Anita Pandey

  • Non-Partisan
  • Age: 48
  • Residence: Ellicott City

About Anita Pandey

Education

I am a proud parent of two HCPSS students, a trained educator, and a teacher educator. A tenured full professor and Coordinator of Professional Development and Communication at Morgan State University, I earned my doctorate in applied linguistics (with a specialization in literacy) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as my second M.A. degree (in sociolinguistics). My first M.A. is in TESOL, from Chicago. I started out as a tenure-track Asst. Professor at The University of Memphis in 1997, and took an early year-long sabbatical to work as the Lead Ontologist/ Knowledge Engineer for a research group that contracted with tech giant HP in Silicon Valley. I have also taught at George Mason University, Salisbury University, and the College of Education in Azare, Northern Nigeria. From 2014-2016, I had the honor of serving as one of 10 global Ambassadors for Childhood selected by the Association for Childhood Education International and the Alliance for Childhood. I am currently ACEI’s U.S. Liaison. I just finished serving on the Board of the National Association for Bilingual Education and am Education Advisor to The Unforgotten (www.unforgotten.org). My father taught geography all over the world, so I completed my elementary and high school education, as well as my first degree abroad. I picked up Hindi, English, Yoruba, Hausa, and Nigerian Pidgin in my childhood, and learned French and Spanish as a teenager–primarily from children, as documented in my first book, The Child Language Teacher: Intergenerational Language and Literary Enhancement (2010, Mysore: CIIL). It chronicles how I taught my mother English when I was in second grade, and how this transformed my academic and social skills. I learned Spanish from a 5-year-old and I am convinced that children and young adults have the potential to be some of our best teachers. Enhancing student, parent and community engagement is one of my top objectives. I would like us to give our students, their families, and interested residents (e.g., retired seniors) an opportunity to share their talents and skills through cross-age and cross-language camps. My building-blocks cultural competency model won me the inaugural Diversity and Inclusion award from the Association for Business Communication International. I was invited to deliver a (luncheon) plenary address at the 82nd Annual Conference in Dublin, Ireland (October, 2017). I am helped start the Howard County African American History Project (HCAAHP; http://hchsmd.org/hc-african-american-history-pr/), a subcommittee of the Howard County Historical Society, and have been serving as Director. We began recording the educational experiences and of the earliest residents on Fels Lane (Ms. Sophie Pollock who turned 99 on Jan. 17, 2018—attended the historic Colored School). I also Co-Directed (with Tyrone Tyler) The Fire Next Door, a mini documentary on the 1965 fire on Main Street in Ellicott City, MD (near the Fire Station) that killed an African-American mother and four of her children. As an expert in reading and early childhood, I was invited to serve on the Validation Focus Group for MD-HSSCO Needs Assessment Project in 2013, and I’ve served on PTA sub-committees and even taught ESL as a volunteer in Howard County for over 15 years.

Background

I have been teaching for 28 years, and the last 17 have been dedicated to teacher education. I’m a proud parent of two HCPSS students, a trained educator, and a teacher educator. I have also been actively involved in the educational policy realm, particularly through my advocacy on behalf of a number of international and national children’s and young adult organizations. These include the ACEI, the NAEYC, CAEP (the largest accrediting body), NCLR, ACTFL, NABE, TESOL, ABC (Association for Business Communication International), AAAL (the American Association of Applied Linguistics), IAWE (the International Association for World Englishes), as well as NGOs like the Unforgotten (www.unforgotten.org). I have authored over 70 peer-reviewed pieces, including three books–the latest, Language Building Blocks from Columbia University–and I serve with pride on the Advisory board of an international journal, and have served on the Editorial Board of six other international journals. A list of selected organizations that have invited me to provide Professional Development in the last two years is at www.languagebuildingblocks.com They include Kennedy Krieger Institute, First English Lutheran Pre and K, Baltimore, Saint Vincent de Paul, the Y of Central Maryland, Waverly Head Start, and the Community Action Council of HC. I was an invited Speaker at the U.S. House of Representatives Briefing on the P-12 Language Pipeline hosted by U.S. Representatives Don Young and David Price on Dec. 6, 2016, and have provided testimony on education (and one other House bill) in Annapolis on more than one occasion.

Questionnaire

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1
School safety
With rising concern over school safety, should county police officers or sheriff's deputies be assigned to all public schools, along with additional screening methods, such as metal detectors, student pat-downs and clear backpacks?
Pandey: SROs have already been assigned to HC schools, yet there is the potential that the racial and socio-cultural differences between SROs and minorities, particularly black males, could facilitate the school-to-prison pipeline that research shows to have such a reach. Our schools should not feel and look like prisons. They must be welcoming places–a home away from home. While I understand the rationale behind additional screening methods employed at airports, when we implement these at school, including metal detectors and student pat-downs, and when we require the use of only clear backpacks, we send the message that we don’t trust our students and we potentially exacerbate student and parent stress related to safety. These measures alone will unlikely prevent school violence, particularly when schools have multiple entry points (as they should) and portables or annexes, as do many HoCo schools. Locking all front doors and screening access can only go so far. There are times when doors have to be open to ensure efficiency, as when students enter and exit buildings. We must build trust and bridge divides. We should invest in mental health identification and intervention, and happiness-enhancement for all, including teachers and staff. Wellness sessions such as yoga, healthier, culturally diverse and hot meal options, conflict mediation and mood-enhancing sessions would go a long way. Following the example of Bhutan, students and teachers could be invited to rate their own and peers’ PH (personal happiness), FH (family happiness), and SH (school happiness) on any given day and time.
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2
Crowding
Is the county school system's program to reduce crowded schools through redistricting an effective method given projected shifts in population growth, housing development plans?
Pandey: Given the need for physical space and the fact that renovations are still in the works (e.g., for Hammond) and new schools are not ready to house students, redistricting is the most viable method available to the Board. Once High School 13 is ready, we should be able to brainstorm other options, such as building upwards at existing school sites, reducing housing development projects or reserving specific housing projects and making them affordable for teachers, so that all HoCo teachers can have the opportunity to reside in HoCo.
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3
Budget
Superintendent Michael Martirano has shifted budget priorities and is proposing to eliminate a world language program that's in place at eight (of 41) Howard County elementary schools and his budget might require increasing class sizes, by one student, in several middle and high schools. He would like to increase the number of social workers — at a pace of three per year — to help students struggling with mental health issues. Are these prudent choices?
Pandey: There are ways to address the budget shortfall without eliminating world languages in the early years–when children are naturally disposed to acquire multiple languages with little to no effort–and without increasing class size. As a linguist, parent, and policy advocate, I can vouch for the value of more than a single language in accelerating our students’ social skills and overall academic performance across the board, from reading to math and science. We must aim to add WLs to all P-3 programs and offer (two-way) dual language in HCPSS, to further enhance our students’ success on the global stage, as do schools in multiple states (e.g., Utah). We can address mental health issues –not just of students, it should be noted–using measures that add little to nothing to our budget. There is little research to back the claim that the presence of social workers, and of a specific number of social workers and/or school counselors, for that matter, correlates to reductions in mental health issues. On the contrary, some incidents might have been catalyzed by what was perceived by the wrong-doer as non-responsiveness on the part of a school counselor. A school watch program akin to a neighborhood watch program which simultaneously empowers and enlists the help of all parties–students, parents, teachers, staff, and residents–is likely to build trust, bridge divides, and yield enhanced outcomes. Cultural competency-enhancing sessions such as “restorative justice practices” aim to achieve exactly this, and with little to no added expenditure involved.
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4
Health care costs
The system's health fund has been in the red for several years — the deficit projected at $50 million by this summer — and Mr. Martirano has requested one-time funds from the county to start to pay down the deficit. But higher health insurance rates are also in the cards; this is one apparent sticking point in the ongoing union contract talks. How do you believe this problem should be addressed?
Pandey: In my view, there is no simple nor single solution to this “problem.” I would propose returning to the days when the State (legislature) paid teacher’s retirement and health benefits, instead of the School Board (e.g., in the 80s). In the interim, possible measures we could explore include the following: • Teachers could be invited to pay more into the plan • Deductibles or copays could be increased (with teachers’ knowledge and consent, of course), and/or • Health care and dental insurance providers could be urged to agree to a fixed amount for a set number of years (like multi-year contracts) and/or or to minimize increases in health care premiums for teachers and other School Board employees. The Board might consider conducting a utilization study to determine which health and/or dental services are most utilized, and based on the findings, make some budget re-allocations that are proportionate to the needs and/or utilization practices. In short, the Board could transition to paying more for the most utilized services and less for less- or minimally utilized services, for instance. Taking a close look at the budget might also yield some cost savings, and last but not the least, we must ensure that the Board has flexibility to transfer funds from one budget category to another. It should be noted that County Executives who disallow line-item budget transfers make it harder for our School Board to balance the budget.
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5
Achievement gap
How would you evaluate HCPS' efforts to reduce achievement gaps between students of different races and backgrounds? Does more need to be done?
Pandey: HCPS’ efforts to reduce the “achievement gaps” are promising, yet more CAN and MUST be done in this area. We must begin by ensuring that low-income and special needs students, among others that are identified as at-risk (socially and otherwise) and/or underachieving have additional and sustained supports in place at school, as well as outside school–through mentoring programs, reading, writing, financial and other kinds of literacy, and family and community engagement, for example. Diversifying our workforce and curricular diversification are also in order. In many ways the gap in test scores is much like the “word gap” (VocabCultBiasTCRecordPandey.pdf). Multilingual messaging in front offices and throughout our schools will send a clear message of inclusion. When we show that we care and can relate to every student, then we all succeed.Howard County’s diversity is one of the top reasons for our high residential ratings. We must begin by identifying the roots of the “achievement gap” and comb through the data carefully because we might find that, while blacks as a whole score fewer points than their Caucasian and Asian counterparts, black females actually perform quite similarly to the comparison/control groups. We must utilize more qualitative data and not just quantitative data. I would argue that most of the tests employed are culturally exclusive, as is the practice of “testing” per se (evidencing a competition-oriented culture of comparisons and contrast), which is why the use of non-intrusive (time-and otherwise), culturally inclusive alternative assessments, such as student portfolios is essential.
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6
Foose
Did the school board act appropriately in agreeing to pay former superintendent Renee Foose more than $1.6 million in salary and benefits to persuade her to resign?
Pandey: We cannot turn back the clock, so instead of evaluating the decision to pay the former Superintendent, we should work towards ensuring that local Boards of Education should have the right to terminate a Superintendent for cause. At the time, members of the Board thought it best to employ this strategy to remove from office an individual whose leadership could potentially have yielded negative outcomes. In my view, the use of monetary payouts as a retirement incentive should be avoided. I can understand why some states have put a cap on Superintendents’ pay–to manage expenditure and prevent misuse of funds.
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7
Martirano
How would you grade Mr. Martirano's performance and his reorganization of the central office?
Pandey: The renewal of Dr. Martirano’s contract evidences his efficient leadership to date. From what I have seen and read, he is dedicated, professional and transparent, so I would rate his performance as “very good.” His reorganization of Central Office has yielded greater efficiency, accountability, and multidirectional collaboration (personal communication). He is for “open meetings” (personal communication) and welcomes input from all stakeholders at Town Hall meetings. He clearly prizes inclusion, as evidenced by the three-part series offered this spring on “restorative practices.” The successful creation and ready-to-roll-out community-wide interaction-enhancing program Talk with Me, Howard County, spear-headed by former HCPSS employee Bonnie Bricker, speaks to his community focus. At Town Hall meetings and through e-communication that he sends out, he invites community input, so his collaborative, student-focused (http://storystrong.hcpss.org/stories/), and community-engaged leadership is evident and appreciated. We must continue to support him and others on the Board and at Central Office—as well as community partners (current and future) to provide all Howard County teachers, staff, and students with safe and motivating learning spaces (e.g., by increasing access to pre-school) and utilize our diversity as a resource. We could, for instance, offer Classical languages and languages of national interest, such as Korean; and pilot cross-age English language programs to our large and growing “ESL” student population and their families—to bridge age, cultural, generational, and language divides, among other reasons. We should also pilot language camps for additional languages (e.g., Chinese, Hebrew, Urdu) run by students and their families.
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