BOE Survey Antonia Watts – District 2

1. How long have you lived in Howard County? Which voting district would you represent?
I have lived in Howard County since 2014. I would proudly represent District 2.

2. What is your experience with and interest in public schools?

I believe that a high quality, free public education is the gatekeeper to the future success of our children. Therefore, it is critical that all students have access to a great education. My strong belief in the value of education was the catalyst for my career change from engineering to education. I received a Masters degree in Secondary Education from the University of Michigan in 2011. I am certified in Secondary Mathematics and Physics in the State of Maryland. I worked as a classroom teacher and Instructional Technology Specialist in public schools. I also worked as an adjunct professor for Howard County Community College. Currently, I tutor math and teach english online. I remain committed to public education.

3. Considering many schools are still overcapacity, how should the BOE address this continued concern?

Capacity concerns remain an issue for our school system. To address this, the Board of Education should work to develop a long-term plan to ​adequately use the current resources of the school system to alleviate overcrowding. It is fiscally responsible to ensure that each school is within the specified capacity targets. By planning for the long-term needs of the school system, there is less of a need to move students and less of a need to move students as often. This would promote community stability in the long run.

4. How should the BOE ensure that resources reach the students who need them most?

Equity is providing resources to those that need them the most which means that not everyone may get the same thing. To ensure that we reach the most vulnerable students in HCPSS, we must assess the needs of our vulnerable populations which includes students with socioeconomic hardships, special education students, racial minorities, etc. Then, the school system has to dedicate resources to those groups to help them thrive in the academic settings. The resources put in place will vary depending on the group but may include increasing access to school counselors, more highly effective teachers or technological support.

5. What should the relationship between the BOE and the teachers’ union be?

The relationship between the Board of Education and Howard County Education Association should be one grounded in communication and collaboration. Both have shared goals. They are working to better the academic achievement and healthy development of all children in the community. Additionally, both care about the recruitment and retention of high quality educators. HCEA and BOE members can address problems when all voices are heard in the decision making process. When collaboration is at the forefront, it lends for better solutions that can be implemented with fidelity and commitment because many had a hand in its development.

6. What should be the approach to school safety? What is working and what could be done differently?

Any additional security measures should be proactive and should not interfere with the learning environment or decrease instructional time. Proactive approaches to security include increasing access to mental health professionals, creating a positive school climate, and using restorative practices to foster stronger relationships.

The safety of our schools is a big priority. Because of this, several safeguards are in place like ensuring that all doors are locked and requiring all visitors to sign in upon arrival. These are simple yet effective measures that add a much needed layer of security and procedure for everyone entering the building. Additionally, schools have strong partnerships with local public safety officials. All school administrators are trained to follow robust plans in the event of an emergency. While drills are needed to make sure all students are well-versed in how to respond in an emergency, it can induce anxiety and fear in some students. School officials should do as much as possible to mitigate this for those that struggle with the drills. It is important to find a balance between physical safety and psychological health.