Vicky Cutroneo Survey Responses

Corey Andrews 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?

Since 2015, I have been extremely involved in school community advocacy, concerned about lack of transparency and effective response to air quality issues in several schools. My efforts led to a new indoor air quality procedures and the hiring of a certified industrial hygienist. I have experience engaging with and working with elected officials on education related legislation and testifying locally and in Annapolis. I lobbied the Board of Public Works to withhold state funding for HVAC renovations until environmental issues were resolved. Used research skills to highlight HCPSS non-compliance with MPIAs and lack of records retention policy. Provided documentation and worked with MPIA Ombudsman, bullying and special ed advocate on audit of HCPSS MPIA responses. This led to present day MPIA database on HCPSS website. Extremely familiar with budget and procurement and have shared important information and provided the BOE with information on sole source contracts like Workday, Gallup, Harvard Fellows. These experiences taught me the value of persistence, collaboration and doing my own research.

I have also served as elected President of the PTA Council of Howard County and have worked towards many new initiatives such as supporting formation of PTA diversity and inclusion committees at each school and an upcoming discipline/ suspension forum in collaboration with NAACP, CAC, SECAC, TCOE. I moved PTACHC towards becoming more of a legitimate legislative voice on issues such as APFO and kicked it off with the Howard Delegation presenting their legislative platform. These experiences demonstrate my ability to lead and manage multiple projects/issues.

I am a former pediatric intensive care nurse and clinical drug study monitor. I have a keen interest in children’s health and exploring research based programs. My work as a drug study monitor taught invaluable research and data analysis skills. These experiences give me the credibility to take the lead on health issues that come before the board.

I believe that due to the loss of immeasurable experience on the BOE with no incumbents returning, we need candidates who are intimately familiar with the workings of the school system, policies, the budget, procurement and programming… from contracts to suspension rates; we need candidates who can hit the ground running, who have a proven track record of advocacy and accomplishment in the Howard County Public School System.

2. What role does a member of the Howard County Board of Education fill?

A Board of Education member helps set direction, provides support, ensures accountability and provides community leadership as advocates for children, the school district and public schools. That being said, the board as a whole is greater than any individual member and it is with the Board as a whole that authority is granted.

3. Have you ever attended a meeting of the Howard County Board of Education?

Yes.

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?

We must begin with developing a 5 year strategic plan that sets forth a shared vision and takes into account budget challenges. Developing the plan should be collaborative process that uses surveys, listening sessions, etc to collect feedback. I propose a Strategic Planning Committee comprised of business and higher education leaders, school leadership, parents, teachers to develop the plan.

Each department should have performance measures and managers should continually assess and re-evaluate their budgets. As it stands, every year there is mass chaos during budget work sessions as program managers are asked to make cuts. Currently, there are no performance measures to guide decision making for the following year. Program managers should be prepared with pre-determined budget cuts based on a review of their own budgets and performance measures.

If we are to overcome the current budget restraints on the delivery of educational programming, it is imperative that we have a well thought out, long term plan.

5. Based on the information available to you, briefly assess Dr. Martirano’s first year in office.

I believe he has succeeded in changing a toxic environment to one of collaboration and community engagement. Educators are no longer afraid to speak out and students see a superintendent who truly cares about children. That being said, I believe there have been some tough decisions that he has avoided making.

6. What does “equity” in education mean to you, and how should HCPSS achieve it?

It means that no matter your background that you are able to achieve your educational goals and potential without obstacles. This means that those students who have fewer resources may need more support to achieve their potential… in other words, to equal the playing field.

There are many proven interventions that can be implemented, even within constrained budget.

1) do away with early tracking, that is, separating students by academic achievement.
2) Encouraging parental involvement– schools that help parents support their children in their school tend to have better outcomes.
3) High schools should have secondary pathways (vocational opportunities) to ensure graduation
4) Eliminate grade repetition by addressing learning gaps during school year
5) Funding strategies should guarantee access to quality early childhood education, especially for disadvantaged families.
6) Highly skilled and experienced teachers should be placed at disadvantaged schools; coaching and mentoring to help retain them.
7) Student centered instruction, frequent assessments to ensure understanding.

7. In specifics, how should the Board of Education address school overcrowding?

Specifically, the Board of Education should follow their own policy (Policy 6010) when it comes to capacity limits and redistricting. You have to be willing to make tough decisions and be unpopular. Yes, Howard HS is dangerously overcrowded and other schools are not far behind. They cannot sustain this for another 4 years, I hope that the Feasibility Study recommends redistricting. I believe that it is imperative that decisions are guided by policy and data, not emotion. I am in support of the idea of assigning new polygon number to new development; that development would go where there is capacity. This puts the power back in the hands of the BOE, instead of at the mercy of developers and DPZ data. The Board should be relentless in its advocacy for increased funding from the IAC. We need to engage with other elected officials and mount a concerted effort towards increased funding from the state. We need an elementary school in the east AND in the north. Right now, it is setting up as communities pitted against each other again. As a Board member, proactively advocating for more funding for capital projects would be priority.

8. Briefly, what are your top three priorities if elected?

1) Budget: We cannot discuss programs, new ideas and goals without money. The number one priority is to look for ways to both save money and increase revenue. 5 year strategic plan, programmatic performance measures, continue to evaluate cost savings options; focus on increasing funding, advocacy at the county and state level (Interagency for School Construction, Board of Public Works). Explore possibility of pursuing business partnerships to fund capital projects.

2) Equity: How we evaluate our school system must be based on the educational experience of our most vulnerable students. Budget cuts affect these students the most; so we must prioritize providing research based classroom support as well as facilitate strong school-community connection; we must prioritize Recruiting and retaining highly skilled teachers of color and placing them in the most needy schools. Students benefit greatly from seeing and engaging with teachers who look like them, who they can relate to and aspire to be. Along these lines, would also advocate strongly for another vulnerable population: our students with special needs. I have had many conversations with parents who are disheartened and frustrated because students still are not receiving the services they are entitled to.

3) School climate: Currently, school improvement team targets are: AP participation levels, SAT score improvement, graduation rates, SAT/PARCC practice participation, minority participation in AP, SAT. I would prioritize changing the criteria for what constitutes school improvement to something more holistic..do students feel connected, engaged and supported? I believe school improvement should refer to school culture, not test scores and AP participation. I would push for a more comprehensive anti-bullying program, cultural proficiency training for all students and adequate, proactive mental health/social support as well as restorative justice practices. I would start by pushing for an end to freshmen taking the SAT.

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