Q: What are your top three priorities if elected?
A: 1) Curriculum: I would push the Board for a comprehensive review of our entire curriculum and get input from teachers and parents as to what is working and what is not
2) Review of block scheduling: Having discussed this with several teachers I have heard many of the pros and cons for the teachers and the students. I would like to open the discussion of a possible hybrid approach incorporating block scheduling with traditional year-long scheduling
3) Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability: I would like FCPS books to be made public and in a way that is discernible by the average lay person. In the past budgets have been proposed that are zero based in the beginning and then we end up with multi-million dollar surpluses. This is money that could be potentially used for salary increases, bonuses or spent on instructional material
Q: What can Frederick County Public Schools do to ensure the hiring and retention of quality teachers, and in what way does compensation play a role in doing so?
A: FCPS needs to give a test above and beyond the Praxis to screen out candidates who are weak in content. FCPS needs to raise its standards beyond what the Praxis test requires, which is set at approximately an eighth grade level. We need to devise our own screening tests and interview process that set a higher bar in terms of content and research-based instruction. We need to devise a recruiting plan that focuses on finding smart people with content knowledge and love working with kids. While pay and benefits are important, they should not be the only tools used for recruitment. The Board should organize a committee with the assistance of administrators, teachers, and parents to evaluate the current hiring practice and formulate new ideas or bring back some old ones for hiring new teachers. We need to know what makes teachers happy, and what inspires them, and we need to encourage them. Excellence attracts excellence. That attitude must start at the top with the Board.
Q: Several of Frederick’s school buildings are in need of repair and construction dollars from the state and county are scarce. How do you propose providing safe and appropriate educational facilities for school children?
A: As a person experienced in the building industry for twenty years in the residential and light construction arena, this needs to be tackled on a case-by-case review and prioritized afterwards. FCPS employees a large maintenance force whose job is to maintain buildings and keep them safe and in the best working order as possible. There will always be a need for repair and maintenance as buildings age. There is much talk of one of our oldest buildings needing renovation, Frederick High school. The fact that FHS has stood so long and held up as well as it has should be an example of how we should build and maintain our buildings, especially if you compare this to Linganore High, which was not as old and failed rather quickly in comparison. We need to ensure the highest of building standards when building new or when renovating. With the current state of the economy we may need to continue to tackle smaller improvements as we have in the past. But decisions should be based on need and not political expediency. We need to ensure our maintenance division has the tools that they need to maintain safe buildings .In addition these employees need to be held to the same high standards that we set for our teachers.
This may be one area that FCPS could look at privatizing.
Q: Do you believe No Child Left Behind should be reauthorized? If so, what needs to be changed? Assess the law's effectiveness. Should Maryland apply for a waiver from NCLB requirements?
A: No Child Left Behind has left a lot of children behind. The federal governments continued intrusion into our school systems is the biggest debacle in the past 60 years. While it has been necessary for the Government to step in and ensure equal access to our schools, their continued efforts with NCLB and now Race to the Top have stepped over the line with trying to create national standards that will apply to all schools and dictate the curriculum that will be taught. These initiatives will stifle the creativity and enthusiasm of teachers and in the end be detrimental to our children. Where is the incentive for the teacher or room for their creativity when this occurs and what about the parents and their choices? As to the laws effectiveness? The law has forced us to allocate a majority of our resources to the lowest common denominator and we have neglected those at the top. While it’s necessary to see that all children succeed this is one example of why one size does not fit all. Maryland should certainly apply for a waiver and more autonomy needs to be given to local school districts and local schools so that parents have more say in their children’s education.
Q: Do you support expanded charter school options in Frederick County? Explain your position.
A: I support the charter schools and school choice. Children are unique and parents need the opportunity to send their children to schools that are best suited for their needs. Since parents are paying taxes to support the public schools, they should have the ability to choose their child's school instead of being limited to the school to which the local government assigns them. Charter schools aren't just for failing districts. Charters are a way to help all children reach their potential and help the school system reach even greater levels of achievement. Charters also provide teachers with the opportunity to have more of a voice in their work environment and shape the culture of the charter school.. The idea behind charter schools is that they should get the autonomy they need to implement their unique educational approach in exchange for accountability to the standards or benchmarks set by the local system. For charters to reach their potential in Frederick County and serve more children, we need to change our approach in this county to provide equitable funding and greater autonomy that is found in other Maryland districts but not yet in Frederick. Charter schools, which receive less funding in cash than the regular public schools, also demonstrate that the school system could be run more efficiently. It has been suggested that Charter schools take resources away from other children, but if you consider the fact they only get 68 cents of every dollar allocated to a child and part of that has to go to funding a lease and continue to meet teachers’ salaries as negotiated by FCPS they are actually saving the system money and at the same time alleviating overcrowding in other schools and therefore helping to reduce teacher student ratios. If elected, I would work to expand school choice in the county while also holding charters accountable for their results.
Q: In recent years the subject of educating children of illegal immigrants has become a hot topic in Frederick. What role should the School Board play in addressing the concerns of those who believe taxpayer dollars should not be used for this purpose?
A: The school board is obligated to uphold the current laws as implemented. This is a complex issue that needs to be addressed at the federal, state, and local jurisdictions. As educators our responsibility is to the children of this county, and while this may not be a popular stance, it is not our job to enforce immigration policy or laws. However, in light of the fact the federal government continues to allow our borders to remain open and accessible to illegal immigrants, we should be reimbursed financially for providing services that would otherwise not be straining our system.
Q: Do you believe the current content in Frederick County textbooks is appropriate? If so, explain your position. If not, what should be changed and why?
A: As I have stated in the past and will continue to do so FCPS needs to review its entire curriculum. It would be great to collect objective data on what works as another way to evaluate the curriculum beyond asking teachers and parents for their views. Both approaches are important, but objective data should carry a higher weight. I am concerned about the percentage of graduated high school students needing remedial classes. We need to omit the “Social Studies Alive!” program and I believe, as others do, that our history/social studies programs should be taught on a time-line and integrated with other subjects to reinforce those lessons. I would like to see math required in all four years; as to what level of math students take, it would depend on the career path they are choosing based on consultations with guidance counselors and their parents.