Maryland Voter Guide 2022

Voter guide: Sezin Palmer, Board of Education (4), Howard

Sezin Palmer

Non-Partisan candidate for Howard County Board of Education, D4

Age 45

Residence Columbia, MD

Occupation National Health Mission Area Executive, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab

Education BSEE, MSEE


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Previous political experience


Why are you running for office?

I am running for the Howard County Board of Education (BOE) because I see the opportunity to improve educational outcomes and experiences for all of our children. My observation of the current BOE’s decision-making processes led me to realize that individuals who are experienced in leading large, complex organizations would add much value to the BOE and the functioning of the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS). Given my background and experience, I am confident I can improve the functioning of the BOE and HCPSS. .

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?

There are many important issues beyond redistricting that must be addressed urgently by the BOE. First and foremost, the budgeting process must be made more transparent and we must ensure we are funding the educational needs of all students before creating new administrative positions and programs at the expense of our educators and children. Another critical area that must be addressed by the next BOE includes proper funding and training for special educators. As a school system, we have not properly supported children with special needs and proper training for all staff interacting with these students is required.

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?

I strongly believe we must be a fiscally responsible school system and this includes eliminating the health fund deficit as quickly as possible. While I agree with the Superintendent’s goal on this topic, I did not support his approach. His presentation of a budget that was so far removed from reality, without sufficient transparency to allow for meaningful debate regarding specific budget items, simply added to the challenging situation and did not contribute to a feasible solution.

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?

While I think the gesture was along the right track, simply adding more untrained staff to the special education billets will not solve the challenges we are facing in HCPSS. The solution requires adding trained special education staff, while reexamining policies and the current administration’s approach to evaluating, properly identifying and supporting children with special needs. Instead of denying parents’ requests for evaluations and failing to comply with 504s and IEPs, HCPSS should focus on making it easier for families to deal with the significant challenges these students face.

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?

At this point in time, I would not be in favor of renewing the Superintendent’s contract. Myobservations of his performance have led me to conclude that he does not possess the necessary skillset to effectively lead the school system serving almost 60,000 children entrusted to him. From redistricting - where a politically-motivated plan was developed and pushed - to the current crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Superintendent has not demonstrated leadership consistent with prioritizing the interests of almost 60,000 children. He has identified many excuses for the lack of a responsible plan for HCPSS while much larger school systems in surrounding counties managed to deal with the same challenges. While the COVID crisis presents unprecedented concerns beyond the scope of the school system, it is inexcusable that other counties were prepared with significantly more extensive materials and plans for learning while Howard County did almost nothing and continues to plan for an absence of learning for elementary school students for a total of six weeks.