Starting this year, registered voters in Baltimore County will have the opportunity to vote for seven members of the district’s board of education who represent the county’s seven councilmanic districts.
The 12-member partially elected school board will be comprised of four appointed, one student and seven elected members.
But out of Baltimore County’s seven councilmanic districts, only four districts have candidates who will appear on the June 26 primary ballots since more than two candidates will be running for a seat on the school board.
Five candidates are running in District Four and will appear in June’s primary election. Included in the district is Woodlawn, Randallstown, Woodstock, and parts of Owings Mills and Reisterstown.
County residents may find their home districts here.
The primary will determine which two unaffiliated candidates will go on to compete in November’s election.
According to the Maryland State Board of Elections, all School Board elections are nonpartisan elections. As a result, all unaffiliated and independent voters may still vote in the primary. But in order to do so, voters must be registered to vote by June 5. Early voting begins on June 14.
The Baltimore Post sent survey questions – formed through public input – to all interested candidates. Three candidates from District Four agreed to respond to the survey: Kathleen White, PhD, Tara Huffman and Autrese Thorton. All candidates candidates are listed here.
Ms. White earned her Doctorate of Education degree in urban education from Morgan State University, her Master of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees in special education from Coppin State University, and her certification in administration and supervision from Loyola University. She worked as a Baltimore County school teacher, assistant principal and a Baltimore City Public Schools special education coordinator. Ms. White has been endorsed by TABCO, the Teachers Association of Baltimore County.
Q&A with Kathleen White, PhD:
BP: Why are you running for the school board?
KW: The opportunity to serve on the Baltimore County School Board, is an extension of my continued passion for educating students, commitment to teaching, leadership to education and the communities at large. Fostering the shared vision of Baltimore County Public Schools to provide equitable access for each student to compete globally, with the assistance of our very knowledgeable teachers, staff, parents and community partners, resonate with the education values and beliefs that I promote for positive school and community outcomes.
Currently, Baltimore County Public Schools are facing several challenges that require the ability of Board members to demonstrate an extensive knowledge base about education, skills to solve problems and the ability to build consensus for optimal student outcomes.
Working toward the process of equitable education for all students, resources for teachers, support to parents, restoring trust, school construction, school discipline, safe school environments, and extending community partners will require experienced skill sets to work collaboratively for positive solutions.
My acquired skills in my current and past experiences as a teacher, school administer, state level administrator, federal trainer, and community activist, has established the ability to listen first, review information, build consensus, and work as a part of a team for the best outcomes for students, which is paramount.
As an advocate for public education, educator, and problem solver with the clear focus on student achievement, monitoring the fiscal health of organizations, implementing school policies and working with community partners, I am running to assist with the overall achievement of students and serve as the conduit for concerns, and interest of all stakeholders, to be informed with the assurance of analytical judgements that will be based on well-rounded decisions, as it applies to policies and procedures that are in the best interest of our students.
BP: What do you see is Baltimore County Public Schools’ greatest strength? And what has the district done well over last five years?
KW: Baltimore County Public Schools continues to attract the best qualified teachers and staff to support education. It continues to also attract students as evidenced with increased enrollment numbers and has remained dedicated to providing quality education to a diverse student population. Data has indicated that students continue to demonstrate high achievement levels with more than 75% of the students graduating and attending college. To support the needs of students, BluePrint 2.0, Our Way Forward has provided a roadmap to success for students with specific goals and strategies to address the areas of academics, safety and security, communication and organizational effectiveness.
BP: What do you see is the school system’s greatest weakness? And what has the district done poorly that you want changed?
KW: Baltimore County Public Schools has noted areas for improvement and has addressed those areas through the 5-year Strategic Plan, Bluepoint 2.0, Our Way Forward, in reference to how to facilitate change. One of the greatest challenges has been school construction and aging buildings, equipped with supports for the vast student enrollment numbers, additional staffing and resources. Additional areas include oversight of ethics, procurement and policies with the need for additional parameters and the need to narrow the achievement gap.
BP: What do you see are the current challenges facing Baltimore County Public Schools, as a whole?
KW: Baltimore County Public Schools are currently facing several challenges including disproportionate suspension, student mobility rates, equitable distribution. Baltimore County Public Schools also has challenges with school discipline and safety. As well as the perception of disparities and assessments impact on students. Balancing technology with instruction is an ongoing problem with the increase in 1:1 devices, as well as, staffing, trust, extended community partners, and equitable distribution of resources.
BP: What do you see are the district’s greatest capital needs right now?
KW: Attention to school construction is necessary to allocate resources into having the proper classroom size. Baltimore County Public Schools needs for proper utilization of resources in schools and adequate spacing in facilities. There are several schools in various areas of the county that are at capacity.
BP: In your view, is there an achievement gap? If so, why? How can it be solved?
KW: Baltimore County Public Schools does have an achievement gap. There are varies factors for the achievement gap, to include assessment, resources, and culturally proficient staff. Solutions to address these areas would include a review of assessments, providing additional staffing and resources.
BP: Do you feel that schools are treated equally in the school system? Why/why not? (i.e. facilities, resources, support)
KW: Across the board curriculum, standards, and requirements are the same throughout the county. These include, providing a variety of system-wide and school-based high quality professional development opportunities and cohort programs. Additional requirements are in-service courses, and workshops for teachers and administrators in technology integration that support research-based instructional practices to create learner centered environments.
BP: What do you see is the role of the Board of Education? Also, how do you see this role relative to any superintendent hired by the school system?
KW: The role of the Board of Education is to respect the values, beliefs, and priorities of their communities. The superintendent is a spokesperson and should be an open and available point of contact for the community. The superintendent and Board of Education should represent what the community needs from their school system, but also addresses the progressive issues faced in education (new learning challenges/styles of learning).
BP: If approached by a special interest group, former board member or politician with a request on how to vote on a matter, how would you handle such a request? What would you do?
KW: An individual has the right to express his/her point of view to the school board through communication this request will be handled in a fair and impartial manner. I would reiterate my point of view on the manner and encourage the person to be open to other points of view and decide what is best for students and the Baltimore County School System, and the community.
BP: As a Board member, would (or do) you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or as a representative for the school system?
KW: School board members represent the school system for the community. It is imperative to represent the values and beliefs of community and to address the needs of the community. The Board of Education oversees and manages a public-school district’s affairs, personnel, and properties. I see myself as a representative of the community and the school board on behalf of the students.
BP: Will you be accessible to community members and their concerns? What are the ways you plan to engage with community members? (And/or how have you engaged with the community?)
KW: Accessibility is paramount to identifying the needs and concerns of the community and to meet the needs of students. I will be available to the community in a multitude of ways like posting additional information onto the Baltimore County Public School’s website, being available to talk with parents, students, and local organizations during town hall meetings and other focus groups. The engagement of community members will consist of town hall meetings, attending community associations, meeting with parents, student, and local organizations. I also plan to make personal contacts and visit the schools in the community.
BP: In your view, does BCPS have a student discipline problem? If so, why? And how should/can it be addressed?
KW: Student discipline is an ongoing issue regarding school safety, school climate, and disproportionate student suspension. Baltimore County Public Schools has reduced the number of long-term and out-of-school suspensions through revision of their zero-tolerance policies. Eliminating discipline disparities may encourage more positive behavior in the school system. Solutions to discipline include Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). Restorative practices in elementary schools as well as the student handbook and wraparound support will help build constructive relationships between staff and students. BCPS has enacted policies detailing their no tolerance for bullying and harassment, as well as increasing social workers to add another layer to combat behavioral issues in the school system. Additional programming and activities for students will help give students another outlet and lessen the need for school discipline.
BP: What is your own experience with public education?
KW: My career path in Public Education included a Bachelor of Science Degree in Special Education, Master of Science Degree in Special Education, both from Coppin State University, Administration and Supervision Certification from Loyola University and a Doctor of Education in Urban Education Leadership from Morgan State University.
I have served the citizens of Maryland as a Special Education Teacher in Baltimore County Public Schools at White Oak School, Chatsworth, Winfield Elementary, Featherbed Elementary and the Southwest Academy.
During that tenure, I also served as the Evening School Principal- Franklin Senior High School- Adult Education Program and Alternative School Teacher- Southwest Academy- After School Program and TABCO Board member.
My additional experiences include Assistant Principal- Baltimore City Public Schools, Principal, Maryland State Department of Education, Statewide Special Education Coordinator. Currently, I serve as statewide Director of Education. Also, I have developed and delivered professional development seminars on Special Education at the local, state and federal levels of government and worked with the PTA to establish additional programs for parent-student engagement compacts.
BP: What is your opinion on the school system’s youngest learners being on 1:1 computers? Specifically, what do you think the gains and/or missed opportunities are (such as time and money)?
KW: Technology gives learners the flexibility to learn at their own pace, it also gives all learners access and the opportunity to learn computer skills that they might not have had the opportunity to acquire elsewhere. It is a great added resource for teachers and gives students the opportunity explores the balancing of resources, staffing and technology, and to become global learners.
BP: What are the factors on which you will base your decisions as a school board member?
KW: Making school board decisions will be based on several factors and include, but are not limited to items requiring immediate attention, data driven analyses, COMAR law, federal law, trends in education, current policies, community input. When making decisions as a school board member and a member of the community my priority will be the students. Additional factors will include areas of need and other fiscal needs.
BP: How do you suggest the school system adhere to both ethics and procurement procedures and policies? In your view, whose job is it to oversee procurement and ethics policies and procedures?
KW: All policies and procedures are readily available on the Baltimore County Public School’s website. The oversight of procurement and ethics policies and procedures should by the office of purchasing under the division of business services. The Office of Purchasing is responsible for coordinating and issuing of all solicitations for commodities, construction and renovations, equipment, furnishings, instructional materials, and services in compliance with federal and state statutory regulations and Board of Education policies, procedures and rules. Each local school system’s ethics policy is subject to review and approval by the Maryland State Ethics Commission. The Ethics Review Panel is an advisory body, appointed by the Board of Education to: (1) create the applicable Financial Disclosure Statements, Confidential Ethics Complaint Reporting Form, and the Lobbying Registration Form; (2) review and maintain the Financial Disclosure Statements submitted by Board of Education members, Board of Education candidates, Board of Education employees, and school officials; (3) review requests for advisory opinions; and (4) review ethics complaints and make recommendations to the Board.