Voter guide: Yun Lu, Board of Education (5), Howard
For The Baltimore Sun
Non-Partisan candidate for Howard County Board of Education, D5
Residence Clarksville, MD
Occupation I am a full time Mathematical Statistician working for a federal public health agency. I have been a Federal Acquisition Certification-Contracting Officer’s Representative (FAC-COR) for almost ten years. I am teaching mathematics competition courses at a local Chinese School on Sundays.
Education I received my Ph.D. in Biostatistics from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, my M.S. in Statistics and M.S. in Food Science and Technology from Iowa State University, and my B.S. in Chemistry from Peking University in China.
I am running for office because I want to bring evidence-based decisions and common sense to the BOE. The decisions of BOE have direct impact on tens of thousands of children and their families, as well as all Howard County communities. Everybody is impacted.
I never imagined that I would run for any office until I saw the decision making process at the BOE during redistricting - inaccurate data, flawed analysis, and misinterpreted results. The BOE should make decisions based on solid data and evidence, make sure benefits outweigh risks, and consult all stakeholders. I want to bring common sense and improved decision making to all of the important decisions that will occur throughout the years of my term.
Public education should put our children first. I came from a family of educators and I have two children in Howard County public schools. Seeking election to the BOE is about preparing children for their bright future – improving their academic achievement, physical well-being, as well as social-emotional readiness.
As a Ph.D. statistician working for a federal public health agency, a Federal Acquisition Certification-Contracting Officer’s Representative participating in the procurement process, I hope to use my expertise and experience to bring change to the BOE.
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?
BOE’s decision making process needs to be based on accurate data, valid analysis, and takes input from all stakeholders to serve the best interest of children and communities. This issue has come to attention during the redistricting process, and I will use my statistical expertise to request accurate data and facilitate data analysis, and bring evidence-based decision making to the BOE. When school board and county council don’t work together, students and communities suffer. I will use over-development related school overcrowding issue and budget shortfall to get the attention they deserve. I aim to foster collaborations between the BOE and county council in long-term planning with regard to budget as well as development related school planning. Mental health is a serious issue in Howard County. In Howard County, suicide was the leading cause of death for people ages 15-19 between 2014-2016. I will use social media and other channels of communications to raise mental health awareness among parents and communities to foster a safe environment for students to talk about mental health issues. I also want the school to play an important role in nurturing students' social-emotional development because it is equally important as academic achievement and physical well-being for children’s bright future.
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 am in favor of Dr. Martirano’s plan to eliminate the health fund deficit. We need to eliminate the health deficit, otherwise, Howard County’s AAA bond rating could potentially be negatively impacted. The health deficit grew from $22.2 million in FY 2017, to $37.0 million in FY 2018, then to $39.2 million in FY 2019. On October 31, 2019, HCPSS received an adverse opinion in a yearly report from a public accounting firm CohnReznick, due to not paying down the health fund deficit. To avoid another adverse opinion this year, we need to eliminate the health fund deficit. We need to keep Howard County’s AAA bond rating, otherwise, we could end up borrowing less money with higher interest rate in the future. I think Dr. Martirano’s health fund elimination plan is fine. It is better to eliminate the health fund deficit sooner. However, given the budget constraint, it is difficult to make it more aggressive.
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?
Dr. Martirano proposed to hire 216.8 additional special education positions. I don’t think it is the best avenue to address the staffing crisis. There are additional support programs that can be introduced.
We need to hire more well-trained special education teachers. Among the 216.8 proposed positions, there are 51.0 teachers, 51.0 paraeducators, 91.0 student assistants, and 23.8 related service providers and program oversight. The total proposed budget for special education is $15.1 million. Due to the county budget constraints, we need to advocate for more state or federal funding and hire more grant writers to apply for funding for special education program. In public health, education, early detection, early intervention are important and effective strategies. It is essential for school system to raise awareness of special education related symptoms among students, parents, teachers, and communities. It is very important to inform parents, so they can notice the symptoms early and the special education students can be diagnosed early and have early intervention. Early intervention can help special education students improve significantly and relief the work load of special educators in the long run. HCPSS is training teachers on dyslexia education which is a good start. Reading is so important to children’s education and future. In summary, we need to advocate for more funding, hire more well-trained special education teachers, provide more teacher and staff training for special education, raise special education awareness, and provide early detection and early intervention.
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?
Based on the information as of today, I would not be in favor of renewing his contract. In the next two years, additional information will come in and contribute to the decision whether to renew Dr. Martirano’s contract in June 2022.
We need to evaluate his performance case by case. I disagree with how Dr. Martirano handled the redistricting process including the selection of AAC members, the dramatic change from the feasibility study to the Superintendent recommendation, and the large number of students being redistricted other than addressing capacity. I want to see the superintendent follows appropriate procedures and seeks input from all stakeholders. I am disappointed by the lack of preparedness for the coronavirus outbreak school closures such as no capacity for distance learning. Several other counties have provided TV or online learning opportunities for students. However, I am pleased with the Superintendent’s effort of promoting mental health and raising mental health awareness. I would need more information to decide whether to renew his contract in 2022. I will make sure my decision making is based on accurate information and solid evidence.