Two contested races in BOE election
CAMBRIDGE — When voting in the 2016 General Election, Dorchester County residents will select candidates for board of education positions in two districts.
Polls will be open between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8.
In District 1, incumbent Glenn Bramble is opposed by 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 re-elected, 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.
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 1996-97 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 individualized instruction is the best way to serve the students, and he is strongly against the Common Core curriculum. He said curriculum should challenge the more gifted learners, which also will 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.”
In District 5, Laura Layton and Voncia Molock are vying for a seat on the board, and there is no incumbent candidate.
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 terms the dismal teacher morale and high turnover rate. She said 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 elementary level.”
Beyond traditional education, Layton said she feels the Dorchester Career and Technology Center is underused.
“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,” Layton said.
Molock was raised in Dorchester County and is a graduate of North Dorchester High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering and technology from DeVry Institute of Technology and her master’s degree in management from Purdue University.
Molock currently works as an information technology support services manager. Her four children are students of the Dorchester County Public Schools system.
Volunteer work is a large part of Molock’s life. She has volunteered as a speaker for many programs, including those held at Dorchester County schools. She also has served as a mentor for interns, an oyster recovery project volunteer and is active in her church.
“I am a proud product of DCPS, and I know the value of education and lifelong learning,” Molock said. “I also know that I didn’t succeed on my own. There were so many wonderful people in Dorchester County who gave me a strong foundation in terms of encouragement, support, scholarships, time and knowledge. I am running to become a member of the Dorchester County Board of Education to support every child in this county in becoming college and career ready.”
Molock said she plans to build partnerships with local employers to create better opportunities for students to become college and career ready; provide resources for classroom teachers; increase parental involvement in classroom education; and use technology effectively.
Phil Rice is running unopposed for the district 3 seat.