Given the financial situation facing CCPS and assuming no significant changes to state funding formulas or commissioner funding support, where does improving teacher salaries rank as a priority for you and why? If you believe it needs improvement, how do you propose doing so?
Howard: Teacher compensation does need to continue to progress. This must come as a result of more efficiency in the school system in all areas that are outside the classroom. County funding must continue to progress as well, by virtue of continued progress in economic development. And state funding for education must improve whether it be by formula or by a greater effort of the Carroll delegation to seek and obtain additional funding. Carroll County also can be a more desirable place to teach by greatly reducing the administrative burden on teachers and providing more support to work being done in the classroom.
In light of current school shootings and security discussions, what do you believe are necessary steps CCPS should take to ensure the safety of its students? What are your thoughts on School Resource Officers? Crisis counselors?
Howard: School security must always be a priority, not just in times of recent tragedy. We must continue and enhance to secure school buildings and provide School Resource Officers. Well trained law enforcement professionals must become part of the school community in order to enhance student safety and yet maintain a learning and comfortable environment. There is also a role for crisis counselors and other means of support as well. Each school needs to maintain the ability to respond to community support and mental health needs to lessen the likelihood of tragic occurrence. And yet, our primary focus at this point must be on securing the school facilities and providing safer schools.
In previous years, there have been discussions about CCPS graduates having to take remedial math and English classes at Carroll Community College. Do you believe CCPS curriculum is rigorous enough and what specific improvements would you like to see made at the local level?
Howard: I believe that much too much of the curriculum is designed to meet the demand for excessive standardized testing. All of our curriculum would do well to be designed around the needs of Carroll County students, not what happens to be on some test. This will help all aspects of student performance. The issue of remedial math and English is overstated. There are comparable results from those that home school or go to private school. And many community college students do not star right from high school and that also creates the need for remedial classes. So again, this measure should be used as a guide, but not as a reason to criticize or question school performance. And yet, we should continually look for opportunities to increase the rigor of our math and science classes.
What further steps if any should the district take to improve career and technical education offerings?
Howard: The school system should use the revitalization of the Carroll Career & Technology Center as an great opportunity to enhance career and technical offerings. Curriculum needs to have less emphasis on standardized tests and more freedom for teachers to create their own content. This will all support greater offerings, better content and enhanced student performance. At every grade level, class and course offerings should be reviewed to provide a wider range of offerings. Entrepreneurship should also be embraced in career and technology education offerings and should be met with continuation of those classes at Carroll Community College.
What are your thoughts on PARCC and standardized testing in general?
Howard: All standardized testing needs to be reviewed and reconsidered. Such testing should be limited and it should be used only as a guide. It should not be something that is required or something that local jurisdictions use as a reason to constantly change curriculum. PARCC itself has proven to be flawed and needs to be replaced as well.
How important is improving the diversity of the CCPS workforce and how would you proposing doing so? What would be appropriate goals for diversity hiring?
Howard: Diversity in the workplace is something the should always be supported and encouraged. It should be the hallmark of any organization and any community that is open, welcoming, accepting and one without racial or ethnic barriers. At the same time, I do not believe that arbitrary hiring goals aimed at diversity measures are effective or appropriate either. Diversity should be the natural by product of good hiring practices over a period of time that allows full opportunity for all applicants and a welcoming environment for those hired.