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Howard school board candidate Ellis touts experience in public education

Howard school board candidate Ellis touts experience in public education

Mavis Ellis, candidate for the Howard County Board of Education, has been working and volunteering in public education in various capacities for more than 30 years, from educational evaluator to classroom teacher to PTA president.

"No one else has the experience I do," she said.

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Ellis currently serves on the boards of the Maryland State Education Association and National Education Association. She was elected to both positions in 2010 and is wrapping up her second terms with the unions this August.

In these roles, she has advocated for increased federal funding for public education as well as the congressional passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, and reviewed program budgets and rallied support for new initiatives.

She also works full-time as a pupil personnel worker for Montgomery County Public Schools.

She works with students on mental health and relationship issues, sits on special education teams, does home visits with truant students and enrolls and provides supports for homeless students, she said. Ellis, 68, has worked as a pupil personnel worker since 2001.

As a school board candidate, Ellis is running for one of three seats against seven other challengers with varied backgrounds, from federal government worker to retired teacher to parent advocate, as well as the three incumbents, Janet Siddiqui, Ellen Flynn Giles and Ann DeLacy.

Howard County residents will cast three votes in the April 26 primary to narrow the field to six candidates ahead of the Nov. 7 general election.

Ellis, who has been endorsed by the Howard County Education Association and The People's Voice, a civic group, said she will use her varied experience to focus on equity, transparency and collaboration.

"It's about representing all of the children in Howard County, not any one group or pocket of kids or pocket of stakeholders," said Ellis, who has lived in Columbia for 13 years.

The school system needs to do more to help the county's neediest students to succeed, she said, by promoting regular school attendance, reducing suspensions and training staff on positive interventions.

In order to serve all students, she said, the school board needs to do a better job of listening to and communicating and collaborating with community members and educators.

"The Howard County Public School System is fantastic," she said, "but the fact that parents had to bring the mold issue to the Board of Education and wait for a response for months, that's a shame."

Ellis lamented that Howard school officials did not immediately inform the community about mold growth at Glenwood Middle School and pointed to the Montgomery County school system's recent response to elevated radon levels in schools as an example of how the situation should have been handled.

"Everybody was informed, and the whole process is out there, transparent," she said. "So it's a non-issue."

Referring to a Mount Hebron High School student's rant against African-Americans that was caught on video and shared on social media, Ellis said that students at the school should have had more opportunities to "talk, share and overcome their feelings" about racism with the support of staff.

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The incident revealed that the school system needs a curriculum that reflects the diversity of the student body, she said, which is what Mount Hebron High students called for in a protest against the video.

Before any of these changes can be made, Ellis said, people to need to vote at least two new members onto the school board.

"I must admit, I tend to be the quiet one," she said. "I'm not going to be belligerent. I'm going to get data together, do the research, talk to parents, talk to community members."

For more information on Ellis's campaign, go to mavisellisboe.org.

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