Why do you want to serve on the county school board?
Thornton: Coupled with my intricate knowledge of student and teacher needs, the flow of operations in various school settings, as well as strategic and pragmatic solutions to multiple issues within a schooling operation, the need for the decision-makers to be more reflective of the demographics of the students compels me to run for the seat that district four will hold on the Baltimore County Board of Education. I believe there are needs of the students and employees of the County that I can help meet. My person-centeredness and leadership abilities will enable me to draft strategic solutions to help students, teachers, and administrators build relationships and connections to ultimately enhance student achievement and create safer schools.
Has the county’s use of educational technology in the classroom been appropriate? Do you support the system’s expenditures for student laptops?
Thornton: Technology use is imperative to professional success. Without technological skills, students will not be prepared for both college and the professional world. However, I do feel that the use of laptops in the classroom should be limited due to the necessity of social interaction among teachers with their students and students with other students to foster active learning that will prepare them to have effective human relation skills. Although laptops take away from students’ personability and hands on learning, they are the future and because of that, very necessary. The system’s expenditures for student laptops should be monitored and adjusted to ensure a balance based on the need to make students career and college ready, meaning ensuring computer literacy while also enhancing interpersonal skills.
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?
Thornton: By simple observation, common knowledge is that the system’s resources aren’t allocated fairly to support the demographical needs in Baltimore County. The system’s resources should be fairly and equitably divided among its schools by assessing the population count, demographics, and educational needs of a school. I believe with the right oversight and decision-makers in place, the County can do a lot better to ensure the support for schools with large populations of minority and low-income students. I will work tirelessly to analyze performance and population data to optimally allocate resources to Baltimore County Schools.
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?
Thornton: The board works alongside the superintendent to ensure the superintendent behaves ethically. However, there needs to be some additional policies and procedures to make clear and concise the ethics regarding reporting of disclosures. I also feel there needs to be training so the superintendent is knowledgeable about the contents of the disclosure. I do see a distinction between the actions of Dance and White; that distinction being White has developed character and integrity throughout her numerous years serving the Baltimore County school system. White acknowledged that she made an error and has made attempts to rectify the situation.
Are the system’s rules on ethics, conflicts of interest and financial disclosure sufficient?
Thornton: The rules are sufficient; however, the level of accountability needs to improve. Monitoring of the compliance with these rules also needs to be enhanced.
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?
Thornton: BCPS has established policies for behavior such as the student handbook as well as Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports, which promotes positive incentives for students. Adjustments to the policies and procedures regarding severe behaviors of students need to be made. Additional policing, counseling, and social worker and psychology servicing need to be made available to students, as well as increased access to behavior interventionists and wellness centers. The school system needs to implement a process through which students, parents, teachers, and administrators can connect to formulate meaningful and impactful relationships that foster trust. Positive relationships and trust will provide a conducive environment that decreases the need for discipline and increases overall student performance.
What are your views on the Common Core and the PARCC exams?
Thornton: Common Core is a curriculum that is assessed by the PARCC assessment. Alignment with the curriculum needs to be evaluated to make sure students have hands on experiences as well as exposure to Common Core. PARCC needs to fully assesses the skills and abilities of students.
Should diversity be a factor in decisions about drawing new school attendance zone lines?
Thornton: According to Harvard professor and AirBnb Consultant, Robert Livingston, cognitive diversity enhances company performance. If our mission as a school system is to prepare our children for success professionally, we must give them a conducive environment that mocks the real world. Diversity is imperative for students to be fully stretched and maximize their fullest potential. It should be considered in all aspects of their learning and environment. By considering diversity when drawing school attendance zones, we will better equip our students for success in school and more importantly for success professionally after their time in the school system.
How would you set priorities for school construction and renovation? Has the county devoted adequate resources to maintaining or replacing school buildings?
Thornton: Given the recent collapse of a university bridge in Florida, regular audits of building safety need to be in place as well as a system to implement renovations and repairs according to priority needs. A more strategic and verifiable maintenance process should be implemented to prevent incidents like that on FIU’s campus. As far as renovation, the budget should be reviewed to address current facilities needs. Community input would also need to be considered to ensure the collaboration of ll stakeholders in addressing concerns.