Interview with The Examiner

Janet submitted the following answers in response to questions asked by The Examiner of Baltimore newspaper.

1. According to the National School Boards Association, school board members are charged with overseeing budgets that total millions of dollars, and must contend with issues such as student achievement, special education, technology within the schools and hiring and retaining quality teachers. What makes you qualified to serve on the Howard County School Board?
I’ve been a resident of Howard County for twenty years. I have three children in the HCPSS, and I’m a Pediatrician who deals with all aspects of a child’s growth and development on a daily basis. I feel that the Board of Education must be well rounded with members from different disciplines, and with my medical background I’ll bring a unique perspective to the board.

2. Recently released state Department of Education data shows that middle-schoolers are the most likely victims of bullying, which includes teasing and making rude or insensitive remarks. The Howard County Public School System_s data shows similar findings. Is bullying a problem in Howard County?
I was a member of the HCPSS Anti-Bullying Task Force and yes, bullying is a problem in the county and across the nation. Cyber-bullying is of particular concern since our children our using the internet more.

  • 2a. The county has an Anti-Bullying Task Force and has conducted seminars for its staff and students to learn more about bullying and ways to deal with it. Have these efforts been effective?
    The Anti-Bullying Task Force recently made its recommendations to the BOE. This will be an on-going process of education, prevention and evaluation of its programs.

3. Closing the achievement gap between minority students and other student groups has long confronted the school board. Many minority students are not passing the High School Assessments, which are required by the state Department of Education to graduate from high school. How would you bridge the achievement gap?
Howard County schools have made strides in minority student,s improvements, but you need to target the schools and students that are having problems and bring them together with the home and the community to understand the issues that hold a child back from achievements.

4. Housing costs in Howard County are very expensive, resulting in many teachers living outside the county or leaving for jobs closer to their homes in other counties. What incentives would you provide to keep teachers in the county?
I’m hopeful that the County’s Task Force on Affordable Housing will develop a strategy, that will give affordable housing to our teachers. Teachers living in our community would help bridge the gap between the school and home, which is vital for our children’s success.

5. Redistricting comes up every year and causes a lot of controversy within the Howard County school community. Parents are often upset that their children are moved away from neighborhood schools. Do you have any alternatives to redistricting?
With the growth of the county we must have a vision for future needs, and we must find a way to limit the number of students that are disrupted through redistricting.

6. Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, teachers are required to test students to make sure they meet yearly progress goals or face actions that could result in a school takeover. This has led some to charge that too much classroom time is being spent giving students tests at the expense of learning. How much time should a teacher spend teaching to the test?
There should be a balance between the curriculum, standardized testing, and the needs of the students. While tests are a mechanism of evaluation, we shouldn’t lose sight of educating children.

6a. According to the Howard County School System’s latest annual report, all schools met “annual yearly progress” as required by the No Child Left Behind law. Is the test an effective measure of the county’s students and teachers?

  • While tests are an objective measure of success, we should continue to strive for success beyond NCLB guidelines and focus on the students that don’t meet the standards.
  • 6b. Part of the No Child Left Behind law also allows school districts not to report the scores of students considered “statistically insignificant,” which could lead to a school producing a higher overall passing rate on standardized tests. What is your opinion about this part of the law?
    This is a standard statistical method of evaluation, and should be used as a tool for assessment. As a county we need to look at the performance and improvements for all students and schools.

7. Howard County school officials have spent $803,000 implementing the Chancery Student Management System, which tracks student data reports, such as attendance and grades. Parents and data entry clerks have complained about the software’s accuracy and slowness. But school officials say transcripts sent out last fall to colleges and universities produced no errors. Recently, school officials decided to continue ironing out kinks in the software while allowing schools to use another software to keep track of local student report. But, they noted that the SMS would remain the official student record. They also said they’re working with Chancery officials to improve the software. Should the school system purchase new software?
In large scale software implementations there initially can be problems. Work together to address the issues and in the future, have a stage-wise implementation.

8. Asian and Hispanic students are among the fastest-growing student groups within the Howard County school system. Requests for interpreters to help families understand the school system have also soared over the past years to about 6,000 during the 2004-05 school year. How would you address some of the issues facing these students and their families who grapple with limited English-speaking skills?
Diversity is the backbone of our nation. We need to encourage our state legislators to provide more funding for ESOL programs and work with local community organizations for after school programs.

9. The Howard County school system’s older schools are in major need of systemic renovations, however, during the capital budget process, many of them keep getting pushed to the sidelines because of a lack of funding. How would you address this issue?
Priority should be the safety, hygiene, and health of children. Then equality in terms of resources, tools, and technology. Encourage state funding to meet these goals.

10. The president of the Howard County Education Association released a job satisfaction survey that state that 44 percent of respondents either were harassed or witnessed harassing behavior from co-workers, administrators or parents. How should such behavior be addressed within the school system?
We should consider re-evaluating the existing harassment policy and place more emphasis on prevention of harassment, awareness of civility, and enforcement of the policy.