Melissa Ellis

Melissa Ellis
  • Non-Partisan
  • Age: 47
  • Residence: Millersville

About Melissa Ellis

Education

I received a Bachelor of Arts from University of Maryland Baltimore County in 1993. I majored in psychology and focused my studies on child development and education. As an undergraduate, I participated in two large-scale faculty research projects and presented my own research as a part of one of those projects at a conference for the American Psychological Association.

Background

I have a diverse background in private industry, government contracting, and volunteer work. Positions have included human resources management, logistics for the US Navy, retail management, flight coordinator and sales for a jet charter company, and several volunteer roles for my childrens’ schools and community theaters. I have also homeschooled our four children since 2009, though two of our children have successfully transitioned to public high school. I believe my diverse background will make me an ideal board member for determining budget and policy related to the many aspects of a well-run school system.

Questionnaire

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1
Teacher raises
The Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County continues to advocate for a return of step increases given up during the 2008 recession. Should the Board of Education fund these increases?
Ellis: Good teachers are the foundation and top priority for a quality education. I firmly believe that retention strategies are the most cost-effective means of achieving that goal. I have met with numerous teachers of the past several months and know that many of them feel gravely undervalued, especially those that stuck it out and could earn more by moving to another school system. It is demoralizing for these teachers to train newly hired teachers with a similar level of education and experience who are earning a higher salary. The cost of turnover both financially and to the quality of education we can offer our students is greater than doing what is necessary to retain our experienced and effective teachers. I am aware that over the last decade, the AACPS budget for non-teaching positions has increased at three times the rate of spending on teachers. I believe this misguided practice has been detrimental to our students in multiple ways, and I believe we need to refocus our budget back into the classroom. Hiring and retaining quality teachers has to be our number one priority. Our board and administration has to create a budget that reflects this goal and work with our County Executive and County Council to ensure we have the resources necessary to offer the best possible education to every student, regardless of zip code or other factors affecting a student’s opportunity to succeed.
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2
School security
The county has committed to additional funding for school security. How do you want to see this money spent?
Ellis: If at all possible, once we have ensured that every school has the same quality safeguards already in place in many of our schools, I would like to see that money spent on sufficient staffing within our schools with teachers, guidance counselors, and psychologists. If these funds are restricted to what might be considered more concrete security measures, then these funds could be used to add to enhancing and updating current security equipment and school resource officers. It is important though that these officers are seen as security for the students and not policing of the students. These officers need to have opportunities to regularly interact with students in a way that the students feel safe and see them as a support. It is important that we not overestimate and therefore overreact to the real threat to our students to the point that we are making rash decisions that will serve to put our students in even greater danger. Turning our schools into prison-like fortresses could have detrimental effects on both the student and adult population as was reported a few weeks ago in “Education Week.” School will become even more of a place where students don’t feel safe, rather a place they expect violence. This will also create a divide between teachers and students as students are seen as potential threats rather than young citizens to develop and nurture into productive citizens. The psychological effects here are potentially much more costly than the benefits of peace of mind.
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3
Bullying
Parents have complained to the current board about bullying at schools. How do you feel the board should address this issue?
Ellis: After attending a Board of Education meeting and witnessing over an hour of public testimony from parents and students on this issue, I was left feeling disturbed and very concerned about how these cases are being handled. I began researching and attending other public forums, and most recently sat down with a parent who has become a leader in this movement to have our schools deal with bullying of students by fellow students and even teachers. The process for the handling of reports and resolving these cases seems to be deeply flawed. It is a very complicated issue with many factors serving as a barrier to the protection of our students, but we must methodically and systematically come up with concrete solutions that will not leave the onus on the victim to find a solution to ending their ongoing torment. I believe our board should create a commission made up of parents, students, administrators, guidance counselors, law enforcement, and the Department of Health to come up with policies and means of enforcement that will ensure that every student feels safe and supported in our schools. There is no choice but to move forward with finding effective solutions and not just point to current codes of conduct that are not being followed or enforced. It is heartbreaking to know how our school system has let down these young victims of emotional and physical violence. I would make this issue a top priority as a board member.
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