School board districts on primary ballot
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.