Vaillancourt seeks second term on Howard school board

Cindy Vaillancourt thought she would serve only one term on the Howard County Board of Education. But after reflecting on her first term and believing that she had made progress on issues she is passionate about -- such as school start times -- Vaillancourt decided to run for a second term.

"In an ideal world, I would have only served one term and I would have had these things done," she said with a laugh.

Vaillancourt, 51, is one of 12 candidates for the seven-member board of education. There are four open seats in this year's election. The primary election is June 24, when eight of the 12 candidates will advance.

Although the school system has researched the possibility of changing high school start times, which Vaillancourt thinks are too early, no changes will be made for the 2014-15 school year.

Regardless, Vaillancourt believes the issue is receiving meaningful discussion and could be close to a change.

"When I first came on the board, it was shot down," she said.

Vaillancourt is one of four candidates that HCEA has endorsed in this year's school board primary election. She was not endorsed by the teachers union four years ago, but said she is "grateful" for their support this time around.

"I have taken what I consider to be a lot of abuse, to stand up for the educators and the students against plans that I didn't think were in their best interest," she said. "It's really reassuring to know that they paid attention and that they appreciated it and that they cared."

Vaillancourt acknowledged the adversarial relationship between the school board and the Howard County Education Association, saying that a more "collaborative working" relationship is needed.

"I believe that it is in the best interest of the community for us to have a good working relationship with our teaching staff, our educators, the people who spend all day, every day with our children," she said. "They need to be the best we can get, they need to be appropriately compensated, they need to be treated well, they need to feel respected and valued."

Regarding the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Howard County, Vaillancourt said the school system "could have and should have done better."

She praised the efforts at Guilford Elementary School to have teachers create binders of lesson plans over the summer for their colleagues.

"Every school should have done that," she said.

Vaillancourt has two grown children; a son who graduated from River Hill High School and a daughter who graduated from Glenelg Country School in 2008.

Vaillancourt's daughter attended Glenelg Country School because of the early public high school start times, which Vaillancourt thinks HCPSS could be moving faster to address.

Her son was in the special education program at River Hill, where he received a "fantastic" education, Vaillancourt said.

"Whatever we felt we needed, we got," she said.

She added that one of the reasons she ran for the board was because of all the questions she received from other parents county-wide regarding special education services.

Her first run for the board was also spurred by an interest in being involved with the selection of a new school superintendent.

Throughout the early years of her tenure, Vaillancourt said, Superintendent Renee Foose has done "some really great things" while making "difficult, hard choices."

"That's part of the reason why I wanted somebody from outside of the system who wasn't invested in the status quo," she said.

Vaillancourt specifically commended the superintendent's five-year strategic plan, Vision 2018: Fulfilling the Promise of Preparation.

"I would like to see us being true to those values and those goals," she said.

Vaillancourt also stressed the need for additional world language instruction at the elementary school level. She said she is optimistic about the new elementary school model initiative, which introduces world language to students.

"From what little I know about it, I'm optimistic; I hope it goes well," she said.

Vaillancourt has been critical of school administration for not providing the board of education with more information on the model schools initiative before unveiling it at a press conference May 15.

She also defended herself at the board of education's May 2 meeting, when the board voted 6-2 to approve a resolution accusing her of twice breaching the confidentiality of closed sessions within the past year. She and Brian Meshkin voted against it.

In a statement afterward, Vaillancourt called the allegations "nasty politics" 45 days before the primary election.

"My colleagues know that I have not violated any actual rules, and would likely be moving to have me removed if I had, which makes this public effort to use the assumed credibility of the Board of Education to attempt to defame me, a candidate for the Board of Education, 45 days before the election, an abuse of their office of the worse kind," she said.

After the meeting, Vaillancourt said she had been left out of email communication regarding one ethics panel case, which led her to contact the panel directly for documents relating to the case.

This is part of a series of profiles of Howard County School Board candidates.

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