BOE Survey Kirsten Coombs – District 4

  1. I have lived in Howard County for more than 20 years. I would represent District 4, although given that Howard County Public School System is a county-system, I believe I would continue to represent all of the students and the entire community. I served on the Town Center Village Board for about five years, but education is the highest priority for me.
  1. My daughter is currently a sophomore in Howard County and I have been involved in all of her schools since Kindergarten. I began to get involved in volunteering at her elementary school. I did PTA activities, as well as helping educators in the classroom with their needs. I also served as the Print Shop person, getting print jobs to and from the Central Print Shop.
  1. We are running out of seats at all three levels, which will be exhausted over the next five to eight years. I have been advocating for increasing seats at the County & State levels for several years and asking for legislation that requires developers to contribute more money for building. Talbott Springs Elementary School and Hammond High School need to be rebuilt and have additional capacity. These projects are especially important to communities that have high poverty rates and “less-than” facilities.
  1. Ensuring access to resources and programs also includes facilities, as mentioned above. We should encourage hiring of experienced educators at Title I schools, and make sure they receive high-quality materials of instruction. I would like to see an additional Grant Manager in our budget, as the one we have is doing well and paying for her position. Finding grants should be prioritized to implement new programs and resources in communities facing greater challenges.
  1. The Board of Education has one main employee, the Superintendent, who then oversees all other employees, including the educators. The BOE should have a collaborative relationship with all of its bargaining units. These benefit the overall Board, for instance, the grant obtained from the National Education Association to fund the Restorative Practices’ training for HCPSS staff and the funding that paid for the Diversity Director’s employment for several months. However, the Board does need to maintain an appropriate distance from the bargaining units to ensure that we act neutrally in terms of determining salaries, benefits, and working conditions. Preferential treatment should not be given to any of the employee units.
  1. Approach to school safety – Our county schools should be the safest buildings in the world as we are entrusted with the care of our most vulnerable population. Parents must feel their children will be learning in a secure environment. Replacing systems that are failing for lobby registration, for instance, are ongoing projects. In addition, Capital Improvements include the redesign of the remaining schools without offices at the main entrance. The personnel approach of having a designated School Resource Officer at high schools (and some middle) does provide the opportunity for building a rapport with law enforcement under normal circumstances. Under no circumstances should police or immigration officials be allowed to walk into our buildings, however. I have voted and/or advocated for policies that designate our schools as places of sanctuary.