Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Sign of Leadership

Yesterday Democratic Candidate for Howard County Executive Courtney Watson announced her vision for the future of our school system. I couldn't be there because I was teaching.

Yes, there's something rather delicious about that.

There is more information here, and the Baltimore Sun covers it here. I would really like to talk to some people who attended this event to get their takeaway on what was meaningful to them. In the meantime, I can tell you what is important to me.

To give you an overview, her education platform outlines initiatives in five major areas:

1.Curriculum innovation

2. Closing achievement gaps between students and schools

3. Technology adoption

4. Partnership building

5. Strategic resource allocation

It is no surprise that her ideas are sound, and speak to what is really going on in our schools in Howard County, because Mrs. Watson has been involved in education from the beginning of her career in public service. I encourage you to read more and see what you think. But today I want to take a step back from the initiatives themselves to something far bigger, and more important.

Courtney Watson knows how the system works. Why? Because she has worked it. She has talked the talk and walked the walk. She has been a parent working for change, a member of the School Board, even serving as School Board Chair. She has worked with the school system as a member of the County Council as well. So she knows the process by which things get done in our schools, and she understands the balance between elected officials in the county (Council and Executive) and elected officials in the school system (Board of Education).

In the last several years we have seen a few notable situations arise in which the Superintendent and Board of Education have made decisions which showed a disturbing disconnect with the open, two-way process that our school system has been known for. Whether by virtue of excess of zeal, or long years served without challenge, the school system has felt less than responsive--out-of-balance.

Ms. Watson will bring to the Office of County Executive not only years of expertise in education, but a healthy respect for responsiveness to the community. We elect the County Executive, we elect the Council Council, we elect the Board of Education, and their job is to be responsive to constituents as they fulfill their missions. The Superintendent serves at the direction of the Board of Education, and so must be a part of that responsiveness as well.

I look forward to Ms. Watson serving as County Executive because she knows exactly how that role can work best with our school system. Her desire to create and sustain ongoing channels of communication with the school system and our library system shows her deep understanding of the value of these institutions to our community.

It also shows her commitment to establishing and maintaining a healthy balance of power, where boundaries are respected and voices are heard. As a parent and community activist, I find this compelling. Education is a huge part of our budget in Howard County. This is a choice we make to support our children and our community as a whole.

I want our County Executive to be someone who understands this from all sides, and who knows how it works. Why? Because leadership is more than lofty-sounding ideas. Leadership is knowing what it takes the get the plane off the ground, find the right team, allocate the appropriate resources, encourage and empower those who can see the journey through.

That's what makes this announcement important to me--as a parent and a teacher.



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