Danny Mackey posted the following responses on Facebook on 3/10/18:
1) What experiences do you have that qualify you to serve on the Board of Education?
Perhaps my greatest experience that qualifies me to serve on the Howard County Board of Education lasted 13 years and culminated in May of 2012 with my graduation from Wilde Lake High School. I spent Kindergarten through my Senior year of high school as a student in the Howard County Public School System and am the only candidate who has recent experience as a student in HCPSS. This uniquely qualifies me to keep our students in the forefront of my decision making as a member of the Board of Education. Further, I have been involved in education advocacy for several years motivated by my experience as a student, my relationship with my sister and mother both of whom are employees of HCPSS, and my desire to see our school system be the best it can be. As a college senior in 2016 I regularly returned to Howard County to testify at public forum and work with stakeholders to facilitate change. I was vocal in opposing what to me seemed to be a systematic dismantling of trust between the school system and the community. My experiences testifying as well as my continued involvement in advocacy surrounding HCPSS have allowed me to coordinate with educators, parents, and advocates from many areas of the county. These experiences have provided me with institutional knowledge of the system that will allow me to hit the ground running as a member of the Board of Education acting immediately to start tackling the problems facing our schools.
2) What role does a member of the Howard County Board of Education fill
Members of the Board of Education wear many hats in their official roles as public servants. They are liaisons of the highest caliber between the community and the school system. They provide the community with a voice in the direction of HCPSS. Members serve as supervisors of the Superintendent who in turn is the administrator of the school system. Members of the Board of Education are tasked with holding the Superintendent accountable for the education of the County’s children, for the fair treatment of employees, and for the effective and appropriate use of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. This includes taking a strong interest in the policies, procedures, and budget of the school system. Members, along with the Superintendent, are also tasked with establishing and maintaining positive relationships with all stakeholders of HCPSS, included but not limited to elected officials at the County and State levels, our educators, advocacy groups, as well as the community at large. I look forward to the opportunity to be a voice for the community, a steward of the public dollar, and a facilitator of trustworthy and collaborative relationships between the Board of Education and the many parties that engage HCPSS in varying capacities.
3) Have you ever attended a meeting of the Howard County Board of Education?
Yes, many. As I mentioned in my answer to question #1 I regularly attended Board meetings as a Senior in college; this continued after my graduation. I have testified on a wide range of topics in front of the Board of Education including but not limited to accountability, transparency, financial literacy, the opioid epidemic, mental health, proper communication between the school system and the community, as well as the FY2017 operating budget and our spending priorities as a system. When not in attendance in person, I regularly watch Board meetings on hcpss.org.
4) Numerous officials have indicated that the Howard County government will be facing a few difficult years ahead in budgeting and finance. How do you propose the Board of Education address these challenges?
The school system has raised very valid concerns regarding its use of taxpayer money in the past. In order to ensure that fiscal difficulties at the County level are not felt at a disproportionate level by the school system a top priority of the Board of Education needs to be restoring trust between HCPSS and our funding authorities: the Howard County Council, the Howard County Executive, the State Legislature, and the Board of Public Works. Further, the Board of Education needs to find ways to make our dollar more effective. This includes investing in our staff to prepare them for the challenges they face every day, helping them to become more effective educators. It also includes effective and selective implementation of new programming initiatives to ensure that our financial commitments across the board are not negatively impacted by new unfunded and/or unmandated programs. The Board of Education must visit our contractors to ensure the school system is taking full advantage of the competitive bid process. Lastly, following the necessary steps described above to ensure HCPSS budgetary needs are not artificially inflated, if budget struggles continue to exist a conversation will likely be necessary regarding what is likely to be a disparity between the revenue of the County and the level of services expected by County residents. Unfortunately, times of financial difficulty are arriving in tandem with a time of rebuilding at HCPSS. If the Board of Education remains focused on being stewards of the public dollar we can reduce the negative impacts of our situation, weather this storm, and come out all the better on the other side.
5) Based on the information available to you, briefly assess Dr. Martirano’s first year in office.
Given the circumstances, Dr. Martirano inherited the most difficult job in the County and has handled himself well. From the start he has been proactive in restoring community trust and coming to terms with the realities of our past. He is very clearly student-centered and enjoys visiting our schools; this is an important trait in a school Superintendent. He is a strong leader, but this trait is as much an asset as it is a trait that requires attention. I would like to see Dr. Martirano improve his communication with the Board of Education. During large decision making processes, specifically redistricting, Dr. Martirano has a tendency to take a very executive-level course of action and propose his plans to the public without proper consultation with the Board of Education. This in turn creates more difficulty navigating complex issues as the Superintendent’s proposals can leave the Board of Education to deal with difficult realities not addressed by preliminary plans released by the Superintendent. This speaks to the importance of the check-and-balance relationship that is required between the Board of Education and the Superintendent. Overall, Dr. Martirano is off to an excellent start. With more clear communication of expectations on behalf of both the Board of Education and the Superintendent I believe he will find even greater success in turning HCPSS into a strong institution of integrity. I look forward to the opportunity to work with him in the coming years.
6) What does “equity” in education mean to you, and how should HCPSS achieve it?
Equity is one of the four main tenets of our campaign and it will be a governing principle for me as a member of the Board of Education. Distilled down to its purest form, to me equity means that every student matters. As a Senior in high school I aided in a tenth grade on-grade-level English class and had my eyes opened to the vast injustice of our school system under-serving and ultimately failing many students, particularly students of color. It was eye opening for me to see the enormous achievement gap present between the AP/GT courses and the on-grade-level courses. Since that year, equity has been and will continue to be in the forefront of my mind. Ensuring equitable opportunity for all students will require HCPSS to engage communities that have been historically underserved by the education system, come to terms with those failures, and provide a concrete and earnest effort to close the achievement gap. We must work to ensure that we provide opportunities to our students that give them the ability to succeed in light of their circumstances regardless of where they live, any disability they may have, their home situation, the color of their skin, or any factor. This includes turning our focus to our most vulnerable youth, particularly at a young age, to ensure they are keeping up with their peers. This will require better collection, analysis, and use of data. It wil also require programmatic differences between our higher and lower achieving schools; the Board of Education must be fierce advocates for defending equity. Equity is also closely related to recognizing that not all students are on a college-bound path. HCPSS must work to provide opportunities to take ownership of our often touted mantra that an HCPSS diploma makes graduates college and career ready. An expansion of vocational opportunities in the County is critical to ensuring an equitable system. Expanding equity in education is a process that will continue to develop over many years and will also require large amounts of community input. I look forward to setting this as a priority if elected to the Board of Education.
7) In specifics, how should the Board of Education address school overcrowding?
The school system’s overcrowding will continue to plague our community without decisive, coordinated action between the County Government and the Board of Education. With the location of high school #13 now selected the Board of Education must begin developing a redistricting plan that addresses the immediate overcrowding in the northeast portion of the county by utilizing our currently available capacity while working toward new districts that utilize the new high school. Every effort should be made to prioritize use of brick-and-mortar capacity over our continued use of relocatable classrooms that raise security and health concerns. Proceeding into the future the Board of Education needs to partner with the County Government to take an overall more proactive approach toward planning locations for our schools.
� Briefly, what are your top three priorities if elected?
1 – Influencing policy to encourage a learning environment that is safe and fosters positive mental health amongst students and staff, including our special education community where we will need to ensure that our investments are bold and meeting the needs of students and staff.
2 – Promoting equity in program and academia throughout the system for both students and staff. This includes evaluating the effects of programs on student achievement, evaluating the effectiveness of the professional development opportunities offered to HCPSS staff, and working diligently to think outside the box in offering students avenues for success in education through pursuing vocational opportunities or other achievements outside of the traditional college-bound path. A well developed approach toward equity is critical in addressing the achievement gap that continues to pervade the system.
3 – Working with the Superintendent, fellow members of the Board, fellow elected officials at the State and local level, and members of the community to address financial crises facing the school system in a responsible manner. This will include helping to repair and establish relationships between the Board of Education and local elected officials and the community as well as influencing policy to be crafted in a manner that increases trust in the system by easing access to information and preventing the mistakes of our past from reoccurring.