is the result of housing development at the County level and approval of new developments is outside the purview of the Board of Education, HCPSS should work with and encourage the County to address these disparities. That being said, HCPSS’s implementation of universal Pre-K education according to the Blueprint can level the playing field at students’ critical early learning stage. Moreover, as students spend most hours outside schools, HCPSS should engage families and communities to get more involved with their children’s growth and to provide enrichment after school hours and during the summer. HCPSS should also listen to underserved communities and immigrants with language barriers whose voices are quite often not heard in our critical decisions. As no two people are alike, we cannot guarantee the same outcomes, but we must work with the students, parents, teachers, PTAs, and social workers to provide all students equitable opportunities to reach their fullest potential and become the best they can be.
- How do we best support LGBTQIA+ students within the school system?
An inclusive school system should treat everyone at school fairly, appreciate their differences, and recognize their identities. Everyone should feel safe and welcomed at school. No one should be treated less because of their race, gender, identity, or ability. Each HCPSS employee and each student should be held to a high level of inclusivity. It is not acceptable to bully, to use racist language, to exclude. Hate has no place in the halls of learning. As much as possible, the school system should try to hire staff at all positions that look like the population in our County in terms of race and gender. This is the beginning of helping our students see themselves in the school system. Inclusion is not just a slogan. It should be a central value that is reflected in our daily actions and decisions.
- What is your plan to improve access to special education services and special education staffing?
The challenges faced by teachers and students in Special Education are problematic and need to be addressed urgently. The biggest problem is staffing. We should add more special education teachers, paraeducators, and student assistants. In order to retain and recruit student assistants and paraeducators in Special Education we need to provide a differential salary above what is paid for the same title in a regular classroom setting. We should also mandate better pay, benefits, and training to the temporary employees hired. Currently, temporary employees receive very little money, no benefits, and no paid days off, while working with special education students with the most severe disabilities and behavioral issues. Temporary employees in this field have high turnover and the current practice is not sustainable. In addition, we should reduce the overwhelming paperwork and bureaucracy faced by Special Education teachers. Documentation should be placed in an electronic system that is secure and protected, but with easy access for use in evaluation of the student’s placement and progress. All Special Educators should have immediate access to communication equipment so they can readily ask for more support in any emergency situation. The school system should frequently seek the feedback from Special Education Educators to make continuous improvements to the programs.
HCPSS should work with families and the Department of Health to provide layered and wraparound services using grants, such as the recent $2.1 million committed to expand a school-based mental health program to all 77 public schools, and to subsidize mental health resources in the community for vulnerable youth. On May 12, MSDE gave HCPSS a $5.5 M from Maryland State Personnel Development to help improve the mathematics proficiency of elementary students with disabilities in 3rd-5th grades. These grants are important to supplement HCPSS funding and target the needed areas.
- What should the role of parents be in selecting materials or content of instruction (including media center books)?
We need to ask for and seriously evaluate community input and think about the diversity of our community when we consider any instruction materials and curriculum covering controversial issues. In a fast changing world, we need to constantly update our curriculum to ensure it does not include outdated or biased contents. As a school system we should present the facts, the truth, the methods, the reality. As a school board member, I promise I will listen to all sides, parents, teachers, students, and concerned citizens of our county and make decisions that will be in the best interests of educating our students.