Q: What are your top three priorities if elected?
1. Ensuring that every student has an outstanding teacher.
2. Developing stronger relationships with the community.
3. Ensuring our students are college and career ready.
Q: Discuss the job performance of CEO Kevin Maxwell. Would you rate him excellent, good, fair or poor? Why?
It is still very early in his tenure, but thus far I would rate his performance as good. I was excited by his selection as someone who has proven track record as an outstanding superintendent and has strong personal and professional ties to the county. I commend him for overseeing a smooth start to the school year and making it a priority to be extremely visible and accessible to the community. I admire his commitment to visit so many schools throughout the county and listen to the concerns, hopes and desires of students, parents, educators and administrators. He has made it clear that he has high expectations for his administration, and I look forward to assessing his performance more closely as he starts to implement strategies we all hope will lead to greater academic outcomes for students.
Q. How would you rate the performance of the current school board: excellent, good, fair or poor? Why?
I believe that the short tenure of the new board has been a relatively good one. The newly appointed board members provide a fresh perspective and depth of educational experience. On the surface there seems to be a greater desire to work collaboratively, yet their ability to effectively create policies and provide budgetary oversight of the new CEO is still in doubt.
Q: Do you support the new structure of the school system? Why or why not?
The new structure of the school system was a necessary compromise between the old system and a new system given past challenges and instability of leadership for our school system. I am an advocate for the majority of the board being elected because it adheres to the democratic process that allows voters to choose their leaders through the voting process. As voters we also put our trust in the Office of the County Executive, who is charged with the overall welfare and advancement of our community and because education is a cornerstone of the success of our community and I believe the Country Executive should have greater authority and accountability as it relates to the school system.
Q. Are school security measures sufficient, and how would you address challenges, if any?
Overall, I believe school security measures are sufficient but we need to ensure they are consistently implemented across the district. I support recent plans to improve our schools security with improvements such as: increasing the number of surveillance cameras, adding electronic “buzz-entry” features to doors, panic buttons, and introducing a system wide emergency alert system. All schools have yet to receive all these upgrades, and it would be helpful to have regular communication on the status of these upgrades. Given the rise of tragic events in schools across the country, I am very pleased to know that our schools have been conducting emergency drills to practice lockdown procedures should the need arise.
Q: What initiatives, if any, would you implement to increase parental involvement in county schools?
In order to increase parental involvement in county schools I would:
• Invite parents to school kick-off planning meetings where they would discuss and share their hopes and dreams for their child and then create annual SMART Goals on how to get there
• Partner with local agencies to provide regular parenting workshops (helping with homework, nutrition, family recreation or communication)
• Establish formal mechanisms for families to communicate to administrators and teachers as needed (e.g., direct phone numbers, e-mail addresses, weekly hours for families to call or meet)
• Provide training and materials for parents on how to improve children’s study skills
• Create roles for parents on decision-making and advisory committees, properly training them for the areas in which they will serve (e.g., curriculum, budget or school safety).
• Conduct a survey of parents to identify volunteer interests, talents and availability, matching these resources to school programs and staff-support needs
• Structure a network that links every family with a designated parent liaison
• Create volunteer recognition events for parents
Q: Access to specialty programs in public schools has been a concern. What specific steps would you take, if any, to address the issue?
We need to take a look at the data to identify which specialty programs are in greatest demand and are producing the greatest academic results. Once this analysis has been done, additional resources should be allocated to the most successful programs and we should identify what traits of these programs can be replicated in all schools. All parents want their child to attend a high quality school and our focus should not merely be on expanding access to specialty schools, but providing all families access to a high quality schools, with outstanding teachers, and adequate resources that allow students to achieve their very best.
Q: Teacher retention continues to be a challenge. What specific steps would you take, if any, to address the issue?
In order to retain our teachers the first priority must be to increase salaries and benefits. Other strategies/initiatives I would support are:
• Increase opportunities for meaningful professional development
• Offer tuition reimbursement programs
• Ensure teachers have the materials, supplies and tools they need to be highly effective
• Identify outstanding principals who are successful at retaining their staff and ask them to share their best practices and mentor other principals
• Encourage principals to involve their teachers in major decisions impacting the school (new curriculum, scheduling, discipline policies, types of professional development offered etc.)
• Ensure teachers have safe and orderly school environment
Q: What funding areas need increasing and what areas need to be scaled back?
Areas that need increased funding are:
• Salaries and benefits for our teachers
• Professional development for our educators, especially with the implementation of common core state standards
• Technology infrastructure to ensure we can effectively deliver instruction and assessments aligned to common core standards and ensure our students are college and career ready
• Parent engagement initiatives
• Resources to address the needs of ESL students
In terms of identifying what areas we should cut back, we should analyze the data around current programs and determine which areas should be scaled back or cut all together.
Q: Several of Prince George’s school buildings are in need of upgrades, and construction dollars from the state and county are scarce. How do you propose providing appropriate educational facilities for school children?
Our county leaders are advocating on the state level and making greater commitments on the local level, yet fully funded capital improvement dollars will be challenging. In the short term, our strategy should be to prioritize facilities with the greatest need. We should also identify the needs of our schools that could be repaired or upgraded through strategic partnerships with corporate and community based organizations that could provide in-kind resources and volunteers to assist with upgrades and repairs. Long term, we will need to explore creative funding solutions to bring in additional dollars to meet the capital improvement needs our children deserve.