Why do you want to serve on the county school board?
Lang III: I want to restore public trust in the leadership of Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS). The unethical behavior and absence from office of the recent superintendent (and the Board of Education’s failure to take action) are inexcusable. I am also very concerned about the recent bribery indictment of a high level executive and the failure of the Interim Superintendent to report outside income. The large expenditure of public funds to furnish laptopps to every student is not warranted in the absence of proof that such technology will markedly improve our students’ academic skills. This contract was not duly reviewed and questioned and this must not be allowed to happen in the future. I have the requisite skills in large organizations, procurement, and policy and budget analysis to make a difference serving on the Board.
Has the county’s use of educational technology in the classroom been appropriate? Do you support the system’s expenditures for student laptops?
Lang III: It has not. A commitment to expend an exorbitant amount of taxpayer money on educational technology is unwise and I strongly believe that the monies would be better spent to improve teacher compensation, provide in-school support services such as counsellors and school psychiatrists, and to provide resources to close student achievement gaps. Major recommendations are forthcoming from the Kirwan Commission and BCPS must be in a position to increase or shift funding to implement those Commission recommendations. Having made such a huge commitment to educational technology will make it difficult to find the funds necessary. Also of concern is the construction or renovation of our aging schools - perhaps the educational technology funds would have been better spent to address this.
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?
Lang III: I believe that BCPS is not doing enough to provide support for Title I schools and second language students. These students are particularly at risk of not succeeding in school and are those most likely to require remedial work before attending college. A detailed analysis of the school system budget is necessary to ascertain how funds are being spent and if they do, in fact, support the mission and goals. Priorities must be clearly established, sufficient funds appropriated, and spending done in accordance with the budget plan. I would support the Board conducting a quarterly budget variance analysis to monitor spending to ensure that funds are being spent as planned.
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?
Lang III: The Board of Education must be prepared to regularly monitor the Superintendent’s performance and hold that leader strictly accountable to their contract and to the highest levels of ethical integrity. That person is being paid very well to lead BCPS and must be in the office to do so - travel out of state must be minimal and monitored by the Board. While the dollar magnitude of Dr. Dance’s failure to report outside income and involvement with firms conducting business with BCPS greatly exceeded Interim Superintendent White’s failure to report incomefrom an outside source doing business with BCPS , the core principal is the same.
Are the system’s rules on ethics, conflicts of interest and financial disclosure sufficient?
Lang III: I believe the existing rules are sufficient but they must be monitored and enforced to be effective.
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?
Lang III: I think that the policies keep students safe but making suspensions a reflection of a school’s (and principal’s) performance sometimes places countervailing pressures on school leadership to make decisions that are best for the school community. Proper discipline supports the classroom teacher and removing disruptive students may improve the learning experience for the other students. These decisions must be allowed to be made without regard to measuring anyone’s performance.
What are your views on the Common Core and the PARCC exams?
Lang III: They both have their place but have achieved undue importance and value, and have detracted from student learning by requiring teachers to “teach to the test”. The Board of Education must review both and if necessary, work with the State Board of Education to lessen their importance.
Should diversity be a factor in decisions about drawing new school attendance zone lines?
Lang III: It should be a factor but if all schools had adequate resources to close any existing achievement gaps it would not be necessary. Perhaps even considering this factor is an indictment of how funds are currently being spent? Other concerns are the length of time spent on school buses and the effects of taking children out of their community.
How would you set priorities for school construction and renovation? Has the county devoted adequate resources to maintaining or replacing school buildings?
Lang III: The current process appears broken and highly politicized. I believe the new elected/appointed hybrid Board has the potential to make such decisions in a less politicized environment but it must be provided with adequate staff to do such analysis (and also budget and contract analysis). The recent legislative change to the role of the State Board of Public Works also must be factored in.