Why do you want to serve on the county school board?
Voelker: First, I am a strong believer in public education. I feel it is a crucial component of a healthy, vibrant community, and to our future in Baltimore County. I am also personally committed to Baltimore County Public Schools in particular. I am a Timonium/Ridgely/Dulaney High School graduate, and my children all attended and graduated from Baltimore County Public schools. That said, I want to put my leadership and strategic thinking skills to work in order to help improve the quality of our schools and community. With my deep experience spanning the factory floor to the boardroom, I am able to relate at all levels in this endeavor. I have a track record of breaking down complex problems and collaborating to find solutions that are sustainable.
Has the county’s use of educational technology in the classroom been appropriate? Do you support the system’s expenditures for student laptops?
Voelker: I think our students need to be prepared to thrive in the world around them. This means we need to evolve the methods, tools and platforms in our school system as the world changes. That said, we need to learn our way, in order to insure that our approach is both effective and efficient. Whether it is the use of laptops, other devices or technology platforms, we need to pilot and qualify before we expand usage.
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?
Voelker: I would like to reserve any sweeping comments here until I better understand the overall situation. We need a masterplan that looks at needs and wants, and then balances resources holistically across the school system. Most importantly, the process and outcome needs to be transparent to all.
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?
Voelker: I support routine auditing – both external and internal - in order to support a culture of accountability. We then need to then lay out the corrective and preventative actions that need to be put in place as a result of audit findings. And lastly, track our progress against these actions. This is not complex, but it is hard work.
Are the system’s rules on ethics, conflicts of interest and financial disclosure sufficient?
Voelker: Clearly we have a problem that needs to be solved. Of course we need clear rules and guidelines. But we need to go further. We need a culture of impeccable integrity in our school administration., where even the appearance of impropriety is not okay.
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?
Voelker: I would like to withhold specific recommendations here until I better understand our current disciplinary policies in Baltimore County, and how they benchmark against other school systems. Every student has the right to expect a safe environment that fosters learning and growth. This is a fundamental requirement, and therefore a top priority.
What are your views on the Common Core and the PARCC exams?
Voelker: I do not have a problem with what Common Core is seeking to achieve - the establishment of consistent standards for education. I think the real issues relate to effective implementation and measurement of performance (via PARCC). . Again, I think we owe it to ourselves to pilot different approaches and find solutions that work.
Should diversity be a factor in decisions about drawing new school attendance zone lines?
Voelker: Diversity should definitely be among the key considerations when considering zoning. While our schools need to reflect the communities they are in, I believe attendance school lines need to consider how to deliver a multicultural experience reflective of the world our students live in.
How would you set priorities for school construction and renovation? Has the county devoted adequate resources to maintaining or replacing school buildings?
Voelker: We need to look at the needs in Baltimore County holistically, meaning we cannot make any single decision in a vacuum. However we determine to prioritize, it needs to happen in a collaborative, transparent manner. We need to do what is best for the County as a whole. As for Construction vs Renovation decisions, these need to undergo a thorough options analysis, and assessed through the lens of cost vs benefit. Our taxpayer dollars are a scarce resource, and we need to be extremely choiceful to insure we spend this money effectively.