School board dis­tricts on pri­mary bal­lot

Dorchester Star - - Front Page - By VIC­TO­RIA WIN­GATE vwingate@ches­

CAM­BRIDGE — In the up­com­ing pri­mary elec­tion, Dorch­ester County res­i­dents in two of five dis­tricts will be cast­ing their vote for a Board of Ed­u­ca­tion can­di­date.

The 2016 Mary­land pri­mary elec­tions will be held April 26. Early vot­ing will be avail­able 10 a. m. to 8 p. m. from April 14 through April 21 in the lobby of the Dorch­ester County Of­fice Build­ing, 501 Court Lane. District 1 In the first district, cur­rent board mem­ber Glenn Bram­ble is op­posed by Jodi Cavanaugh Jews and Robert Kirkley.

Bram­ble is vice pres­i­dent of the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion and is serv­ing his sec­ond term as a mem­ber. In his first term, he served as board pres­i­dent.

He was born and raised in Dorch­ester County, and has owned DSA Con­tract­ing in Cam­bridge for 45 years. In ad­di­tion to con­tribut­ing to the com­mu­nity as a lo­cal busi­ness owner, he has served on the Dorch­ester County Coun­cil, Cam­bridge Plan­ning and Zon­ing Com­mis­sion and the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Crit­i­cal Area Com­mis­sion.

Bram­ble be­lieves the cur­rent mem­bers of the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion are work­ing well with Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools Henry Wag­ner and staff in keep­ing costs low while still pro­vid­ing a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion to stu­dents.

“Main­tain­ing com­pet­i­tive salaries for teach­ers and sup­port staff has been one of our ob­jec­tives,” said Bram­ble.

If re­elected, Bram­ble has a list of goals he in­tends to con­tinue work­ing to­ward.

“Achieve smaller class sizes, more teach­ers, ad­e­quate and en­vi­ron­men­tally safe schools, in­crease se­cu­rity and max­i­mize the dis­ci­pline that is gov­erned by the state; re­view all the pro­grams and en­sure they are ef­fec­tive in pro­mot­ing our stu­dents for a bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion; cap­i­tal­ize even more on the Dorch­ester Ca­reer and Tech­nol­ogy Cen­ter; find ad­di­tional ways of par­ent in­volve­ment. Th­ese are just a few of my pri­or­i­ties,” Bram­ble said.

Jews cur­rently serves as an at­tor­ney in Cam­bridge and col­lege pro­fes­sor at Mor­gan State Univer­sity. She teaches eth­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions in busi­ness law, and pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment. Jews said she in­tends to use her skills, train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion to help the chil­dren in Dorch­ester County re­ceive a bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion.

She earned her bach­e­lor’s de­gree from Notre Dame of Mary­land Univer­sity and her law de­gree from Univer­sity of Mary­land Law School. She has prac­ticed law for 22 years, 16 of those in the Cam­bridge area. In ad­di­tion to her law prac­tice and pro­fes­sor­ship du­ties, Jews is a Ph. D. can­di­date in higher ed­u­ca­tion at Mor­gan State Univer­sity.

“I want to ad­vo­cate for the chil­dren of Dorch­ester County Pub­lic Schools and help our fine teach­ers, as­sis­tant prin­ci­pals and prin- cipals ad­vo­cate for chil­dren,” said Jews. “I see the re­sults of a good ed­u­ca­tion and what it can mean for an in­di­vid­ual, as well as a com­mu­nity.”

Even out­side of her bid for the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion seat, Jews is ac­tive with the com­mu­nity’s youth.

“I have been work­ing closely with our stu­dents by be­ing in­volved in Char­ac­ter Counts as a coach. I have men­tored stu­dents as in­terns in my law of­fice. I have rep­re­sented and ad­vo­cated for chil­dren with spe­cial needs,” said Jews. “It is very im­por­tant that we — board mem­bers, teach­ers, ad­min­is­tra­tors, par­ents and stu­dents — need to work as a united team to make sure each child is ei­ther ca­reer and/ or col­lege ready.”

Kirkley is the pas­tor of the Church Creek Charge. He served sev­eral years on the St. Mary’s County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion, be­gin­ning in 1987, and served 10 years with the Mary­land As­so­ci­a­tion of Boards of Ed­u­ca­tion. He was pres­i­dent of MABE for the 199697 school year.

He and his wife have owned prop­erty on Tay­lors Is­land for 45 years, and moved to Dorch­ester County per­ma­nently in 2000.

Kirkley said that in­di­vid­u­al­ized in­struc­tion is the best way to serve the stu­dents, and is strongly against the Com­mon Core cur­ricu­lum. He said cur­ricu­lum should chal­lenge the more gifted learn­ers, which will also el­e­vate those stu­dents at the lower end of the grad­ing scale by giv­ing them a goal to reach.

“Com­mon Core hand­i­caps the ex­cel­lent stu­dent be­cause it is not ad­dressed to him or her. At the same time, it ne­glects the stu­dents at the low end of the scale,” he said. “It teaches to the av­er­age stu­dent.”

Kirkley also ad­vo­cates for a push to­ward post- sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion, though he said vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion through Dorch­ester Ca­reer and Tech­nol­ogy Cen­ter is im­por­tant.

“We have too many stu­dents here who have no long- range goals ex­cept to get out of school as quickly as they can and get work­ing,” said Kirkley. “They get good jobs and they have good in­come, but they’re not re­ally be­ing chal­lenged for their po­ten­tial.”

Both Jews and Kirkley say that one of the most com­mon com­plaints they hear from those in­volved with the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is the ex­cess of test­ing re­quired by the state.

“I want to ad­vo­cate for re­duc­ing state- man­dated test­ing and free the teach­ers to teach,” said Jews.

“We have some great school teach­ers in this county, but they spend 50 per­cent of their time teach­ing. The other 50 per­cent is be­ing a so­cial worker, rule en­forcer, tester. That’s one of the big­gest com­plaints that I hear, about how many tests they’re given. They don’t have time to teach,” said Kirkley. District 3 Third district in­cum­bent Phil Rice is seek­ing re­elec­tion un­op­posed. He could not be reached for com­ment. District 5 There is no can­di­date seek­ing re­elec­tion in the fifth district. Three fresh can­di­dates are seek­ing the fifth district seat on the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion: Ch­eryl Ever­man, Laura Lay­ton and Von­cia Molock.

Ever­man has been a res­i­dent of the East­ern Shore since 2001. She said she de­cided to run for a posi- tion on the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion “be­cause Dorch­ester County stu­dents, es­pe­cially mi­nor­ity stu­dents, con­tinue to lag be­hind most of the schools in the state in achieve­ment.”

Like other can­di­dates, Ever­man spoke to the need to re­duce test­ing time.

“Cur­rently more than 20 per­cent of class­room time is spent ad­min­is­ter­ing fed­eral and state man­dated tests,” she said. “When teach­ers are spend­ing their time ad­min­is­ter­ing tests, gath­er­ing met­rics, and per­form­ing data an­a­lyt­ics, they are not teach­ing; and the chil­dren are not learn­ing any­thing other than how to take a test. While the board is limited inas­much as they must fol­low fed­eral and state laws, they de­ter­mine the lo­cal pol­icy and need to work with ed­u­ca­tors to en­sure that most of the time in class­rooms is spent help­ing stu­dents learn, not help­ing stu­dents take tests.”

Other main as­pects of Ever­man’s plat­form in­clude en­sur­ing an open and col­lab­o­ra­tive process in se­lect­ing a new su­per­in­ten­dent of schools, when the time comes, and find­ing ways to in­te­grate the com­mu­nity into schools to help close the achieve­ment gap.

Lay­ton was a Dorch­ester County ed­u­ca­tor for 33 years, and now serves as the pres­i­dent of the Dorch­ester County Re­tired Ed­u­ca­tors group. She has lived in the county for 45 years.

“Ed­u­ca­tion is who I am,” she said. “My life is ed­u­ca­tion. I re­tired in 2008 and joined DCRE. I be­came pres­i­dent in 2012, and I’ve been pres­i­dent for three years. Ed­u­ca­tion is what I think is the ba­sic im­por­tant thing in our so­ci­ety. I think it’s the foun­da­tion of all the rest of our so­ci­ety.”

A ma­jor is­sue Lay­ton finds with the school sys­tem is what she termed the dis­mal teacher morale and high turnover rate. She aims to cre­ate so­lu­tions that will make teach­ers hap­pier to work for Dorch­ester County Pub­lic Schools.

“They’re out there to do the best job for the stu­dents, and if they’re hap­pier, they’re go­ing to do a bet­ter job. We have to find a way, and it’s not nec­es­sar­ily salary,” said Lay­ton. “I’m not ad­vo­cat­ing rais­ing salaries. I’m ad­vo­cat­ing chang­ing the at­mos­phere in the build­ings and in the whole learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment.”

Speak­ing from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, Lay­ton sug­gested chang­ing the at­mos­phere in the schools by hav­ing ad­min­is­tra­tors be more sup­port­ive of teach­ers in their dis­ci­plinary de­ci­sions.

“The teacher needs a bet­ter sup­port sys­tem from the ad­min­is­tra­tors. That is cer­tainly one of the ways, if not the main way, that teacher morale can be im­proved,” she said. “It is very dis­heart­en­ing when a teacher sends a stu­dent to the of­fice for be­ing dis­re­spect­ful or dis­rup­tive, and lit­er­ally five min­utes later that stu­dent is back in the class­room. It is very dis­heart­en­ing and de­mor­al­iz­ing be­cause the teacher as­sumes that the ad­min­is­tra­tor is not tak­ing him or her se­ri­ously.”

Lay­ton also ad­vo­cates for smaller class sizes, more in­di­vid­u­al­ized ed­u­ca­tion, re­duced test­ing time and truly in­vest­ing re­sources in ed­u­ca­tion. She said she re­al­izes that some of th­ese things are de­pen­dent on state and fed­eral man­dates.

“Smaller class sizes are the key. The more per­sonal in­ter­ac­tion a child gets, the bet­ter you can suit their needs be­cause not ev­ery stu­dent learns the same way,” said Lay­ton. “Ob­vi­ously, money is a fac­tor. If we’re go­ing to at­tract new busi­nesses, have ed­u­cated citizens, if we’re go­ing to grow as a county we have to ed­u­cate our kids from day one. We have to put the money in to make th­ese classes smaller, and par­tic­u­larly at the ele­men­tar y level.”

Be­yond tra­di­tional ed­u­ca­tion, Lay­ton said she feels the Dorch­ester Ca­reer and Tech­nol­ogy Cen­ter is un­der­uti­lized.

“I think higher ed­u­ca­tion is im­por­tant, but I think you also have to be re­al­is­tic and look at the pay scale for our skilled work­ers. There is good money out there in the skilled trades. That is one of the ar­eas where we need to do a bet­ter job,” said Lay­ton.

Molock was un­able to be reached for com­ment about her can­di­dacy.

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