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Rebecca Smondrowski

Name: Rebecca Smondrowski
Address: 101 Short Street, Gaithersburg, MD 20878
Neighborhood of residence: Lakelands
Date of birth: Oct. 25, 1968
Occupation: Public & Government Relations Consultant
Education: West Chester University, West Chester PA
Marital status, children: Married with two amazing children. A son, 15, and a daughter who is 11.
Number of years you have lived in Montgomery County: 13
Previous elected/campaign experience: Campaign Strategist for Craig Rice for County Council
Committee/board memberships: City of Gaithersburg Ethics Commission
Boards: Montgomery County Council of PTA's, MCPS Educational Foundation, Committee for Montgomery, Future Link
Memberships: Montgomery Women, Women's Suburban Democratic Club, Montgomery County Democratic Club, Rockville Mid-County Democratic Breakfast Club & the Montgomery County Political Lunch Group
Website: RebeccaOnBoard.org
Email address: Rebecca@Rebeccaonboard.org
Facebook: Rebecca Keller Smondrowski and Rebecca Smondrowski for Board of Education
Twitter: @RebeccaOnBoard

Q: What are your top three priorities if elected?

My goal is to deliver a successful positive experience for all children. I believe that involves three areas of excellence.

1) Security Ensuring that every child is safe and secure in and on the way to school.

2) Social - Opportunities for mentoring, “whole student” personal and social development.

3) Academic An outstanding academic education.

Q: Discuss the job performance of Superintendent Joshua P. Starr. Would you rate him excellent, good, fair or poor? Why?

A: At this point I don't feel that we have had enough time to responsibly evaluate his job performance. With that said, I would rate his message thus far as - excellent.

Q: Assess the performance of the school board. Discuss a decision the board made that you disagree with. (For sitting school board members, assess your performance over the most recent term. Is there a decision you regret after having time to reflect on its result?)

A: I think that the school board needs to be more proactive.

One decision that they have made recently that I didn't agree with was the supplementing of funds when the budget came up short in such a way that people were led to believe that money had been hidden or found. The way this was handled fractured the trust of the general public and government towards the Board of Education.

Q: Do you believe No Child Left Behind should be reauthorized? If so, what needs to be changed? Assess the law's effectiveness.

A: I think that NCLB has channeled the schools into focusing on standardized testing rather than focusing on a well-rounded education. While I believe that standardized testing has real value in identifying at-risk students, it should be one tool among many, rather than the only tool used to evaluate educational performance. The compulsion to “teach to the test” under threat of sanction, and school-to-school competition, leaves the loss of critical thinking and creative in-depth teaching, among the unintended consequences of this well-meaning effort. While I believe NCLB adds value in ensuring everyone is being given a rigorous education, it would be my preference to see this initiative changed to a less rigid, more subjective approach in its evaluations.

Q: The relationship between the school board and the county council has become divisive over the past several years. In what way can you work to bring more a more collaborative approach to the board and council?

A: I believe in working together and am a collaborative person. It's imperative that the BOE and the County Council have a positive working relationship. To that end, I would facilitate more informal meetings to be proactive in discussing intentions and ideas for the school system, and working together to come up with plans that are in the best interest of our students, staff and community. I have worked closely and personally with many of our County Council members and have strong relationships with them and our Board of Education. These friendships can be used as the basis for bringing the two groups together and improving working relationships as well as encouraging respect. Developing stronger public awareness, involvement, and support of our schools and the system as a whole would also be beneficial in securing the effectiveness of the Council's support for MCPS.

Q: Discuss your approach to budgeting. Roughly what percent of spending (and why) should be allocated to the following: employees; technology; capital projects? What would you cut to find funding for projects?

A: Our teachers are committed to their students, highly qualified, and dedicated to learning, and should get paid as much as our budget allows. The question that I will consider as a BOE member is “how do we balance a fair and competitive salary with other resources needed by our students?” While I am not comfortable dividing up the percentages at this point, I do believe that there are many areas that should be looked at for budget savings and the shifting of resources to potentially provide needed programs without making large cuts. Capital project development and public/private partnerships are among several areas that we could be improving on in terms of savings and staying competitive during these fluctuating fiscal times.

Q: Budget cuts have forced the reduction of county police officers in schools. Discuss your approach to disruptive students and how to address the disparity in suspension rates among black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian peers.

A: I believe that the county police officers are a critical element in the security of our students in schools and have been fighting hard at both the state and local level for several years to restore that program. Ensuring a secure environment for all students is one of my three top priorities. Implementing mentoring programs for all students, increasing in and after school programs and activities and encouraging students to feel invested and engaged in their schools will naturally address some of these issues.

Q: Several of Montgomery's school buildings are in need of upgrades and construction dollars from the state and county are scarce. Given a scarcity of available and affordable land for schools, and recent controversial decisions over where to build a new downcounty middle school, how do you propose providing safe and appropriate educational facilities for school children?

A: This is a very complex problem even in good times. My career in public and government relations embodies my most significant professional achievements. The relationships that I have forged and the issues on which I have worked have afforded me countless opportunities to support the needs and improve the lives of the residents of Montgomery County. I have spend many years lobbying for and successfully securing funding for school construction dollars as well as working with the business community on development projects and public/private partnerships. I believe that there are creative alternatives that we should be pursuing. I support the land swap alternative for the Farquhar Middle School and have been very involved with the community to secure that as an option.