Why do you want to serve on the county school board?
Fitzpatrick: As a Baltimore County Public Schools Board of Education member, I want to create a transparent system with open processes. I will put a planning strategy in place that receives input from all stakeholders. I will insist upon justice in how we provide for communities and students. I will develop a Board that strives to meet the challenges faced by all students, regardless of economic or social advantage. And, finally, I will fight for a Board of Education whose philosophy is firmly rooted in the idea that the best solutions to educational challenges come directly from the classroom. I’m a pediatric nurse. Any nurse will tell you that the best care comes when those working with patients tell the leadership what is needed, and leadership acts swiftly and decisively to provide it.
Has the county’s use of educational technology in the classroom been appropriate? Do you support the system’s expenditures for student laptops?
Fitzpatrick: I support the continuation of the STAT program because the teachers in the classroom have overwhelmingly supported it, it has made strides in student progress, and puts our classrooms on a 21st-century footing. There have been problems with implementation, but these have been addressed and are being addressed. One must remember that the program was extremely innovative when it first rolled out. No innovative program doesn’t have bumps in the early phases.
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?
Fitzpatrick: Short answer - no. This system has a problem in how it allocates resources. We need a more comprehensive plan for facilities and resources that is free from the political whims of the moment. We must do a better job of focusing resources toward those who come to the system with less advantage. We seem to doll out resources based on which communities have the best advocacy groups going at the time. This is inherently inequitable, and has to change.
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?
Fitzpatrick: Dallas Dance’s transgressions were his own. There clearly rose to the level that called for prosecution. He took steps to cover his wrongs and acted patently with self-interest that harmed the system. Verletta White’s errors were more technical in nature, she did not attempt to cover them up, and have been fully remedied. White’s were also shown to be easily replicable. Equating White’s errors to Dance’s crimes only makes sense if one is trying to use the school system as a political fulcrum to lever an agenda.
Are the system’s rules on ethics, conflicts of interest and financial disclosure sufficient?
Fitzpatrick: These rules are sufficient but require more clarity for the user and more accessible assistance from parties not charged also with enforcement. Staff should have more guidance in completing this process which has been shown to be confusing.
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?
Fitzpatrick: School disciplinary policies, while firmly rooted in safety, must always be educationally-focused. We must avoid programs that unequally target minorities and the disadvantage, and must look to root causes for discipline problems. BCPS should partner closely with public heal and law enforcement agencies where appropriate, and always seek innovation and best practices for school safety.
What are your views on the Common Core and the PARCC exams?
Fitzpatrick: The curricula and metrics we employ should be those best suited to the situation. We are trying, at times, to measure unique situations with common tools, and that only produces flawed results. If we’re measuring length, we should use a ruler - not a scale.
Should diversity be a factor in decisions about drawing new school attendance zone lines?
Fitzpatrick: It should absolutely be, but it’s not that simple. We can solve a lack of community diversity with a school boundary map. Much of the problem with school diversity started with a lack of economic and social diversity in our communities. We should work to fix that, but its outside of the BOE’s ability to impact greatly. When possible, no group should be excluded from the great system I want to build -because no great system leaves people out.
How would you set priorities for school construction and renovation? Has the county devoted adequate resources to maintaining or replacing school buildings?
Fitzpatrick: The county has dedicated a great deal to this effort and is often waiting for the state to make good on projects that have been forward-funded by the county. I would prioritize this way: 1. Safety - is the school adequate for the health and safety of our students 2. Learning environment - is the school overcrowded, ADA compliant, and does it meet the learning needs. 3. Equity - has the community served by the school suffered from a lack or equity historically. Can we better serve this community with a new or rennovated school. Overall, I’d like to see increased funding for our schools physical needs and an increase in tempo for construction and renovation project.s