I attended the Columbia Villages Board of Education forum Thursday evening. It brought back memories of the last one I attended in 2014. The contrast was huge. Last time we had some candidates in the final six that had no earthly idea what they were talking about, which made for some rather hilarious answers during the forum. (Sadly, one of those candidates was elected.)
On Thursday there were no such obvious howlers. The contrast was provided between the five challengers who are, I would suggest, more prepared than any other group of candidates before them, and the incumbent, who spoke more in generalities and cliches than to the specifics of the questions.
It turns out that my notes were a lot sketchier than I thought while I was taking them. I ask your forgiveness--I'm presenting them here with only minor clean-up.
Here is a summary of their five minute opening statements.
- Ellis: The job of the BOE member is to represent students, families, and community members as they develop programs in the Howard County Schools. Collaboration. Understand how local government and state government play a role. We can look at special programs, IB programs.
- Cutroneo: involvement began with mold and health issues at Glenwood Middle School, then connected with other parent advocacy groups. Decided to run for Board because she realized that change needs to come from within. Spoke to the issue of starting school later. Health comes first. We will need public input.
- Miller--experience as a teacher and parent. As a teacher was told he can't speak out, could be charged with insubordination. Too much testing and other intiatiatives mean time and money wasted. There's much to improve. ESM --the world language piece causes a problem with continuity at middle school level. It's also extremely expensive. Teachers need flexibility to do their jobs well. Departmentalization makes that difficult.
- Coombs--school parent, member of Citizens Operating Budget Review Committee. Recommends reconstituting that committee. spoke about importance of paraeducators in K especially. Make better choices with our money. Chose to speak to issue of redistricting. Mentioned Howard High school. Suggests taking current politics out of redistricting. Certain numbers would trigger decisions. There should be a decision matrix. High schools are not included in APFO, should be.
- Siddiqui- diversity. strong schools. I advocate for children. The science of learning. I have access to Johns Hopkins. (Medical data?) Mitochondria. Racial bias gender bias etc. disturbing. Unconscious bias training. Working together with the community. Early college program. ESM. Achievement gap. Input in redistricting. I understand challenges of families.
- Delmont-Small: Got involved as a parent, as a PTA member, then led PTACHC. Saw voices of parents pushed to the side. COBRC: gave her Insight into budget. We don't really know how we are spending the money received from the County. A budget document is a policy document. Ask the hard questions. Solve problems, create solutions. Helping people work together. She spoke to the issue of creating accountability by district. Term limits. Build new leaders. Bringing in new people to be a part of the solution.
As a concerned parent and a community blogger, I was excited to see the issues that concern me most come up over and over again: responsiveness, transparency, and accountability. It was remarkable to see the five challengers share so much consensus on this, while showing through their answers how their particular experience shapes their ideas addressing problems and crafting solutions.
I found it difficult to judge Dr. Siddiqui because her presentation style is rather flat. Her delivery is, on the whole, so lifeless that one is left wondering why she wants to continue on the board. That, however, is a matter of style. In the area of substance, she has the advantage/disadvantage of having a record that can be checked. More on that tomorrow, when I reconstruct the Q and A part of the forum.
A tip of the hat to Columbia Villages for sponsoring the Forum, Oakland Mills for hosting, Jonathan Edelson for handling the MC duties, and the folks from the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center at HCC for running the Q and A so efficiently.
Sent from my iPad