Maryland Voter Guide 2022

Voter guide: Tom Heffner, Board of Education (3), Howard

Tom Heffner

Non-Partisan candidate for Howard County Board of Education, D3

Age 40

Residence Howard County

Occupation President, Tom Heffner Enterprises, LLC - a Design Innovation Consultancy Firm

Education Undergrad in Electrical Engineering, Masters in Applied Psychology, Masters in Electrical & Computer Engineering


More candidates

Previous political experience


Why are you running for office?

I was raised that if you see a problem and you can help, then you do it. I see a big problem with the BOE’s ability to make sound and effective decisions that affect the county’s ability to deliver excellent education for all kids.

The 2019 fall redistricting process is still dominating conversations among community members. What other issues are you going to bring to light as a school board member, and how will you get them the attention they deserve?

Redistricting is an important issue, especially as both the current BOE and Mr. Martirano fumbled this issue badly. That being said, other issues I will bring to the board will be reducing the amount of standardized testing (especially as much of it is not used to improve teaching/curriculum), changing school start times to reflect the science/data that suggests we are doing it all wrong, teaching innovation and creativity more effectively, and cultivating resilience skills in children.

Howard Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano has long been “ringing the bell” about eliminating the health fund deficit. He has proposed to fully eliminate the deficit by fiscal 2022 through school system savings and county funding. Are you in favor of Mr. Martirano’s plan, and why or why not? Do you think the plan should be more aggressive or less?

In general, I am in favor of eliminating the health fund deficit. It’s not a good idea to run a deficit continually. That being said, given the extraordinary circumstances we are enduring right now with the pandemic and the related actions/costs … it may be prudent to revisit whether to enact the elimination this year.

In Mr. Martirano’s proposal fiscal 2021 operating budget, he is looking to address the special education staffing crisis by hiring more than 200 additional staff members in the next year. Is the best avenue to address the staffing crisis, and why or why not? What, if any, additional support programs should also be introduced?

Special education staffing is woefully understaffed. If you have kids receiving special education or help from these staff members, then you will understand this on a visceral level. Increasing staffing is one way to address this problem. However, it must be staffed with those that are trained in delivering these special education services. Just throwing more money and people at the problem won't’ fix it. We need to be smarter about how address this imbalance.

Mr. Martirano’s contract ends in June 2022. At this point in time, would you be in favor of renewing his contract? Why or why not?

No. He showed zero leadership when it mattered most (during the redistricting efforts). He didn’t articulate his preferred plan, the tradeoffs. Nor did he take the time to listen to the community he was impacting. The community felt like they were being talked at and not engaged or heard. It’s hard, yes, but the “too hard pile” is not an excuse. I don’t say this to demean him as a person, he is of good character and a fine person. But he doesn’t have the leadership skills or expertise to lead this county’s schools.