Board candidates discuss schools' greatest needs

September 03, 2006|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,sun reporter

In advance of the Sept. 12 primary election, The Sun asked all 14 candidates to respond to this question:

Howard County is known for its top-performing school system and innovative programs. But, like every school system, there are still areas in need of improvement. In your opinion, what is the greatest need facing the school system?

Paul Aliprando

Aliprando, 49, is a self-employed packaging supply distributor:

I believe the board needs to better support the teachers and administration with discipline issues and in their grading processes. The [Howard County school system] must assure a safe and nonintimidating environment for working and learning. The board should expect adherence and a disciplined follow-through on the current rules and policies to support the teachers, administrators and students. In addition, we need to more adequately develop our vocational training program. We need to assure students who do not continue to college are better prepared to support themselves in the business environment or with a trade: carpentry, electrician, HVAC. A more developed vocational program will assist with students' self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment for those students who need it most. Students who feel good about themselves will less likely be disruptive. Discipline and motivation will reduce classroom distractions, allowing the teachers to teach and the average well-behaved kid to learn.

Frank Aquino

Aquino, 48, is attorney/general counsel of an environmental consulting and engineering company:

The [school system] faces a number of pressing needs, and identification of any one is very difficult. The list includes attracting and retaining the best teachers possible, making the best use of financial resources while coping with unfunded mandates and making investments in technological improvements in order to better manage operations and improve classroom instruction. The [system] needs a student information system that works and works well -- one that will foster increased efficiency and have the ability to disseminate information internally and externally with ease and in multiple formats to meet the system's ever-increasing data-reporting requirements.

The [system] needs to renovate and modernize older schools to provide more equity among the individual school building environments and ensure that the lack of adequate facilities does not hinder the educational process. The [system] needs to plan for continued growth such as that expected from [military base realignment] and find a revenue stream that will allow Howard County government to continue to make capital investments in our schools.

Marcelino M. Bedolla

Bedolla, a science teacher in Baltimore, did not respond to the questionnaire.

Larry Cohen

Cohen 56, is a retired principal, assistant principal, administrative liaison, pupil personnel worker and teacher:

The greatest need is to ensure that we provide all of the resources necessary to enable all of our students to pass the High School Assessments and thereby eliminate the achievement gap among all student groups. This entails providing early intervention resources so that by the time students get into high school they have already developed the skills and knowledge that will allow them to be successful. This also entails making sure that we hire and retain our most effective teachers and keep class sizes at reasonable levels for optimum learning.

In addition, we need to make sure that all of our schools are equipped with the most updated technology and that all school employees have the resources necessary to do their jobs effectively. In the end, it is the classroom in which our attention needs to be focused and that is where our resources need to go.

Allen Dyer

Dyer, 59, is a computer consultant and lawyer:

More needs to be done to close the achievement gap. Specifically, skills training must return to our local schools, and extra resources must be targeted to students most in need.

During the development of the staff and programs that allow our students to pursue academic success, skills training programs atrophied and all but disappeared. As a result, students that had relied on skills training for motivation lost interest in purely academic course work. Returning skills training to local schools would bolster the confidence of all students in their abilities to build and shape the world around them.

Academic success, however, also depends on what our students do after the end of the regular school day. Targeting extra resources such as places to study, laptop computers, broadband Internet access and teacher advice after regular school hours will provide students most in need with better opportunities to close the achievement gap.

Sandra H. French

French, 62, is a retired educator, former chairman of the school board and now a substitute teacher in Howard County secondary schools:

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