Teachers at my school often ask students to think about whether they are making good choices. As I look at recent events in the Howard County Schools, this expression is on my mind.
Was the BOE making good choices when they chose Dr. Martirano to step in upon the resignation of Dr. Foose?
Yes, I believe they were. They were acting to preserve as much normalcy as possible in a time which would undoubtedly bring great change and unpheaval. They chose a candidate with a proven track record. It looks very much to me that they were looking for values as much as an impressive résumé: putting students first, a passion for equity, an open and responsive nature.
Is Dr. Martirano making good choices?
Well...it's too early to tell. Certainly his beginnings are promising. His willingness to meet with stakeholders and to listen as much as he talks bodes well for a good relationship with the community. The topics that he speaks most about are ones that resonate with me as well: birth-through-five initiatives, providing the best education for students that aren't college-bound, equity, restorative practices, honoring and respecting teachers.
If he is who he says he is, we are in extremely good hands. Dr. Martirano exudes a refreshing sense of humanity and empathy which has been sorely needed in our local discussions about education. But he has plenty on his plate and much of it is not easy. I think it will soon become apparent whether he knows how to do what he is pledging to do and if he truly means what he says. I am inclined to believe the best of him. But after the painfully demoralizing tenure of the last Superintendent, some folks may be a bit wary of giving their trust just yet.
Did the County Executive make a good choice in his selection for the empty spot on the BOE?
If you look at this as fulfilling the basic requirements, then I guess you can't fault him. He gets to make a political appointment, and, by golly, that's exactly what he did. By all accounts he had over thirty candidates to choose from. He chose a political ally. Ananta Hejeebu looks good on paper and of course we all hope he does a brilliant job because, quite frankly, so much is at stake.
But there were a number of applicants that were far more qualified and who have demonstrated ability in working with stakeholders on important educational issues. I am hearing this objection both from Republicans and Democrats, by the way. And the most disappointment (disgust? outrage?) is coming from special education parents who have been consistently involved in advocating for special needs students and programs.
So, did he make a good choice? I'd have to say he made a small, strategic choice. I guess the best you could say is that he didn't break any rules.
But he could have made a excellent choice--for our schools and for our children. Perhaps this is a great example of why we elect BOE members. It appears that the community has higher standards than a politician.
In sum: overall things are looking good. Some things, however, make me scratch my head.
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