Tuesday, April 5, 2016

More Questions, and Some Answers

What do you think the job of a Board of Education member is?

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?

These are the questions I posed to the last group of candidates for Board of Education in 2014. They are still important to me as I evaluate this year's crop. I have added the following questions to my deliberations this time around:

1. Does the candidate value:

  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Working Collaboratively

2. Does the candidate understand the immediate challenges facing our school system? (In other words, does s/he have the depth of knowledge and and experience to address issues such as: school overcrowding, the achievement gap, plummeting teacher morale, bullying and sexual assault, illness-producing mold at Glenwood Middle and other schools, and inequity in special education, for example.)

3. Can s/he win?

This last question is a tough one. It forces me to look at more than qualifications, but also at electability. I do so because changing the course of our school system is so crucial and I want any candidates who make it through the primary election to be the best-equipped to win in November.

All of this being said, these are the three candidates I will be voting for:

Kirsten Coombs

Vicky Cutroneo

Mavis Ellis

Why these three?

Ms. Coombs offers professional experience as an accountant, involvement in schools as a parent volunteer, experience as a parent in Columbia schools, experience donating her time on the Citizen Operating Budget Review Board, experience as a member of the Town Center Village Board. She has made supporting teachers a central focus of her campaign, because she sees that valuing and supporting teachers benefits all of our students. She's not afraid to be around a lot of divergent opinions. She's willing to get out there and talk to people, and more importantly, to listen.

Ms. Cutroneo offers a huge depth of community involvement in advocating for students, parents, and staff through the Mold in Howard County group. She's active in supporting her children's schools. She has a strong commitment to open communication and she has shown diligence in pursuing accountability. While she is a positive voice for her community in Western Howard County, she's equally passionate in supporting all the children in our schools, no matter where they may live.

Ms. Ellis has professional experience as a teacher and a pupil personnel worker that will bring much-needed depth of knowledge to the board. In the brief amount of time that she has been on the local public stage as a candidate, she has introduced new and valuable ideas as to how we can address to achievement gap more effectively in Howard County. From volunteering with the PTA to professional work with state and national initiatives, Ms. Ellis has pursued the best for students, parents, and teachers in a way that shows thoughtfulness and thoroughness.

These are my picks*. I offer them here with my criteria for informational purposes only. I truly wish that I could vote for four, as Christina Delmont-Small is highly qualified as well. I must admit that for me, it came down to choosing between Ms. Cutroneo and Ms. Delmont-Small, and it was the months and months of watching Ms. Cutroneo work for better conditions at Glenwood Middle that tipped the scale for me. Her respect for everyone in the school community, no matter what position they hold, and her willingness to stand up to those in positions of power on their behalf, is an excellent window into how I believe she will function as a BOE member.

Please remember: yard signs and and newspapers articles and blogs won't win this election--you will. You must vote, and you must encourage your friends, neighbors, and co-workers to vote. Today is the last day to register to vote in the primary. Don't miss out on your chance to do something great for our community.

*If I could vote for four, I'd add Christina Delmont-Small. (If toughness and political acumen did not matter, Robert Miller would be next.)


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