Friday, April 18, 2014

Board of Education Responses, Post 9

Thanks to candidate Bess Altwerger for submitting her response:

Question, "What do you think the job of a Board of Education member is?" Please address the following:

1. What power does the position convey?

2. What is the best use of that power?

3. To whom is the Board of Education member responsible?

As a parent of two HCPSS graduates and current HCPSS teacher, a career-long teacher educator, and passionate public school advocate, I believe that the primary responsibility of the BOE is to provide the best education possible for all of our students. We are fortunate to have elected rather than appointed school boards in our state. This means that the BOE is a representative body that should solicit input and be responsive to all of their constituents. These include teachers and their representative body (HCEA), parents and families and their representative body (PTA) and various segments of the general community. I believe strongly that all BOE decisions regarding policies and budgeting should be based upon input and collaboration with these constituencies. The BOE has a responsibility not just to hold open meetings and community events for public input, but to consider very seriously the concerns and issues that are expressed. While the BOE must work with the Office of the Superintendent in a spirit of cooperation, it must act as an independent body and take bold actions as needed in order to be responsive to the voters and educators of our county. The BOE must be willing to enact policies that protect local control over curriculum and assessment. It should also advocate for the necessary budgetary resources to ensure that we provide a high quality, fully equitable education for all of our students. Finally, it must negotiate with the HCEA for a fair and respectable contract that sustains and rewards our outstanding teachers.

 

April 18, 2014 2:35 pm

262 Words

Board of Education Responses, Post 8

Here is the response from Sandra French, a current member of the board:

Question, "What do you think the job of a Board of Education member is?" Please address the following:

1. What power does the position convey?

2. What is the best use of that power?

3. To whom is the Board of Education member responsible?

The Annotated Code of Maryland assigns power to the entire Board as a corporate body when a quorum acts in a legally constituted meeting. Individual Board members have no authority other than the powers of presence, persuasion, relationship- building and collaboration to effect change. Legally, the Superintendent manages the day to day operations of the system, and serves as public advisor to the Board. The Board governs by adopting policies and goals for the future direction of the system, and then evaluates the Superintendent’s performance in meeting them. It adopts a budget that reflects both legal requirements and community preferences. More details on responsibilities can be found in the Board of Education’s Handbook, adopted 11/18/10, which is a public document.

Individual networking and respectful collaboration are positive ways to convince a majority of the Board to vote a certain way. Each board member has unique skills and expertise as a layperson. Sharing that knowledge, and asking the right questions to ensure equity and alignment of practices with vision and goals, strengthens the Board and assists in sending a clear message to the Superintendent and staff. While the Board formally evaluates the Superintendent once a year, feedback and advice are shared frequently on an informal basis.

We have a sacred trust with the community, that we will provide a rigorous and enriching education so that the student will be college and career ready upon graduation. We are forever responsible for listening to students, community members, parents, teachers and the Superintendent; and then for seeking common ground since we are also required to comply with all laws. My decisions are based upon what would be best for the students in the classroom.

April 18, 2014 1:12 pm

282 words

 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Throwback Thursday

On April 1, 2012, I wrote this post to address naysayers of the Symphony Woods park plan. Recall that this was the plan before the Inner Arbor Plan. Take a moment to read it, if you haven't before. I went as over the top as I could to paint a picture of folks who couldn't see the forest for the trees, as it were.

This week it is all coming true.

Yes, now life is imitating art in the wackiest of ways and Cy Paumier has announced he and his group will be leading a protest to the current plan in order to build support for his (rejected) plan. It is as though they have taken their strategy from a satirical April Fool's Day post and are carrying it out in dead earnest.

Anyone who tells you that everything was hunky-dory before the introduction of the Inner Arbor plan for Symphony Woods is just plain wrong. Are they fibbing? Is their memory poor? I don't know.

But you need to know the truth. Many of the same people who are fighting the current plan were actively fighting the previous plan. Really, the same people. Jan Clark was refuting protesters in February, 2012.

On Throwback Thursday we like to post photographs from the past. We ooh and ahh over baby pictures, wedding pictures, impossibly beautiful memories of our pasts. But today I want you to look at a different sort of picture.The fight against a community park in Symphony Woods is not a new one. And it has nothing to do with trees or the beauty of nature. It's about control.

It's not a pretty picture. In fact, this fight has brought out some of the ugliest behavior I have seen in Columbia. But sometimes we need to look at those pictures, to remind ourselves that we can do better.

***

A shout-out to Frank Hecker, whose post got the wheels turning in my head this morning.

 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Board of Education Responses, Post 7

Thanks to candidate Olga Butler for submitting her answer:

Question, "What do you think the job of a Board of Education member is?" Please address the following:

1. What power does the position convey?

2. What is the best use of that power?

3. To whom is the Board of Education member responsible?

As an elected official, a member of the Board of Education is accountable to the citizens of Howard County. Board members are responsible for establishing policies and procedures, which enhance the teaching and learning experience. In addition, they are to provide direct oversight of the school superintendent.

 

This is a very important position in that Board members hold the combined power to influence the current and future path of education in our public school system.

 

As a liaison between the children, parents, educators and the community, board members must be cognizant of the power of the position and use it to forge positive, healthy relationships amongst all stakeholders. Decisions and policies must be carefully thought out and collaboratively worked through to provide the best possible result.

 

The ability of a board member to listen, observe and respect the viewpoints of all while still maintaining focus on the children and their well being is essential. The quality of their education and experience in our school system lies in the hands of our elected board. Board members must remain informed, use common sense and exhibit patience and due diligence to ensure that every child is given equal opportunity to excel and succeed.

April 16, 2014 5:51 pm

200 words

Monday, April 14, 2014

Board of Education Responses, Post 6

Current board member Cindy Vaillancourt leads off our next round of responses:

Question, "What do you think the job of a Board of Education member is?" Please address the following:

1. What power does the position convey?

2. What is the best use of that power?

3. To whom is the Board of Education member responsible?


1. "Power" feels like a weird word when applied to individual Board of Education members, unless it is defined as the opportunity and access to represent the voices and advocate for the needs of the community, the students, the teachers, the administrators, parents, and other supporting staff when decisions are being made about the direction of the school system, allocation of resources, and philosophy of education that are the most effective, efficient, and valued by the residents of Howard County.

2. Board members can and should be the ultimate advocates for the most important civic responsibility of our society, the education of our citizens.

3. Howard County's Board of Education is an elected body, and as such is responsible TO all the citizens of the county in matters related to the HCPSS. It is responsible FOR making the best possible decisions about education matters, use of tax dollars, and providing a safe, nurturing and supportive community service for all community members.

April 14, 2014 7:09 pm

161 words

 

Board of Education Recap, 1-5

Question, "What do you think the job of a Board of Education member is?" Please address the following:

1. What power does the position convey?

2. What is the best use of that power?

3. To whom is the Board of Education member responsible?

Corey Andrews

1. Mr. Andrews gives the most weight to "providing oversight" and "providing vision."

2. He appears to suggest there are times the best use of power is to "step in", "change direction", and/or "provide direction," rather than to "micro-manage the day to-to-day operation of the school system."

3. The Board of Education member is "accountable to every citizen of Howard County" and to that end should be "responsive, visible, and open-minded."

Keywords, or things that stuck in my mind: use of the term vision (perhaps consistent with this definition) and the mention of micro-management as something he doesn't want. Dwelling on what you don't want can sometimes be counter-productive when trying to get your point across. He uses another negative when he states that Board of Education members are "not there to represent themselves." (my wording)

Did he answer the question I asked? Yes.

Leslie Kornreich

1. Ms. Kornreich places the primary powers of the Board of Education member in the "power to collaborate" and to "make...decisions abut the direction and future of our school system."

2. It is my understanding that she sees the best use of power in encouraging stakeholders (principals, teachers, students and parents) to "offer their expertise, ideas, suggestions and criticisms openly..." so that the Board Member may listen and act on that knowledge.

3. The answers to questions 2 and 3 and inextricably linked in this response, as Ms. Kornreich clearly states that the best of power is to "serve the community of voters that have elected you."

Keywords, or things that stuck in my mind: Ms. Kornreich places strong emphasis on collaboration and stakeholders. She, like Mr. Andrews, mentions a negative, "You cannot assume that you know everything," although she uses it to support a collaborate approach.

Did she answer the question I asked? Yes.

Thomas Baek

1. Mr. Baek lays out the power of the Board of Education members as a two-pronged one: a charge to "sustain, oversee, and guide our schools..." And to "work on the Board as a member of a team."

2. This sentence lays out his view of the best use of power: "first listen well, volunteer often, demonstrate leadership by way of deeds, and to actively listen before proactively speaking..."

3. He states, "The Board is empowered by the citizens of our county to be accountable for our schools and for our children."

Keywords, or things that stuck in my mind: collaboration and cooperation, combined with an overall sense that the Board Member must come to the job with a sense of humility and a deep capacity for listening to others.

Did he answer the question asked? Yes.

R. Michael Smith

1. Mr. Smith describes the power of the Board of Education member as in serving as a liason between the community and the Superintendent.

2. I had some difficulty discerning his views on the best use of power. He mentions a desire to "dispel the misperception among some Howard County residents that all is well in our schools." He also emphasizes the importance of participating in "reform."

3. I don't find this question directly addressed, but it does seem that he feels that participating in reform will "satisfy my obligation to the electorate." This would indicate that he feels that the Board of Education member is responsible to the electorate.

Keywords, or things that stuck in my head: the use of the term "liason" in explaining the power the position conveys is an interesting one. Another clearly important term here is "reform."

Did he answer the question I asked? No, not really. I see here an emphasis on the candidate's beliefs and priorities, but not a clear response to the question and its component parts.

Dr. Zaneb Beams

1. Dr. Beams uses a quote from the school system website itself to define the power conveyed by the position of Board of Education member. The Board of Education (BOE) "is responsible for setting local education policy consistent with state and federal laws governing public education."

2. The best of use of that power would be to "use their position to ensure optimal education, creating the best available learning and development environment for all learners." She elaborates, "The Board of Education should be seen as a policy engine that supports, and presents checks and balances to, all stakeholders in the schools."

3. This sentence manages to answer all three question, despite its comparative brevity: "BOE members set educational policy, representing all stakeholders, to create the best learning environment for all." She also states earlier, "Elected leadership is responsible to constituents- students, their families, teachers, staff, and administrators."

Keywords, or things that stuck in my head: emphasis on learning and development of students. Her use of the term "checks and balances" in articulating the role of the Board of Education as a whole is intriguing.

Did she answer the question I asked? Yes.


As always, the rules for commenting are as follows: you must be willing to affix your real name to your words. Thanks!

I look forward to hearing from candidates 6-13.




 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Board of Education Responses, Post 5

Response number five comes from Dr. Zaneb K. Beams:

Question, "What do you think the job of a Board of Education member is?" Please address the following:

1. What power does the position convey?

2. What is the best use of that power?

3. To whom is the Board of Education member responsible?

The Board of Education (BOE) "is responsible for setting local education policy consistent with state and federal laws governing public education." (www.hcpss.org) A BOE member should use their position to ensure optimal education, creating the best available learning and development environment for all learners. That means working to craft policies that address the needs of every child, teacher, and staff, in every school, in every corner of our great county.

Any power conveyed by the position represents the voice of voters. Elected leadership is responsible to constituents- students, their families, teachers, staff, and administrators. A BOE member should reflect these stakeholder voices. The power inherent to the position is an opportunity for leadership in shaping the nature and quality of education.

The BOE is part of the governing body for our schools, one that can check and balance leaders and stakeholders. Federal, state and local legislators, the superintendent, teachers, and administrative staff, and families, impact the BOE’s work. We Americans enjoy a dynamic, flexible, government with features creating stability and longevity. “Checks and Balances” are an important aspect of this design. The Board of Education should be seen as a policy engine that supports, and presents checks and balances to, all stakeholders in the schools.

BOE members set educational policy, representing all stakeholders, to create the best learning environment for all. Howard County can achieve world class education in every school, for every learner, if we prioritize appropriate paths to policy and procedure, to ensure we serve all stakeholders.

April 13, 2014 1:44 pm

251 words