Carroll County Board of Education candidates respond: What is the most important issue facing students’ learning?

Emily Chappell
Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

With early voting underway and Election Day on Nov. 6, the Carroll County Times reached out to the candidates running for school board to see where they stand on key issues facing Carroll County Public Schools.

Six candidates are running for three seats on the Board of Education.

Bob Lord, the current school board president, is the only incumbent running. County Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, is also running for a spot. The other four candidates are Patricia Ann Dorsey, a retired elementary school principal; Tara Battaglia, a parent and community activist; Kenneth Kiler, an executive at a construction company and founder of the Manchester Wrestling program; and Mary Kowalski, a former CCPS employee and current citizen activist.

Question three:

Outside of budgets and school safety, what do you think is the most important issue facing students’ learning in the classroom?

Tara Battaglia:

We have a major drug epidemic. We have students losing parents. We need to adjust our drug education. An example would be instead of showing the Heroin Kills in 8th grade, it should be shown in 6th grade. We need to get our communities more involved as well. We need to get our PTA/PTO’s to hold mass community meetings with our Health Department, Sheriff’s Department and State’s Attorney Office. This needs to be a collective education opportunity in our communities. I would like to see all students Naloxone-trained as a graduation requirement. This life-saving medication is not just for those that may overdose of heroin, but can be life saving in the event a young child accidentally overdoses on prescription medications or a elderly adult takes to much of a medication. Drugs have been around since the beginning of time (legal or illegal). Prevention in our communities is the key and education is how we can combat our overdose epidemic. We need to teach holistic approaches on how to handle stress and stressful situations.

Patrica Ann Dorsey:

Our schools should provide safe, secure, non-threatening learning environments for students. Students should display respectful and responsible behavior while following school and classroom rules. An important issue facing student learning in the classroom is inappropriate behavior. Behavior that interrupts learning should not be accepted. Students causing disruption in the classroom should receive disciplinary consequences. Counselors, psychologists, or behavior specialists should be available to build relationships with students, enhance strategies to improve behavior, and provide direct behavioral interventions with students as needed. Support for teachers, instructional assistants, and school staff should be enhanced through professional development.

Doug Howard:

I strongly believe that the most important issue facing students’ learning in the classroom is overwhelming obsession with standardized testing and its impact on our school system. Our students spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for standardized tests and taking these tests. The system spends a tremendous amount on preparing for tests, analyzing results and continually adjusting curriculum to meet ever changing test requirements.

We need more time teaching and less time testing. I would immediately convene a task force of teachers to identify ways for this to be accomplished.

We need to lessen the burden of standardized testing. I would immediately meet with the delegation and ask them to pursue relief from certain requirements by the state as long as they are funding the schools at less than 40 percent of its total budget. We should support legislation to do just this.

We need to end the practice of continually changing curriculum just to drive test scores. We need to develop our own measures of student success, our own curriculum and be willing to accept that the state test scores may decline some, but that is not a reason to keep changing the way our students are evaluated and taught. I would also immediately convene a task force aimed at addressing this issue and lessening the amount and frequency of change in the curriculum. I believe our experienced teachers know how and what to teach. We need to give them the classroom time and the latitude to do so.

Ken Kiler:

I wish we could oversimplify students’ learning in the classroom to one important issue. Even after budget and school safety, there are several.

Technology and social media: We need technology in the classroom. Many students in today’s world are more technologically advanced than their parents and even teachers. We need to take advantage of that, but at the same time not let it be a distraction. A big potential for distraction is social media.

Classroom size: When funds are tight there is a temptation to sacrifice classroom size rather than increase staff. Educators talk about keeping classes no larger than 30 students. In many cases 30 is too large to give the students individual attention.

Family income, other family factors and parent involvement: What is going on at home, variations in family income and the ability and desire in parental involvement play a large role in the teacher’s ability to teach the students and the students desire to learn.

Student health (physical and mental): Obesity, poor eating habits and mental health issues lead to higher absenteeism and academic issues.

Bullying and student behavior: Bullying, student attitudes and behavior are not new problems. Cyber bullying is even harder to enforce.

Politics: Politicians have learned that it is very popular to talk about education. We need to get them to talk about specifics, including funding, and hold them to their promises.

Testing: Testing is a necessary evil. It provides measurements of student performance, to some extent. We presently have too much testing. It robs both teaching time and computer resources.

Mary Kowalski:

Student success in the classroom relies heavily on the quality of the teacher. If I am elected, I will focus on hiring and retaining quality teachers for our schools. We have many good teachers now. However, we also lost good teachers with budget cuts and salary freezes over the last several years. So, I think it is important that we keep our focus on this issue. We need to continue to encourage our teachers to grow in their knowledge and skill. We also need to ensure that we have strong mentoring systems in place for our new teachers fresh out of college.

I continue to be concerned about the “Common Core” curriculum standards, which were part of an initiative of President Barack Obama several years ago and are still being used in our schools. We have a locally appointed Curriculum Council which recommends curriculum materials to the Board of Education. However, their decisions are influenced by the Common Core standards.

Testing is another very important issue. PARCC testing was part of the Obama initiative that accompanied Common Core. After a few short years, PARCC is now on its way out. It was clear from the beginning that PARCC was not everything it was built up to be. The testing is much too time-consuming and, in my view, results in skimpy achievement data, relying merely on a scale of 1 to 5 for test scores. I believe we need to keep the primary focus on local testing with our County Benchmark Assessments.

Bob Lord:

Students learn when they are motivated. Our priority needs to be identifying what motivates each student. One sure way to motivate students is to have excellent teachers in our classrooms.

emily.chappell@carrollcountytimes.com

443-805-9691

twitter.com/EmilyChappell13

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
36°