Lisa A. Mack

Lisa A. Mack
  • Non-Partisan
  • Age: 60
  • Residence: Catonsville

About Lisa A. Mack

Education

In 1989, after the birth of my 3rd child, I started school and went to night and weekend school for seventeen straight years to earn an AA from CCBC in 1996, a BA in Human Services Administration from College of Notre Dame in 2000, and a dual MA in Management and Finance from College of Notre Dame of Maryland in 2006.

Background

I worked for Verizon for 28 years. I retired in 2007 from my position as Director of Wholesale Markets. From 2009 - 2013, I taught English at CCBC. Since 2016, I have been a Standardized Patient at UMD and JHU.

    Questionnaire

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    1
    Why
    Why do you want to serve on the county school board?
    Mack: There are many decisions that have been made by the county school board that appear to be made in the best interest of the county and not in the best interest of its students or teachers. In 2009, I began to teach at CCBC. I was appalled to learn that each and every semester thousands of students, the vast majority recent graduates of Baltimore County high schools, had not learned enough to pass the CCBC placement test that used 6th grade curriculum. In 2009, CCBC offered 7700 seats for remedial math, remedial reading, and remedial English. As a college adjunct, I spent full semesters teaching high school graduates how to write a paragraph (ENG 051) and how to write a five paragraph essay (ENG 052). How did students who can’t write a paragraph or have never written an essay graduate from high school? In fact, how did those students make it to high school since writing paragraphs and creating essays is part of the elementary school curriculum? Each semester, I engaged my students in a discussion of how they ended up needing up to seven remedial classes before they could ever take a credited course. There was a theme to my students’ responses, “As long as I showed up and didn’t screw up, I was moved to the next grade.” This philosophy of “moving students along” has done wonders for BCPS’s graduation rates; unfortunately, it has also created thousands of uneducated graduates.
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    2
    Technology
    Has the county’s use of educational technology in the classroom been appropriate? Do you support the system’s expenditures for student laptops?
    Mack: I do not agree that every student in Baltimore County needs his/her own laptop. I understand that one push for 1:1 laptops was to create a more level playing field for students who may not have access to a computer at home, but access to technology does not ensure academic success just as lack of technology doesn’t ensure academic failure. My daughters are all BCPS graduates. While each used computers in school, none had a dedicated laptop. In spite of that, or perhaps because of it, all of my daughters are highly educated and highly successful. In 2016, Psychology Today reported that too much screen time “is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed.” To be academically successful, kids need to be able to communicate with their teachers and their peers. They need to be able to concentrate and work collaboratively with others. They need to learn how to handle down time without having a screen in their faces. Technology has place in learning, but it shouldn’t be the only tool in an educator’s toolbox. The millions of dollars spent on a laptop for every student would have been better spent on computers for every classroom and a more robust toolbox that meets the needs of all students.
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    3
    Resource equity
    Are the system’s resources fairly and equitably divided among its schools? Does the system provide adequate support for students with large populations of minority or low-income students?
    Mack: Resources are not fairly and equitably divided among schools. Schools that are successful in having parents complete the Free and Reduced Lunch form often get significant Title I dollars while schools who have just as many needs, but that haven’t gotten parents to complete the form, do without. It could literally mean the difference between one school having an Interactive White Board while another school has chalkboards. Even if the school is successful in getting parents to complete and turn in forms, the school might be needy enough to benefit from Title I dollars but, on paper, not needy enough to qualify for those dollars. Additionally, student support resources may not be adequate to meet the needs of minority and/or low income students. These students have unique needs that may require additional staffing because even the best teacher can’t solve all of the psychosocial and environmental problems that get in the way of students learning.
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    4
    Oversight
    What additional steps, if any, need to be taken to ensure that the board exercises adequate oversight over the superintendent? Do you see a distinction between the disclosure failures that led to former superintendent Dallas Dance’s guilty pleas and those that interim Superintendent Verletta White has admitted to?
    Mack: Having a new board that is comprised primarily of elected members will be beneficial to providing increased oversight over the superintendent. It should minimize cronyism and increase the diversity of opinions, background, and experiences that new members will bring. New board members should create a charter for how the newly elected board will move forward. The charter should include language on how decisions will be made, what steps will be taken to ensure transparency, and what actions will and will not be tolerated by board members and the superintendent. The newly elected board must identify key stakeholders and created a process where these stakeholders are heard and where their opinions are respected. Stakeholders must include teachers. No decision that affects students and/or teachers should be made without teacher input. Who knows better than teachers what is needed in the classroom? As agendas are set for board meetings, they should be disseminated early and often to all teachers and to all parents so that decisions that are made represent the views of stakeholders and not just the board. There is no distinction between the disclosure failures of Dallas Dance and those that Ms. White has admitted to. Even if Ms. White’s actions were due to confusion, her actions represent poor judgment and Baltimore County needs a superintendent who makes sound decisions, is transparent, and is beyond reproach.
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    5
    Ethics
    Are the system’s rules on ethics, conflicts of interest and financial disclosure sufficient?
    Mack: The system’s rules are obviously not sufficient. If they were, Dallas Dance would not be facing up to five years in prison for perjury. One would hope that any individual in a leadership position would have enough personal integrity that he/she would not violate ethics rules for personal gain, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The board needs to create an unbiased independent task force that looks at any and all transactions made from the day Dance was hired until the present day. Based on the findings of the task force, guidelines should be created/changed to be clear on what constitutes an ethics violation and what actions could be deemed a conflict of interest. The guidelines should clearly state that violation of the guidelines will result in immediate removal of the violator from his/her position. There has to be more accountability and much more transparency.
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    6
    Discipline
    Do you think the school system's discipline policies keep students safe while appropriately disciplining students who exhibit poor behavior? What, if any, changes would you propose to the school system's discipline policies?
    Mack: The school system’s discipline policy does very little to keep students safe or to discipline students who exhibit poor behavior. I am a volunteer in a BCPS elementary school. I am shocked at the behavior of some of the students and even more shocked that there are no consequences for poor, and even violent, behavior that puts other students and teachers at risk. I have seen a teacher send a student to the office for continued misbehavior, and I have seen that same student an hour later on the playground with his peers. When another student opened a stapler and began to slap fellow students in the back of their heads, the teacher was pressured to take the offending student back in the classroom after a short period in the office. When there are no consequences for poor behavior, there is no incentive to change that behavior and many kids will develop a lifelong sense of entitlement to act any way they want to. BCPS needs to create and abide by a discipline policy that has clearly outlined consequences for any behavior that threatens others and/or interrupts learning. Parents must be part of the solution and if progressive, but supportive, consequences don’t work, poorly behaving students, and their parents, must understand that they may have to be educated in an alternative location that is staffed and trained to deal with the many psychosocial issues that can contribute to poor behavior.
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    7
    Common Core/PARCC
    What are your views on the Common Core and the PARCC exams?
    Mack: Exams at certain times can be beneficial IF they provide real time feedback that teachers can use to drive instruction. Preparing for PARCC exams takes a tremendous amount of time that should be used for instruction. Essentially, all instruction stops when PARCC is being administered. Most importantly, PARCC results are not available to a teacher until the student who took PARCC this year has moved to another grade and another teacher. This gap impedes a teacher’s ability to implement changes that improve learning. Common Core can be beneficial, especially in math. However, given the level of differentiation that is expected in classrooms - language, abilities, motivation - it is next to impossible for a “common” curriculum to be used effectively. How can a teacher who has students who are on grade level, above grade level, and, in some cases, two years below grade level be expected to successfully implement the same “common” curriculum in his/her class when these disparities exist? The bigger issue is, “Why test kids at all if nothing meaningful is done with the results?” By one of BCPS’s measures of “success,” the percentage of Grade 3 students demonstrating on grade-level reading has dropped from 56.9% in FY 2016 to 56.4% in FY 2017, YET, last March (2017), Dallas Dance decreed that no BCPS elementary school student could be retained for any reason. How did this decree help the almost 44% of Grade 3 students who weren’t reading on grade level more than halfway through the year?
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    8
    Diversity
    Should diversity be a factor in decisions about drawing new school attendance zone lines?
    Mack: No, for the most part, diversity should not be a factor in decisions regarding school zones. Children should be able to attend school with other children from their neighborhoods. However, if there is a high percentage of at risk students in a particular geographic area, schools in that area must be adequately funded to ensure that the unique needs of this population are met. This may mean more teachers so that class sizes are smaller and more support staff like counselors and teaching assistants. The exception to this could be the collocation of students with specific ESOL needs in one school in a zone instead of spread across multiple schools. This allows for the best use of resources and the best support for ESOL students.
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    9
    School construction
    How would you set priorities for school construction and renovation? Has the county devoted adequate resources to maintaining or replacing school buildings?
    Mack: The county must create a list of required features for any school. The list should include things like adequate heating and cooling, adequate space to facilitate learning, access to clean drinking water, adequate and working bathrooms for the school population, solid - not crumbling - infrastructure, no mold, no lead paint, and no safety hazards. Each school in the county should be inventoried and given a score based on the decided “required features” list. When a school doesn’t meet one or more of the items on the “required features” list, the county must determine the cost to bring the school into compliance and compare that cost and the cost of maintaining the school to the cost of construction to replace the school. This process should be implemented on a county, not district, level. All schools in the county should have the same access to required features whether in a renovated school or a newly constructed school regardless of where they are located.
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