Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Recipe for Recovery: BOE Part 2

Onward to some analysis!

Our school system has survived a time of crisis. Now we are moving into a time of recovery. As we prepare to vote for new Board members in the June primary, I’ve concocted a recipe for recovery. Here are the ingredients:

Knowledge of the School System
Respect for others
Flexibility in working with others, and intellectual flexibility/creativity
Understanding of what the job itself entails

Optional, but recommended: a sense of humor

There are also certain issues that matter a lot to me:

Special education
Arts Education
Fair treatment of teachers and support staff
Responsiveness to parents

With all that in mind, these candidates have many/most of these ingredients:

Vicky Cutroneo
Sabina Taj
Jen Mallo

These have some:

Bob Glascock
Danny Mackey
Robert Miller
Carleen Pena

Not the right mix/amount of ingredients:

Anita Pandey
Saif Rehman
Chao Wu

Cutroneo combines experience as a parent and advocate with her PTACHC service and career as a pediatric nurse. She has experience collaborating with legislators in Annapolis.  She has a huge amount of institutional knowledge which will be valuable as Altwerger and Vaillancourt go off the Board. She has heart.

Taj has a strong arts education background. She also has a wide range of knowledge of our non-English speaking students and families, as well as our at-risk students. She has valuable experience with educational grants. She’s a listener and a creative thinker. I’m guessing there’s a sense of humor here, too.

Mallo has served in a variety of functions supporting our schools. She has an excellent grasp of what’s going on and a measured and deliberate approach to problem-solving. I appreciate her    advocacy on Policy 1020 Sexual Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct. Ms.  Mallo has a rather reserved demeanor but it’s clear that she knows her stuff.

Glascock has a boatload of experience but I have two reservations. One is that he is heavily reliant on how things used to be during his tenure at HCPSS. He left in 2008. (The first iPhone was released   in 2007, to give you a reference point.)  The school system and our community have changed a lot since then. I’d love to hear him speak to how he’ll face newer challenges. My other reservation is that, when he opens his mouth to speak, I hear “Central Office.” We don’t need any more people
representing Central Office. They are doing a great job representing themselves. If Mr. Glascock makes it through the Primary I hope to see him do a better job establishing himself as a community advocate in a way that distinguishes him from his former employer.

Mackey is highly motivated, has great focus, and works hard. My gut tells me he just isn’t ready yet. I do think he has a valuable perspective and that the school system should be listening, I’m not sure he has had the variety and depth of life experiences that would make him the kind of board member we need right now.

Miller has given his entire career to working with kids in our school system. He cares a lot, and he is a good man. My concern is that he is consistently inflexible. Mr. Miller is going to give you not just a piece of his mind, but an entire boxed set of his reflections. Our new board is going to need to collaborate well and do some creative and nimble thinking. I’m not sure how well his method of interaction will fare when decisions need to be made in a timely manner.

Pena’s professional background is relevant and valuable. I think her heart is in the right place and her instincts are good. I thought she did well in the forum I attended. She came across as honest, down-to-earth, and well-informed. However, I don’t think she is going to make it through the primary. The name-recognition issue is against her. If she doesn’t make it through, I hope she will run again. I  
think she has a lot to offer.

 Pandey comes across as pleasant and well-meaning but she is prone to saying things that reveal she doesn’t truly understand the job. For instance, in the discussion about school safety she suggested that community members could donate free mental health services to students. This and other similar suggestions paint an impression of someone who is brainstorming solutions without understanding  how the school system actually works.

Rehman lost me when he warned of the danger of experienced Board members stepping down, leaving only inexperienced members who would clearly need his financial and management expertise. 1)If elected, wouldn’t he be even more inexperienced as a Board member than they are?    2) Is he familiar with the professional expertise of Kirsten Coombs and Christina Delmont-Small? Mr. Rehman’s overall theme seemed to hover rather close to suggesting that HCPSS needs saving, and  that he is the one to do it. That didn’t feel very collaborative to me.

Wu arrived late to the forum but I have certainly been following his campaign through social media.  His involvement in the Columbia Association Board of Directors has shown his sincere desire to contribute to the community. I don’t get a strong sense that his strengths are a good match for this position. I admire his dedication but I’m not convinced by his candidacy.

You may have noticed that I haven’t include Robinson anywhere on this list. That is because she has disqualified herself from consideration on three separate counts:

1) She has done nothing to assure concerned community members that she would advocate equally for LGBTQ students rights (with the same concern and attention as straight, cisgender students.)

2) She has stated more than once that anything in the budget is fair game for cutting because “we don’t  know if anything we are doing is working.”  This is simply not the case. While we have  evaluated some programs better than others, it’s completely disingenuous to put everything on the chopping block by suggesting that nothing can be trusted. It’s like waving your arms over everything we do and calling it Fake News. This is a dangerous and unhelpful over-generalization .

3) In discussing redistricting Ms.Robinson accused members of the Feasibility Committee of              “operating for personal gain.” That’s an incredibly destructive and divisive thing for a potential Board member to say. Who on earth will ever volunteer to do that kind of (truly thankless) work again if they think that a Board member might throw them under the bus?

These are my thoughts. I offer them with respect and thanks to anyone who takes the risk to run for public office. You do not have to agree with me. (Goodness knows none of the endorsing bodies in Howard County have.)  I’ve tried  to concoct a good recipe for recovery. I don’t particulatly think of myself as an endorser of candidates, but I definitely have a top three:

Vicky Cutroneo, Jen Mallo, Sabina Taj.

Please take the time to evaluate these candidates and please vote. Our schools deserve the best leadership our community can offer.

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