Last night, I had the opportunity to officially announce my candidacy for Board of Education at Historic Oakland in Columbia. I got a great response. While my humorous little asides aren’t here, I can tell you that the smiles on people’s faces reinforced my message. I was lucky to have my friend and state delegate introduce me and his glowing terms put a tear in my eye. So if you weren’t able to make it last night, here’s my speech:
Thank you so much for that introduction, Eric [Ebersole]. I appreciate your support and I am so glad to have you as my friend and my delegate. Thank you for your work in our schools & for our schools.
And that’s one reason why I am here tonight… because of teachers like Eric and how they make a positive impact on our children. The educational staff are the most important part of our school system. When successful people are asked who had made a major difference in their lives, it is so often a teacher. If you reflect for a moment, I am sure that many of you can recall the impact a teacher made for you.
Lily is in the 7th year of being in the Howard County schools and we have been so impressed with her teachers. The level of dedication that they bring to the classroom is truly inspiring. Sitting at back to school night this year almost made me want to return to 6th grade.
Our children spend 13 years in school. Their interactions with their teachers leave lasting impressions. If a child is struggling, a teacher can catch the issue. If a child is bored, a teacher notices and realizes she needs more challenging work. But if a teacher is overwhelmed with failing technology and unnecessary bureaucratic demands, they have less time for personal interaction with our children.
In recent years, there have been a number of questionable decisions made by the school system that have interfered with the educators’ ability to do their job effectively.
This year’s ineffectual rollout of Canvas/Synergy has not only affected how parents can be involved in their student’s academic life, but has also taken a significant amount of our administrators’ and educators’ time. Several of the teachers that I spoke with said that it is taking more than 5-10 hours extra per week to use the new software.
I have been active in my daughter’s school through the PTA and volunteering in the classroom. In the spring, I used my skills as an accountant to participate in the budget review process. It became apparent that there are several areas of the budget have the wrong priorities. I have met with community leaders, teachers and parents to learn more about these and other issues that need to be addressed. I have come to realize that the only way to address these concerns is to bring change to the Board.
That’s the reason I am announcing my candidacy for Board of Education in 2016. Discussions with my family – Luke, Lily, Diane, Bill and Ken – and I wasn’t going to mention Brian because of my purple signs and the Ravens – have led me to this decision.
As a new Board member, I would require detailed analysis of how changes to programs and class sizes impact our kids. The system should present a business case that examines the cost/benefit of changes. Although I’m an accountant & will bring my business background to the Board, I don’t believe only financial data should be examined. Educational staff, parents and students’ input should be gathered before a program is rolled out to all the schools. Teachers in the buildings should be contributing their expertise to the design of new programs rather than implementing something created by Central Office. In FY 2014, 69% of our teachers held master’s or higher degrees. We are not utilizing our in-house talent!
More disturbing, we’re allowing some of that talent to leave.
I found a disturbing statistic comparing FY 2008 & FY 2014. Our student population increased 4% in that period while the number of teachers decreased 4%. That doesn’t make sense to me. The administrative staff and central office have actually increased.
Those are trends that concern me.
The community at large and the Board in particular should require the tough questions. All Howard County residents should have the right to transparency about the use of $845 million, more than 60% of the County budget. We should not be made to feel that asking for accountability and transparency is undeserved and an inconvenience such as asking whether there’s mold in our schools.
Throughout my life, I have been a persistent questioner. Regardless of where this campaign takes me, I will continue to ask uncomfortable questions – both to learn more and get the truth out there.
I hope that you see my ability as a positive reason to vote for me in April and November 2016 and bring change to the Board. I will need your help in knocking your neighbors’ doors, planting yard signs around the County and your introductions to your community.