Views offered on improving school board

Candidates' ideas include better communication, changing panel's makeup

March 07, 2000|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Howard County voters will make their choices today from a pool of 17 school board candidates running for two open seats. The four with the most votes will advance to the general election in November -- but residents can vote for only two candidates.

An additional candidate, Cheri J. Herschman, has dropped out of the race, although her name remains on the ballot.

Issues that often surfaced during the primary campaign include open enrollment, redistricting, treatment of older schools and how the school board operates. The Sun asked the candidates for their opinions on those topics.

Here are the responses from candidates on the subject of school board operations:

Are there any changes you would make to the way the school board operates?

Glenn Amato: The board needs to listen, then act upon input from the community. They need not become defensive and hostile. The board needs to spend more time in the schools, not the boardroom. The Listening Post needs to be televised. You should be allowed to speak about what is on the agenda that night. The board needs to stop the practice of amending the minutes. What is said needs to be on record and not amended or struck from the record.

Marcelino Bedolla: Among other things, the board has the responsibility of representing the community to insure that an excellent education is available to all students. I would see to it that the board takes all viewpoints on an issue into account. In addition, I would encourage that all program recommendations and budget requests that come to the board include a section as to how the recommendation/request would improve or affect the delivery of services to the student.

Stephen C. Bounds: We can always improve communication, but it might help to first review the available methods of communication with board members, who do not each have administrative assistants as do council members. Each board member is available by phone (home number published), fax, e-mail and letter, in addition to the more formal public hearings, Listening Post, community meetings, PTA and CAC meetings and coffee and conversation sessions. Our meetings are televised live and on tape, and our actions are widely reported in the media. If there are suggestions for other methods of communication or improvement of existing methods, I would be very open to suggestions.

Virginia Charles: Reduce the term of office from six to four years; expand the Board of Education from five to seven members; elect five members from councilmanic districts and two at large. Allow community responses concerning items on the agenda in a Listening Post format after Board of Education meetings. Anyone who sits through a meeting should be able to respond to what went on at that meeting. The Board of Education should allow interaction with some members of the audience (HCEA, PTACHC, and CAC). The yearly Board of Education schedule and quarterly agendas should be published in every PTA newsletter. Minutes should be posted on the HCPSS Web site. The summaries should be done immediately, with the complete minutes following ASAP. Citizens also need to be reminded that any Board of Education meetings are open to all members of the public.

June D. Cofield: Changes I would work towards improving the school board would be televised Listening Post, monthly activity logs for board members, and a video library of board meetings available to the public. I would also like an interactive e-mail and the board responsive to community concerns surrounding educational issues and our youth; community involved in redistricting beyond the minimum presently done; board representative at PTA council meetings where they hold a vote, which would also allow access to hear from PTAs; and answers to the public, whether a "yes" or "no," given with honest and sincere respect.

Daniel M. Dotson: To maximize the dialogue with the community, the board should provide regular updates with news, announcements and meeting agendas and summaries by mail, fax, e-mail, and its Web site. Communication is a two-way process, and board members should provide more opportunity for input from the community. Board members could take turns holding office hours to make themselves available to those who may not want to write a letter or testify at Listening Post. Before considering policy changes, the board should ensure that input from all stakeholders -- students, parents, teachers, staff and administrators -- has been provided.

Don Dunn: Use good management principles to earn the trust and confidence of county citizens. This can be accomplished by purposefully communicating (listening and informing) with parents, teachers, administrators, property owners, County Council and the county executive. Public relations are important. People support what they help to create.

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