- 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 budget has been and will continue to be the most pressing issue as it touches everything else. As a growing county, every year is probably going to be “historic” in terms of the budget, but the real question is if it’s adequate for the needs. We’ve had to make cuts year after year with class size increases, going back on commitments we’ve made to teachers, slashing funds for materials of instruction and custodial services, among others. We’re behind on building capacity for our growing student population and on maintaining our schools. With the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future we’re going to have additional requirements without the needed funding for all of it. The board and school system have to continue to advocate, and convince our community to advocate, for the funds we need for our schools and work with our funding agencies to prioritize education.
- What is your understanding of social-emotional learning and its impact on education and learning? What should SEL entail?
My understanding is that social-emotional learning helps students to have the tools they need to be successful as individuals and as members of their school community. They learn about their emotions and how to deal with them. They learn how to get along with others and to treat people how they would want to be treated. Students and their teachers have the opportunity to build a learning community where they can help one another to succeed. They learn how to solve problems in a constructive way. They can celebrate the unique characteristics and strengths of others and learn that everyone belongs and has something to contribute.
- How will you address redistricting and improving the balance of socioeconomic diversity across all schools?
Overcrowding exacerbates every issue that we face in schools and creates additional problems. Some seem to think that overcrowding is only happening at “wealthy” schools, but that is not the case. At the rate we are building residential development vs. schools, in time, every school is going to be facing overcrowding. This is why we need to address capacity first and foremost. The other factors outlined in policy 6010 then help us to select the best plan to address capacity without creating new problems. We don’t want to concentrate poverty, create small feeds, move the same children multiple times, or put walkers onto buses that we can’t afford and don’t have anyone to drive. As we address capacity, we can work to bring schools closer to county average for rates of students receiving FARMS. The county government also needs to do its part to make sure that communities are socioeconomically diverse.
- How do we best support LGBTQIA+ students within the school system?
School should be a safe place for LGBTQIA+ students. I think that it is great that each school in our school system has a Rainbow Representative and that more is being done to support all students than has been done in the past. We must not tolerate bullying, abuse, and discrimination. We also must support students’ mental health and suicide prevention.
- What is your plan to improve access to special education services and special education staffing?
We aren’t succeeding, as a school system, if only some of our students are succeeding. Families shouldn’t have to fight to get the services and accommodations their children need to learn. We need to stop asking staff to do more and more with less and less. We need appropriate staffing levels; we need training to help all staff who work with students with special needs; we need to make it a priority. We need to help the community understand that special education isn’t a niche interest, it’s an essential part of every school and has impacts on every classroom, and every student. With more resources, we can get out of crisis mode and into a more proactive mode where we can identify the students in need of supports that we are now missing.
- What should the role of parents be in selecting materials or content of instruction (including media center books)?
Per the policy 8040 implementation procedures, parents and other interested community members can review and give feedback on proposed materials during a two week public review period. Parents and other community members can also apply to serve on the Instructional Materials Criteria/Review Committee (CRC). Parents and community members can also make a request to the school principal to review specific materials and there is, outlined in the policy, a process in place for addressing concerns at the school level up through the superintendent and the board.