8 years on the Howard County Board of Education, 2010-2018
Why are you running for office?
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?
Many of the issues that interfere with the effective operation of our classrooms are rooted in our failure to adequately staff our classrooms and schools with properly trained and educated support staff and special educators. The key to impacting the daily lives of our educators and our students is proper staffing, and manageable class sizes. I will advocate relentlessly with the funding authorities and the HCPSS administration to direct funding to those areas.
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?
Obviously the HCPSS deficit, which resides in the Health and Dental Fund but was not created by expenses in that category, must be cured. It is crippling the school system. It is part of the carryover of issues from the precious administration that Dr. Martirano has been tasked to address. If the HCPSS Budget were being fully funded, it might be possible to direct savings achieved through belt tightening over the course of the year toward a pay down schedule. As it is, with HCPSS facing a third year of bare bones budgets, this plan requires additional cuts to services and programs beyond what have been discussed through the budget process. The County Government should cure this deficit via direct funding as soon as possible. Ultimately, the HCPSS budget is a Howard County budget. As it currently stands, the plans merely require additional cuts when the public is not looking.
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?
Staffing is the key to addressing the crisis not only in Special Education, but throughout the system. Classrooms properly staffed, with properly trained and educated staff, impact every child - whether they are specifically receiving IEP or 504 accommodations. The classroom teacher MUST be provided with the tools to focus on consistent delivery of the lesson plans. The students MUST have their needs met with appropriate professionals and adequate resources. Cuts made over several years have left gaping holes in the HCPSS overall ability to meet the needs of our Special Education students, as well as our students who do not receive special education services.
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?
I think it would be irresponsible to commit to a course of action regarding the renewal of Dr. Martirano’s contract for a number of reasons - not the least of which is that there is a lot more to being a Superintendent than Redistricting. In most things that are front and center in the public eye, this Superintendent is acting at the direction of at least a majority of the Board of Education. It is important to differentiate between how he executes their directions, and the path they instruct him to take. The school system is about to move through uncharted waters, and the Superintendent’s performance and leadership during this crisis will weigh significantly on any decision the next Board makes.