Wednesday, March 16, 2016

My Questions for the Howard County Board of Education

There have been few things over the past five months that have bothered me as much as what is going on with the Howard County Board of Education.  It is not only the fact that I disagree with some of the decisions and actions that the Board has taken, but also the paralyzing helplessness that comes with those decisions.

We can talk all day long about whether the Board should be elected at-large, by district, or a combination of both, but there is something fundamentally undemocratic about how it currently operates.  Board member Ann Delacy brazenly acknowledged this disconnect by suggesting that she was more concerned about what children thought of Board decisions than "the adults...who are complaining."  Rarely will you find such disdain for the electorate in the same year that individual's name will be on the ballot.  Rarely will you see it matter less than the Howard County Board of Education race.

I would presume that the majority of those reading this post have already made a general decision on whether they will be voting for the three incumbents on this year's ballot.  I would also presume that a small minority have decided to re-elect all three.  This election has already shown its warts and has been quite nasty in some corners.  In light of this, I thought I would offer my concerns as questions; questions that, if answered, would significantly change my current disposition on the Board.

Utilization of HCPSS Personnel for Political Purposes

  1. On February 4, 2016, were HCPSS administrators instructed via text message to remain in their chairs after the budget discussion?  If so, why?  Also, were school principals directed to attend the contract renewal meeting?  If so, why?
  2. Were HCPSS personnel directed to testify regarding state legislation that would have elected future Board members by district?  Did the Administration use HCPSS email to coordinate this effort?  If so, please explain the educational interest in defeating this legislation.  If not, please explain this video.
  3. Does HCPSS have a policy regarding the utilization of HCPSS personnel for political purposes?  Is there a policy regarding the use of HCPSS e-mail for political lobbying, political speech, or coordination of political action?
  4. Can a principal or administrator be fired or demoted for failure to comply with a political directive?
Measures of Academic Progress (MAP)
  1. In 2012, shortly after Dr. Foose was hired, HCPSS began the process of implementing the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) program, which had been utilized by the Superintendent during past employment.  The MAP program requires computer labs in all elementary and middle schools sufficient to accommodate such testing. What has been the total cost of implementing this program?
  2. How many testing days does MAP add to the school calendar?
  3. Understanding that Dr. Foose had implemented MAP in Montgomery County and Baltimore County prior to coming to Howard County, which of these jurisdictions has retained the program?  My understanding is that it has been discontinued or is in the process of being discontinued in both.
  4. To what extent did Dr. Foose and her leadership team incorporate feedback from HCPSS administrators regarding the implementation of this program?
HCPSS Management
  1.  By what percentage has the public relations/marketing office increased in size since 2012?
  2. How many administrators have been fired or demoted since 2012?  How does this compare to the four year period between 2008 and 2012?
  3. How many days per week is the Superintendent at the Administrative Building?
  4. When was the last survey of job satisfaction by HCPSS administrators?  What were the results?
Political disagreement is often dismissed when it can be characterized as a personal attack.  None of this is personal.  I am deeply concerned that the public trust placed in the Board of Education is either being disregarded or broken.  Answers to these questions would go a long way to deciding which.

Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!