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Siddiqui seeks to continue in role of advocate

Janet Siddiqui, who has served on the Howard County Board of Education since 2007, says that her passion is for helping children and that she advocates for them every day in her professional life.

Siddiqui has worked as a pediatrician with Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore City and Odenton, for more than 20 years.

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She wants to continue advocating for them as a school board member, too, which is why she is seeking re-election this year. She faces two other incumbents and eight challengers in the April 26 primary.

"I've enjoyed my work on the board," said Siddiqui, whose three children graduated from Howard County schools. "I feel like I can continue to provide a service to the community."

Siddiqui believes that her medical perspective uniquely contributes to the board's understanding of the children the school system serves.

"There are so many issues surrounding our children these days," she said. "We have to understand the needs of the whole child — the psychological, social, cognitive and developmental issues around the whole child."

One issue that the school system has addressed in recent years, but requires more work, Siddiqui said, is the achievement gap.

To narrow disparities in academic success among different demographic groups, the school system must ensure cultural proficiency training for all teachers, she said, to overcome racial biases in their expectations of students.

The new diversity coordinator position that Siddiqui proposed in February for inclusion in next year's school operating budget will help with this matter, she said.

The new central office employee will coordinate the various school system initiatives meant to support the increasing diversity of the school system's student body, from developing a more inclusive curriculum to recruiting a more diverse workforce, to expanding cultural proficiency training.

"We're making sure that all of our teachers set the bar high for all of our students," Siddiqui, 54, said.

Another important area for improvement, the Clarksville resident said, is expanding universal pre-kindergarten.

The Howard County Public School System currently has pre-kindergarten programs at more than 20 schools, and the school board recently approved funding for expanded programs in Oakland Mills.

"If we get children ready to learn before they reach kindergarten," Siddiqui said, "they'll be more successful overall."

To address recent concerns about the school system's transparency, she said, the school board needs to look at improving its processes for communicating with and involving stakeholders. With regard to concerns about the school board's accountability, she said the group is already held accountable by Maryland law.

When asked about her outlook for the election, given the recent backlash against school board incumbents over their support of Renee Foose's controversial leadership, Siddiqui said that she "continues to do everything possible for the children of Howard County."

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"The voters will make their decisions regarding who they want to continue or not continue on the board," she said. "I feel I have a good record of representing the community on issues surrounding children and I'll continue to work hard every single day."

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