University of Central Missouri Bachelor of Science - Computer Information Systems University of Baltimore Master of Science - Management Information Systems Northcentral University PhD - Management Information Systems
I’ve been an Information Technology analyst and executive for over 25 years. I’ve managed tens of thousands of consultants and budgets over billion dollars. I’ve been responsible for assuring these very large budgets were vigilantly managed to maximize every dollar, while also meeting the organization’s priorities and increasing shareholders earnings. I also started my own business, NextGen Consulting (NGCI), thirteen years ago. It’s been recognized by Inc. 500 and many other organizations as one of the best and fastest growing IT companies in America. I also have experience as a government consultant, where I saved taxpayer money without compromising the quality of services. I have been on the front-lines of strategy, finance, management, procurement, and leadership as an analyst all the way to executive level. I think we need this experience to right the fiscal ship of the Howard County School Board. I know that large organizations have many moving parts and to keep them working correctly, we need open communication. If elected to the Board, I’ll bring my experience and that communication between all stakeholders: teachers, parents, students, vendors and the community at-large.
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?
Rehman: I don’t support escalating police officer presence or introducing more guns in schools. I think such policies are a knee jerk reaction with little evidence supporting their effectiveness. I do, however, support the presence of school resource officers. School resource officers are different from police officers because they are better trained to work with and around school children and for dealing with the situations that arise in schools. I believe they’re essential for enhancing school safety and for building productive relationships with students. They can be trained and utilized as instructors in Criminal Justice and related fields, where they can develop positive relationships with students. From there, they can provide more meaningful interventions if needed. As far as additional measures, I do support some of the immediate measures we can take: screening process for all visitors, locked facilities, and so on. However, I want to ensure that we provide a comfortable learning environment for students. They shouldn’t feel like they’re entering a prison with metal detectors and pat-downs. This includes the radical and poorly thought idea of arming teachers. Some believe we should arm classroom teachers so they can defend the classroom from violent intruders. I am against this completely and strongly believe that teachers should not take on additional responsibilities like security. That must be left to the trained personal like school resource officers.
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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?
Rehman: Ultimately, the County Council controls the decision as to where the new development gets approved. Moving forward, there must be collaboration between them and the Board of Education (BOE) on these decisions. Unfortunately, we’ve avoided making tough decisions at BOE level because of lack of leadership. Every year, the Board receives a feasibility study that provides population growth projections, among other things. Despite these reports showing trends that implied possible overcrowding, the board failed to make the necessary decisions. They failed to start the process to ensure a new high school was built when needed. They failed to redistrict to ensure that some of the schools didn’t reach a point of unhealthy utilization (140%). As a result, students don’t receive all the necessary resources they need due to overcrowding. Until HS#13 in Jessup is opened, it is essential that we redistrict in order to eliminate the overcrowding at some schools. Students in 8th or 9th grade today do not benefit from the Jessup decision, and we deny them the best possible education when we continue to push them through overcrowded schools. The school board needs to make planning for high school #14 a priority TODAY. By the time high school #13 in Jessup welcomes its first students in 2023, we will be long past the necessary time for a fourteenth high school. Looking ahead, we should plan so that we avoid redistricting, or at least have a long-term strategic redistricting plan when new schools come online.
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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?
Rehman: I agree with the increase of social workers to tackle mental health issues but that’s where the agreement ends. I don’t agree with the Superintendent’s budget priorities as I don’t think they are in line with students’ best interest. I don’t agree with increases in class size because I think it negatively affects teachers’ ability to commit full attention to each student. Our inability to adequately plan for student population increases has led us to depend on portable classrooms which I think at minimum are depriving our children of a healthy school experience. At worst, they are a security risk. I think the current status quo endorses too many top-heavy administrative policies and the budget is suffering. We can accomplish a great amount by prioritizing student first policies. We should hire teachers before hiring administrative staff. Right now, we leave too much money on the table with our current policies of sole sourcing, non-competitive bids and preferred vendor awards where we do not receive the best pricing. The policies in place today are the same ones we’ve for years. I think it’s time for a change. I think we can make better policies that don’t eliminate competition and any potential savings. We desperately need a modern, transparent procurement process.
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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?
Rehman: Teachers should not be penalized for the mistakes of the past administration. Howard County Public Schools needs to right their fiscal ship. We can do this by tightening our procurement processes, making sure the right priorities are properly budgeted and working with the County Council and County Executive to eliminate this hopefully one-time issue. We have to abandon the policies of the status quo. Right now, we lack transparency and a Board that has the procurement and financial experience and expertise to approve a fiscally-sound budget. It’s extremely important that we elect the people who have proven expertise and experience in these areas so this never happens again.
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How would you evaluate HCPS' efforts to reduce achievement gaps between students of different races and backgrounds? Does more need to be done?
Rehman: Given achievement gaps between students of different races, I think it’s obvious that lot more still needs to be done. I think HCPSS tries hard to reduce these gaps, it’s just that we’ve been unsuccessful. We can’t expect a policy change to have an impact overnight. Today, high school students of different achievement levels are a result of the less-equitable policies of their elementary and middle school education. The policy we enact today won’t be seen in entirety until years from now. So the key to solving this important issue is constant vigilance and constantly re-evaluating our policies. We have to think outside of the box. Implicit bias no doubt contributes to the achievement gap, but there are other factors as well. Due to a continued legacy of racism in this country, there are other “gaps” between racial groups (income, home life, etc.) and it affects the psychology of each students accordingly. Some policies we see as completely normal may impact students differently given these differences and they may be more pronounced on racial lines. There are multiple issues that I don’t think we’ve looked at from the lens of equity. Class sizes, equal access to quality facilities, access and use of uniform technology, longer lunches are a few that come to mind. There are policies that are subtle that influence student outcomes and we have to look at the patterns in the system as a whole.
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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?
Rehman: The entire Renee Foose situation was unfortunate for everyone involved. We would not have been in that situation had there been more transparency on the Board and the superintendent. In the past, too many superintendents have shown little regard for community collaboration. That needs to change. We need to know how taxpayer money is being spent and that’s going to require transparency and open communication by both the Board and the superintendent.. We need to make the right reforms where the county isn’t put into an impossible situation. We’re in a bad place when we need to spend over a million dollars to prevent long-term harm to our schools that could be worth tens of millions of dollars more at minimum. The biggest concern isn’t the money, it’s the possibility of ruining our children’s future with bad education policies. I recognize that it was a tough decision by the board, but I would have made the same choice. $1.6 million is a lot of money, but the price tag for keeping Renee Foose around would have been much higher. To me, this is an example of a systemic problem in Maryland state schools. A Board can hire the superintendent, their only employee but cannot fire them for not performing their duty. This type of rules fails to deter negligence and it’s ultimately the taxpayers and the students who foot the bill of the superintendent. This needs to change.
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How would you grade Mr. Martirano's performance and his reorganization of the central office?
Rehman: Overall, I believe Mr. Martiano is very engaged, has a grasp of the fundamental issues and is taking the leadership role needed for his position. In terms of his reorganization, I favor a flat organization where management is more connected with the staff, the school and community. Therefore, I do not agree with many of his policies where he is adding additional administrative staff from community supervisors to some additional new positions that carry a hefty price tag as we are paying above market rate for some of these positions. With a $50 million budget deficit, where he is recommending cuts in programs, increasing class sizes, increasing portable instead of looking for brick and mortar solutions, I am baffled at the budget priorities and how these are getting passed by the board. I think it’s more important than ever that our current superintendent ensures every decision made is carefully evaluated to ensure that it is student focused. I also don’t agree with the process where he announced the new security measures. He failed to discuss these measures with his employers, the Board of Education, and the community. A decision that directly affects every child within the school system should have been made transparently with the Board and the community should have been allowed to voice their input. So, his intentions were good and I still believe in his ability to work effectively with the board and community, but he does not receive a passing grade on how this was handled.