Board hopefuls speak on aiding older schools

17 candidates offer views on technology, resources, staffing

March 06, 2000|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

In fast-growing Howard County -- where schools are opened two or three at a time to accommodate students from newly built sub-divisions -- the school system is grappling with how to deal with complaints that older, more established schools are being left behind when it comes to technology and resources.

The Sun asked 17 candidates campaigning for two open school board seats to give their opinions on the issue of older schools, in advance of tomorrow's primary.

The four candidates with the most votes will advance to the general election in November -- but residents can vote for only two candidates. One candidate, Cheri J. Herschman, has dropped out of the race, although her name remains on the ballot.

What should be done to help Howard County's older schools thrive?

Glenn Amato: Proper resources in place to ensure that the school is up to par and that the students have the resources needed to succeed.

Marcelino Bedolla: The older schools in Howard County tend to be elementary schools. To help them thrive, I would encourage assigning resources to those schools to ensure that they continue to be or strive to be high-achieving schools. These resources would include a small student-to-teacher ratio, support programs for students needing extra help, and a curriculum that would challenge a student at all levels.

Stephen C. Bounds: The first item is to continue the recent practice of placing the strongest principals in the schools with greatest needs. A second initiative is staff development support to help the teachers use the new quarterly assessments to pinpoint individual student weaknesses, and specifically target instruction to meet their needs. A third factor is the ongoing effort to upgrade and renovate older schools so that they are more conducive to learning.

Virginia Charles: Many schools need major renovations that will allow them to teach the curriculum. This especially includes complete computer wiring and enough computers to have one in every classroom and several school labs. The BEST principals need to be leading these schools (and are in many cases). Teachers need continuous in-service training. Additional personnel (reading recovery teachers, full-time and/or extra counselors where needed, full-time psychologists, full-time ESOL teachers, pre-K and all-day kindergarten and parental liaisons) are all needed -- especially when there is a large number of students entering and leaving the school system.

June D. Cofield: I would work for neighborhood schools that stabilize the essence of what each community is and would reflect the best qualities of education to heighten the community expectations for their children. Once equity was identified and addressed throughout the county, I would work towards parity in our schools meeting those particular needs exceptional to each school community. The concept of a community school system would raise the awareness that every child can learn.

Daniel M. Dotson: Resources must be directed to the schools and classrooms, where additional supports are needed. The board should use the upcoming report from the equity task force as a blueprint to develop new ways of sustaining schools, teachers, administrators, families and students. The responsibility of reinvigorating our communities and schools does not rest solely with the Board of Education. The Board of Education must show its leadership in order to work with school improvement teams, PTAs, community organizations and government officials on the common goal of improving education for all students.

Don Dunn: What is at stake here is the real possibility of Howard County falling into the pattern of other urbanized areas. Weak schools exacerbate the social problems typical of urban areas. Yes, we need to manage the balance of new teachers with experienced teachers. But what is really required are solutions attractive to the person most responsible for student performance, the classroom teachers. Fix the facilities, the heating and cooling. Let's give the teachers an opportunity for 11 months of pay while still working 10 months. How? Work after school with structured classes. Not only classes in reading, writing and math but languages and computer technology. How about Saturday? Extra planning time? Students transferred into school into the middle of the year? A red flag -- special attention required. Give the customers (parents) of these schools added features, make them want to send their children to these schools.

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