John W. Egan

John W. Egan
  • Non-Partisan
  • Age: 70
  • Residence: Hunt Valley

About John W. Egan

Education

Ohio Wesleyan University, B.A. Liberal Arts Syracuse University, M.S. Education Johns Hopkins University, M.S. Applied Behavioral Psychology The George Washington University, completed 2 years of courses working towards PhD, Human Resource Development, incomplete

Background

Since 1998, I have been an independent management / organization development consultant. I work closely with senior executives across a broad spectrum of organizations across the United States to help them leverage their human resources potential to increase organizational effectiveness and improve bottom-line results. The focus of my consulting practice includes: the design and facilitation of leadership development programs, support for reengineering / change management initiatives and executive coaching. Prior to 1998, I held a number of leadership positions within USF&G Insurance, including field operations and head of training and development. In addition to my consulting practice, I serve in an adjunct faculty position at UMBC Training Centers (Univ. of MD, Baltimore County) and at AMA (American Management Association). I speak at leadership conferences and am currently working on my first book, tentatively titled: Right-Brained Leadership. My consulting work includes assignments with diverse organizations such as: IMF (International Monetary Fund), US Marine Corps, Okinawa, CITGO Petroleum, ENSCO, National City Bank (now PNC Bank), NCUA (National Credit Union Agency), Greenheart International, and Spirit Ventures (Pershore, England). Through my affiliation with UMBC Training Centers, I facilitate leadership development programs with organizations that include: NGA (National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency), DISA (Defense Information Systems Agency), CeCom at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, and Social Security Administration. My international clients include work in: London, Rome, Bermuda, Okinawa and Singapore. To support my executive coaching efforts, I designed “North Star,” a web-based 360-degree feedback instrument. Over 1,000 executives have used “North Star” to gain perspective to support of their personal development efforts.

    Questionnaire

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    1
    Why
    Why do you want to serve on the county school board?
    Egan: I wish to serve on the Baltimore County School Board because I believe the Board needs a strong, leadership voice. I know that our school system can be exceptional. Up until now, however, I am convinced that our system has failed to live up to its fullest potential. Our system has the resources to be literally world class, yet it seems as if there has been a general desire to just be ‘good enough.’ I wish to serve because the School Board has failed to provide necessary oversight in the past and must improve in this area. With my knowledge, experience, and commitment to education, I can help provide that necessary oversight. I wish to serve to represent an under-served segment of our school population – our most talented and exceptional students in both science and the arts. I want to make sure we are providing the resources and the opportunities to enable these students to maximize their talents. I wish to serve because children are the future and their education is a critical societal responsibility. As a citizen of this community, I want to share my insights in making the important educational decisions that will literally affect the very future of our community and country.
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    2
    Technology
    Has the county’s use of educational technology in the classroom been appropriate? Do you support the system’s expenditures for student laptops?
    Egan: If you consider the STAT (Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow) initiative most broadly, I believe in blended learning. I do not, however, believe that providing 133,000 laptops to all students and teachers is necessary to provide quality education to our children. More specifically, I believe that the money to purchase these laptops could be much more effectively allocated. Based upon my experience, there are three essential elements in providing quality education: an engaged learner, a competent teacher, and supportive parents (care givers). Every other educational initiative is secondary to this critical formula. I know that children learn in many different ways and that the more teachers utilize a variety of teaching styles and techniques, the more successful the students will be. I support, therefore, integrating online digital media with traditional classroom methods. My concern is that if all students were given laptops, there would be extreme pressure on teachers to use this technology. To justify the expense of providing laptops, teachers will actively seek activities and exercises that use laptops – for the primary purpose of using technology, rather than determining what is the best method to support the specific learning objectives. The BCPS administration has not offered convincing arguments that proving laptops for all will improve the quality of the learning environment. They offered anecdotal stories of improved education using technology but provided no objective, causal and verifiable evidence to justify equipping all with laptops.
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    3
    Resource equity
    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?
    Egan: BCPS has a responsibility to fairly allocate resources across the entire spectrum of the student population. A fair allocation, however, does not mean an equal allocation of resources to each student. Clearly some students need additional resources and within our abilities, BCPS should attempt to address these needs. But, these special needs should not be addressed without considering the potential harm that may be created by denial of resources to other students. I am concerned that in prioritizing resources to address the needs of the minority and low-income population, we overlook the need to provide additional resources to support the rest of the student community. Contrary to the current prioritization, I want our schools to provide greater resources to those students who have the potential to be exceptional. We need to identify these students and give them the resources and encouragement to excel. Carver Center for the Arts has done a superb job of supporting our students in the arts. We have an equal responsibility to provide comparable resources dedicated to academic excellence in both the social sciences and STEM. One idea I offer to support this segment is to establish Genius Grants for our exceptional students. This program, designed for high school students, will combine elements of both the MacArthur Fellowship Program and entrepreneurial start-up grants. Talented students with exceptional potential (in both science and humanities/art) would be eligible to receive monies to further develop their ideas. I would seek partnerships with local firms to fund these grants.
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    4
    Oversight
    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?
    Egan: Since there are two current criminal issues involving BCPS officials and contracts, it is apparent that there has been inadequate Board oversight in the past. I believe there needs to be an independent audit of BCPA to bring complete transparency to Board activities. This independent audit will enable the Board to start anew with a fresh slate. The solution to effective oversight is the open election of Board members. With open elections, Board members will be held accountable for their actions and decisions. It is also essential that the Board conduct itself with even greater transparency. I am not prepared to say that the disclosure failures of Dallas Dance and interim Superintendent Verletta White are the same. However, I am very troubled that Superintendent White did not disclose her income as a consultant to vendors. The reason she provided for her failure to appropriately disclose was that the financial form was confusing. These forms may indeed be confusing. But if BCPS is paying someone $250,000 a year, I want someone who is capable of navigating even confusing forms. And, if she was honestly confused, BCPS legal staff is located about 200 yards from her office. A brief walk and a five minute conversation with a BCPS attorney would have cleared up any confusion. Even if this was an innocent mistake as she claims, I am disappointed that she did not take the financial disclosure seriously enough to be overly cautious and completely transparent in completing the form.
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    5
    Ethics
    Are the system’s rules on ethics, conflicts of interest and financial disclosure sufficient?
    Egan: The very fact that there are two current criminal issues involving BCPS officials and contracts and that interim Superintendent White failed to completely disclose income, makes it apparent that there has been inadequate Board oversight in the past. Therefore, the system’s current rules on ethics, conflicts of interest and financial disclosure has been shown to be deficient. However, before enacting onerous new regulations, I would first focus on creating and maintaining complete transparency. To support this required transparency, I propose two immediate actions. First, the Board needs to assume a more proactive role in including the community at large in the conversation regarding BCPS initiatives and priorities. I want the Board to sponsor monthly town halls throughout the county to increase transparency and improve the general public’s access to information regarding school matters. I would require Board members to each attend at least four of these town halls over the school year. Second, BCPS needs to establish an ombudsman position. This person will field and address issues and questions from the entire community and will allow citizens greater access to the inner workings of the school system. I do not think this needs to be a new hire. I am confident that we can transition a current administrator into this new position.
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    6
    Discipline
    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?
    Egan: As mentioned above, I believe the critical formula for quality education includes three essential elements: an engaged learner, a competent teacher, and supportive parents (care givers). If any student, through disruptive behavior negatively impacts the ability of others who wish to learn, we need to remove that student from the classroom to support the students who want to learn. I also believe that BCPS should not give up on disruptive students and should provide resource and assistance to troubled students to help them understand the importance of receiving a good education. The school should utilize all their resources to help students understand the need for acceptable classroom behavior and to accept their responsibilities as a member of the school community. BCPS needs also to make an important distinction between an infrequent discipline issue and a perpetual discipline offender. Persistent disruptive students are also citizens of this county, and as such, addressing troubled students is not just a BCPS concern. Since any disruptive student is also a member of our community, I support a stronger partnership between BCPS and other county resources to address this issue.
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    7
    Common Core/PARCC
    What are your views on the Common Core and the PARCC exams?
    Egan: Conceptually I understand the reasoning for some objective assessment of student performance / capabilities. And PARCC exams address assessments in the critical areas of English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics. I agree that these assessments provide a snapshot that indicates if our students are acquiring skills and knowledge needed to advance to the next grade level or if they are on track to graduate and be prepared for college and careers. But, based upon my understanding of PARCC, it provides neither detailed strategies nor specific tactics to improve the transfer of knowledge. If BCPS is doing a quality job of educating our children, then PARCC would not needed. And, if BCPS is not adequately educating our children, PARCC does not provide a road map for improvement. Therefore, I would continue PARCC, but use the results as only one indicator of educational progress but not as a remedy. I have a similar concern with Common Core. Common Core standards have now been around nearly a decade. If they are useful, then I would expect to see yearly improvement in student performance. If we do not see yearly improvement, it is a fair question to ask just how valuable are these standards. More plainly, I am confident that a highly competent math or English teacher can teach essential math / English skills to an engaged student without the need to refer to Common Core. Common Core and PARCC are potentially useful tools, but tools only and not the Holy Grail of education.
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    8
    Diversity
    Should diversity be a factor in decisions about drawing new school attendance zone lines?
    Egan: Diversity can be a consideration in drawing new school attendance zone lines but should not be the over-arching factor in the decisions. It would be inappropriate to create gerrymandered zones to satisfy a diversity requirement. I believe in the general concept that a child should attend the most local school. We do not want to create islands of disparity in educational opportunities. We need to provide all of our schools with the resources and competent staff to provide quality educational opportunities. I reject the argument that disadvantaged students need to transfer to non-local schools in order to receive a quality education.
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    9
    School construction
    How would you set priorities for school construction and renovation? Has the county devoted adequate resources to maintaining or replacing school buildings?
    Egan: The BCPS Board has a responsibility to provide a safe and secure infrastructure in which to educate our children. Decisions on allocating resources to facilities should be prioritized first to address any outstanding safety issues. Any long-term infrastructure issues should be addressed with a long-term perspective of anticipated demographic changes and not just to address a short-term situation. I also believe that parents should be brought into the discussion of resource allocation since their children are directly involved. While comfortable buildings support educational efforts, they are not the primary driver of quality education. Currently, as an outsider, I do not have a complete understanding of how and why resources have been allocated. Even within a 350 page BCPS budget, there is a surprising lack of specificity on how resources are allocated and the reasons for these decisions. My experience with budgets convinces me that within a $ 1.6 billion budget there exists opportunities to re-allocate budget dollars to meet essential needs.
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