What do those running to be Wicomico County Board of Education think are the top issues facing the school system?
What are their ideas to improve school safety? What is their plan for raising tests scores? What changes in curriculum would they like to see?
The primary is July 19, but early voting runs from July 7-14.
Delmarva Now/The Daily Times sent questionnaires to each candidate seeking to sit on the Wicomico County public school board. The race is nonpartisan.
Included were basic biographical questions, as well as opportunities to list websites and social media accounts so voters can learn beyond just answers to the questions we asked. Responses were limited to 500 characters — the equivalent of more than two tweets.
The questionnaire was sent in mid-June, and follow-ups were made with those who hadn’t responded. Those who didn’t answer by June 29 are listed below as “Did not respond.
Meet the candidates
(Vote for up to two in at-large race)
George M. Demko
Bonnie H. Ennis
Occupation: Retired as of June 30, 2022, 44 years with Wicomico County public schools as a teacher and administrator
Donald L. Fitzgerald
Occupation: Sales and Community Relations
Kristin N. Hazel
Occupation: Portrait Photographer
Darren J. Lombardo
Occupation: IT Solutions Provider
Michael G. Murray
Occupation: Retired Public School teacher, Vice Principal, and Principal
Lavonzella “Von” Siggers
Occupation: Retired, State of Md, DHMH, Substitute Teacher
Occupation: College Student / Roof & Repair Specialist @ Habitat for Humanity of Wicomico County
Occupation: Feed Mill Manager, Allen Harim
Kimberley Annette Groves
Occupation: Small Business Owner
Occupation: Commercial Banker
Did not respond.
Susan W Beauchamp
Tonya Laird Lewis
Occupation: Board member
Did not respond.
Occupation: Financial Controller
Ann Brittingham Suthowski
Occupation: retired educator
Did not respond.
Occupation: retired/Navy – retired/ Maryland State
What makes you the best candidate for this office?
Demko: I am a passionate supporter of public education. My sons are graduates of our public schools, and I have taught and volunteered in the schools.
My diverse professional and community experiences as a teacher, manager, and leader have taught me how to listen actively and collaborate with colleagues to solve problems.
I believe they well-qualify me to serve on the Board of Education. I hope you agree, and will give me your support and your vote.
Ennis: I have 44 years of experience in the school system both as a teacher and as an administrator. Student achievement has always been my number one focus. I feel now, more than ever, we need to look at how we can continue to mitigate the learning loss that has occurred over the last two years. I have an understanding of the role of the Board and what they can do in supporting the schools and families of Wicomico County.
Fitzgerald: I bring thirteen years of unbiased experience on the Wicomico County Board of Education. I am able to listen first and then make decisions. I believe in ALL students, teachers and staff in Wicomico County Public Schools. My goal since being appointed in 2009 has been and always will be to advocate for ALL students, teachers and staff. I have the fortitude to make tough decisions and stand behind them even if that means going against the majority. My purpose is simple, I am here for the kids.
Guy: Recognizing the need for pragmatic and caring elected leaders, my balanced and diverse background as a USMC veteran, Conflict Analysis Dispute Resolution graduate from Salisbury University, a non-profit advocate, and parent of two amazing children (age 5 & 2) will bring needed perspective to the board. I care about all our students, their families, and the impact a quality education can have for them. I hear all voices, can manage tough conversations, and maintain focus on real outcomes.
Hazel: Over time, I have seen my two children fall further and further behind, and have seen the drastic change of what education has become. The result around us is evident. Parents are simply looking for a quality education for their child, and no longer want to be kept in the dark. In serving the people, I can represent them having the same view. As a business owner, I know the hard work it takes to succeed in the real world. We need to better prepare our students, and that’s why I’m running.
Lombardo: I have seen firsthand the extreme changes throughout WCPS and the degraded performance over a period of 20 years due to poor leadership and political influence. I understand the importance of quality education to prepare students for the real world. I have 32 years of Information Technology and business administration experience. I also have several years of educational development experience, and provided many training workshops related to education and professional development. I am ready!
Murray: My total experience in working with all students in a 42 year career.
Siggers: I’m told that Board members aren’t permitted within the schools. Some have been long removed from the school atmosphere. I have been more recently affiliated/in touch with the real school atmosphere. I have worked throughout the County at almost every level of the classroom. I’ve worked in policy and with fiscal responsibilities as a Salisbury City Councilmember/President. I’ve shared responsibility for the City employees.
Angelot: The new perspective I will bring to the board makes me the best candidate for this office. As a first-generation Haitian-American and, most notably, a recent graduate, having graduated from Wi-Hi in 2021, I can view policies from an outsider’s point of view. I also believe my age is one of my strengths. The decisions the board makes primarily affect young people; it would make sense for there to be at least one young member of the board who was in public school not too long ago.
Connolly: I have had two children enrolled in Wicomico County Public Schools for the past 13 years. As a family, we have experienced first hand the good and the bad of Wicomico County Public Schools. Unfortunately, Wicomico County schools are experiencing more bad than they were a few short years ago and this trend must be reversed. I will use my positive attitude along with private industry experience and conservative mindset to bring needed improvements to the Wicomico County School system.
Groves: I grew up here, was educated in Wicomico County Public Schools, went to Salisbury University, where I obtained both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, I have taught in two states, and have seen various ways of achieving excellence. I want to bring new, bold ideas to Wicomico County, and a new perspective on how excellence in education can be achieved.
Malone: I have served for the past 6 years and have been vice chairman and chairman for 5 of those years. I have the experience in governing the school system. As a 43-year banker I understand the money part of public schools. As a 30-year soccer coach/referee I have a passion to work with the youth.
Miller: In addition to having 3 children who graduated from WCPS I have also been a volunteer and PTA officer in Wicomico County Public Schools. I am the only candidate in my district with teaching experience IN Wicomico County Public Schools having taught here for 19 years. After retiring in 2020 I supervised student interns for SU during both virtual and hybrid learning. I believe my classroom experiences are more relevant to the problems and issues our teachers and families are facing today.
Beauchamp: I have been a student, a parent and a teacher. I have been a business owner and accountant for the past 35 years. My life experience makes me the best candidate. My strength is helping people reason even at times when they want to be unreasonable.
Lewis: Currently, I am the only board member with children in the public school system. With 2 children in the school system, I have the opportunity to see curriculum and teaching styles up close and personal. I feel my talents, skills, and life trails would allow me to be an asset to the school board. It is proven that parents have and can be successful as a school board member.
Plotts: I bring the voice of a parent fully enmeshed in the day-to-day processes of public school. Having four school age children, I can see the wide variety of experiences happening in our classrooms and communities. I can also see aspects, such as teacher retention, mental health support, parental involvement, and inclusiveness, that need additional efforts to reach our goals. Having these issues at the forefront of my life right now makes my passion for progress an asset to the Board of Education.
Suthowski: There are 2 reasons why I am the best candidate.
- I am retired and have no family. Therefore, I do not have to ask my employer permission to leave work many times each month to attend meetings and events. I don’t have to check my families schedule to attend meetings and events in the evening and on Sat.
- My extensive background in education has been helpful to the committees that I serve. BOE members serve 30-35 hours each month.
Palmer: Leadership abilities learned in twenty one years in the US Navy which included teaching at the Naval Academy plus twenty years in institutional leadership at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Board experience provide me with an excellent back ground for this position.
What is the top issue facing the school district and what are your plans to address it?
Demko: We need to do a better job of informing the community of our schools’ successes. Many of our graduates attend highly-regarded colleges and universities and become professional and business leaders, but we hear little of these accomplishments.
We also have programs, like Pre-K and CTE, that are models for other schools systems. We need to continue to grow and improve these programs and spread the word about them.
Ennis: The academic achievement and mental health of our students is the top issue facing our district. Student behavior has declined and continues to put a stress on our teachers. The district has hired a number of additional Social Workers and Pupil Personnel Workers. They need to be working with the teachers on how best to address the issue. As a board, requesting more information on the staffing plans for these workers and having meaningful discussion about their use in the schools is important.
Fitzgerald: School safety. We must do whatever is necessary to protect our students, teachers, and staff. I will meet with the Sheriff, County Council and County Executive to brainstorm ideas for placing SRO’s in each school. This requires input from all stakeholders and everyone working TOGETHER towards creative solutions. It is paramount that every person who walks into a school building feels safe. Schools must have frequent, strategic school emergency/crisis drills with goals to evaluate the response.
Guy: Our schools face real challenges that merit consideration and prompt action: discipline, accountability, student resources, safety, employee retention, are all in contention. What’s eroding the growth of our county is the lack in balance of positive communication. We have a community that cares deeply about improving our schools for our amazing students. Improving our messaging that Wicomico has a lot to offer will increase support, transparency and participation to grow.
Hazel: School Safety is number one, but I address in another question. Second, is closing the academic gap. Our students are two years behind, and the current administration has failed to successfully address it. We must revisit the fundamentals with a stepped approach if we are going to stabilize our students at grade level. We need to return to Classic Education, teaching core subjects with no other agenda. There are several areas on this issue to address, but I’m limited by words. I am ready!
Lombardo: Second to safety, Academic Proficiency is a top priority. Our students are not proficient in core subjects or prepared for the real world. The school is politically-compromised, and academic performance has tanked. We need to neutralize the classroom by removing political agendas, bias, and propaganda from the curriculum. It is crucial to return to the Traditional Teaching of Math, Science, History, and English without Common Core.
Murray: Mental Health Issues/School Safety. Increase of staff (Mental Health Issues) and Resource Officer’s in ALL schools.
Siggers: I believe that enabling students to achieve and succeed academically, socially and emotionally in a safe environment is the top tissue. I believe that we need to be proactive and install metal detectors at the entrances of our schools. Within the schools, I believe that we need to hire hall, restroom and stairwell monitors to ensure safety. I believe that cameras need to be installed within student restrooms to cover the common space, not inside stalls.
Angelot: The number one issue facing this district is the academic loss caused by COVID-19 restrictions. Many children did not learn during online learning. We need to spend our time and resources essentially playing catch up. We need to expand access to in-school tutoring. One way to do that is to use our FLEX periods to ensure all students get the assistance they need to fix an issue many in the community predicted would occur.
Connolly: The top issue facing the district is attracting and retaining high performing educators. The Board of Education needs to acknowledge and understand why our teachers are leaving to neighboring counties. Our public school administrators need to improve relations with the Wicomico County Sherriff’s Department and our state’s attorney. Teachers should be afforded a classroom environment conducive to educating. The board should be making decisions with teachers and not for teachers.
Groves: I believe school safety is one of the top issues facing the school system, and my solution is multifaceted. First, I would have two SRO’s in each school, one patrolling inside, one patrolling outside. Second, I would put into place a program called “Dads on Duty,” which vets and trains volunteers to walk the halls to make sure kids are where they are supposed to be — in class. Finally, I would have a comprehensive threat assessment performed by an outside contractor.
Malone: It is school safety. We need to continually assess the safety of our school buildings. We need to consider new and improved ways to protect our students. We have made all our school vestibules secure over the past few years. The Board and Superintendent should work together to ensure we “harden” every school by using all available technology and physical structures to accomplish that. We must send a clear message to the community that we take school safety seriously.
Miller: Teachers and students complain about not feeling safe due to too many disruptive behaviors. This adversely impacts student learning. Focusing on the issues that are causing some students to act out will require increased parental involvement and more social workers to address the behavioral/emotional problems our students are facing. Reducing the load we place on teachers will allow them to have more time available to build constructive relationships with their students.
Beauchamp: At present, school safety is my top issue. My plans to address this issue include:
- A school emergency plan that is understood by the students, the faculty/staff and the parents.
- This plan must be practiced often, so there is no confusion.
- A minimum of (2) SROs per school, possibly more depending on the size of the school.
- Hall monitors for issues within the school for example, bathrooms and stairwells.
Lewis: We need increased support of CTE programs and vocational training. Students need to be ready for all avenues of adulthood. Whether it be 2 or 4 year college or trade school. Hands on experience is key for our CTE program to thrive. I intend to focus on expanding these programs with off site job experience.
Plotts: The top issue facing the school district will be the successful implementation of the Maryland Blueprint for Education (aka Kirwan). The plan contains many of my priorities such as educator retention and salaries, expanded pre-kindergarten, additional mental health support, and college and career readiness pathways (including career and technology education). Our board will need to properly implement Blueprint or risk reduced state funding in subsequent years.
Suthowski: There are many important topics facing the Wicomico BOE. Pre-k education, teacher salaries and retention and college and career readiness are just a few. However, these and other concerns are spelled out to us with mandates from The Blue Print for Maryland’s Future. The superintend and his executive team will develop a plan and present it to the BOE. Developing plans are not the job of a BOE member.
Palmer: There are many top issues facing Board members in today’s society. They each have to be addressed individually and they are all important. Safety is always number one. Discipline is another one. Biggest problem is when the teacher sends a student to the office on a discipline problem, the office sends them right back to class an hour later with pacifiers to ease his/her problems. This has to be changed in Governance but you need four Board members to move an item forward.
What steps would you take to increase transparency?
Demko: Parents have a critical role to play in their children’s education. Teachers and administrators need to make sure they know their participation is essential.
For parents to do their part, transparency is absolutely essential:
- How many students achieve proficiency in math and English?
- Are the goals in students’ IEPs being met?
- Are programs and curricula meeting students’ needs?
- Are schools safe and inclusive?
Our schools need to provide parents this information in a timely manner.
Ennis: The community needs more information on the academic achievement of our students. Board meetings need to include more student academic and behavioral discussions. The board needs to request this information be provided by the content supervisors and building admins on a regular basis. Principals finding success or lack thereof in their buildings need to be sharing that information in a public forum so solutions can be discussed collaboratively.
Fitzgerald: It is my belief that the steps currently in place allow for transparency. Anyone who has interest in the school system is welcome and encouraged to take part. Many schools have parent-advisory teams as well as community members who take part on school Instructional Leadership teams. Transparency to me means that the community we serve specifically our students and their families as well as the school system staff feel united as one. I will continue to facilitate that unity. I will always listen.
Guy: When I speak to community members, especially parents, they often feel a disconnect regardless of the school system’s intention or effort. In addition to public forum and the release of board responses I believe we have an opportunity to continue to strive for transparent actions including: developing a county wide notification system for parents, better publications with media outlets, and additional access to Q&A with leadership.
Hazel: Parents need to know what is going on. There are so many administrative road blocks put in place to deliberately keep parents in the dark. Emails should be answered and curriculum/lesson plans should be easily-accessible for all classes. Parents must be included in the participation of their child’s education.
Lombardo: The WCBOE needs to stop discussing public matters in closed session. We need to give parents the information they request about their child’s education without obstructing them. The school system needs to post K-12 curriculum on the WCBOE website, including parent access to lesson plans and class assignments. We need to have parent participation serving on committees instead of all faculty. We need to remove obstacles designed to block or limit access to public meetings and parent involvement.
Murray: Work with any/all Wicomico County , agencies, community leaders, parents delegates.
Siggers: I will evaluate what’s in place and go from there. I want to ensure that parents/families/community are kept current and inclusive.
Angelot: First, being active on social media alone removes a barrier between District One and its board member. I will communicate with residents using different mediums to ensure that community members know precisely what is happening and explain it in a way anyone can understand. I would propose sending out newsletters, including our performance benchmarks and current school events. Also, I would like to see us hold Parent-Teacher events on Saturdays. More parental involvement equals more transparency.
Connolly: Everyone knows transparency is lacking with the current Board of Education. The closed meetings should be shorter and voting by board members should be done by polling each member individually and not a simple “all in favor” vote. Board members should answer the publics questions and post those answers on the Board of Education website. Monthly meetings should all be in the evening. Every board member should be required to substitute teach several times a year at one of our four high schools.
Groves: I would move to hold all meetings at night, so the maximum amount of people can attend. Additionally, I would streamline the FOIA requests. Finally, I would move to open more meetings up that are currently held under the open meetings act. Currently, a meeting must only be closed door if a specific person or event is being discussed. Collective bargaining and benefit studies do not need to be closed door. The taxpayers deserve to hear how their money is being spent.
Malone: First of all, I believe we are already transparent. We have a very informative website complete with detailed budget information. We have monthly open Board meetings with public comments on every agenda. Of course, improvement is always possible. I would bring back open-door nights where any citizen can meet with the Superintendent to discuss an issue. Further, I would add open door nights for the Board and citizens to engage in open dialogue.
Miller: On the school level, each school website should display every teacher’s grading, late work and makeup work policy and syllabus with links to online textbooks. On the BOE level, the agenda for each board meeting should be posted in advance and following the meeting the BOE should post videos and minutes of all board meetings as well as the response to public comments made at each public meeting. The proposed and finalized budgets should be posted online as well as the source for all funds.
Beauchamp: To increase transparency, we need to improve communication between the Board of Education, the teachers and the parents. We need to listen to parent concerns. We need to listen to teacher’s concerns. These concerns need to be addressed as they come up, not at monthly meetings. Parents should have access to all curriculum resources through the WCBOE website. They should be listed per teacher and per class. It should be listed in a timely manner so parents can offer input.
Lewis: As a parent, I find it most important to ask questions regarding topics that need clarification. I want to bring back the Superintendent open door nights.
Plotts: The Board needs to operate with increased transparency. The public needs to be able to attend all meetings and provide public input, either in person or via Zoom. To do that, all possible meeting materials should be made public prior to the meeting, just like the City of Salisbury and Wicomico County do. The public cannot provide input on a policy change when they haven’t had the ability to view the proposed policy. Other districts in the state provide this transparency.
Suthowski: WCPS has in place an amazing communications team. Transparency is already there but some people care to ignore it. Messages are constantly going to homes by phone and e-mail Press releases are sent to the media and are ignored The local media does not cover our board meetings.
Palmer: I always hear this statement. The problem is exactly where does the transparency need to be improved. Give me some specifics and I can give a clear answer.
What are your ideas to improve school safety? How can schools best address social media threats?
Demko: After talking with teachers, I believe our school resource officers (SROs) are well-trained and effective. This program needs to continue and may need to expand.
Everyone has ideas about ‘hardening our schools’. We need to listen to their ideas and implement plans that will keep our schools safe.
However, we also need to improve mental health and social services , so that students who may become a danger to themselves or other are identified and receive treatment before a tragedy happens.
Ennis: To improve school safety, the district needs to look at what advanced technology is available that can increase security. I do not believe a school resource officer is needed in every building. I believe parents need to take ownership of their child’s social media behavior and when issues arise that impact the schools, use those trained (social workers, psychologists, or SROs) to help address the situation.
Fitzgerald: “In addition to the above, we must ensure that administrators, teachers, and support staff feel confident in what to do and when/how to do it; frequent, strategic emergency/crisis drills with collaborative debriefing so that methods that aren’t effective are modified. Social media isn’t my forte. I do not participate in it. Yet, I do recognize its affect on school safety. Their must be a working relationship between students, families and schools. Listen. Take necessary action.
Guy: In my experience, with a specialization in nuclear weapons security and asset management, re-assessing each individual school for optimal systems will be necessary. An overall plan will be needed but with nuance for each location is needed to be effective. I plan on implementing increased security policy once elected. Social media threats and bullying needs to be taken seriously and once administration is notified there are policies in place to investigate and take prompt action.
Hazel: I would love to see at least 1-2 SROs at every school depending on school size. Law enforcement should be able access our schools in the case of an emergency, which currently they’re not able. As far as discipline, students need to be held accountable for negative and unruly behavior or we’re setting them up for failure in the long run. The board will need to get tough and explore ways to handle such cases with removal from the classroom as a last resort. We also must apply discipline equally.
Lombardo: We need an SRO in every school and establish a school safety committee. We also need to reassess our physical building security, access, and video surveillance throughout the school (including classrooms) to keep teachers and students safe. We need to enforce school discipline and establish boundaries without partiality. We must hold citizens accountable, and can no longer ignore, coddle, or reward students for misbehavior. The school should remind parents of the dangers of social media.
Murray: ALL schools have Resource Offer. Practice procedures increased for threats. Increased practices with parents.
Schools could best address social media threats with restrictions of cell phones and increase a tracing device of these threats.
Siggers: Persons posing social media threats should strongly be held accountable. If mental health is an issue, get necessary aide, criminal behavior, refer proper authorities, goofing off, proper reproofing, etc… I believe that team work makes schools work. Administrators and teachers should have some flexibility of securing necessary resources and safety precautions when faced with safety issues.
Angelot: Due to constant national and local events, school safety incidents and threats to our school safety are on everyone’s mind. We can start with my plan to make mental health a priority, which is available in full on my website lucangelot.com. Then, we must work with local Law Enforcement to ensure our children are safe. Also, we must take social media threats of violence, racism, and all forms of bigotry more seriously to ensure every child feels safe and protected at our schools.
Connolly: The only way to improve school safety is to improve the relationship with the Wicomico County Sheriff’s department and the states attorney’s office. The board and administrators need to support our resource officers. As a board member I will demand a full time resource officer for every school and should a school need more than one officer we will provide additional. Students must know there are consequences to bad behavior and all social media threats should be prosecuted.
Groves: To continue on my answer from above, the threat assessment would make sure we are doing all we can to keep our children safe. I would also create an anonymous reporting system so students can report threats they find out about without fear of reprisals. We need to encourage our students to report any perceived threat as soon as they know about it, rather than waiting and executing some sort of revenge tactic. By doing this, we can assure any threat is quickly and effectively removed.
Malone: It is time for us to place a school resource officer in every school. It sends the right message to the community that we are serious about protecting our students & staff. In addition, each school must update and follow their safety plan, which should include keeping all windows and doors locked. It is a fact that students are on social media. We should encourage them that if they “see something, say something” to law enforcement and the administration.
Miller: All students have a right to learn in a safe school environment. We need to ensure we have a protocol in place to address threats from within and without the school including social media threats. Threat assessment programs, more social workers to help students with social/emotional problems, school-based violence prevention programs, enhancing interpersonal/emotional skills, age-appropriate drills, security assessments, continuous training of SROs with the Maryland School Safety program
Beauchamp: I covered school safety in question #2. Social Media threats need to be taken seriously and addressed as soon as they occur by contacting the police and the WCBOE. Students need to be taught that these threats are a criminal offense and that there is a consequence to the person making the threat.
Lewis: I have always advocated for SRO’s in all schools. As policy states for social media threats , we must follow. As I am certainly aware of it happening and consequences must occur.
Plotts: The organization Everytown for Gun Safety, along with the National Education Association, has produced a plan that includes evidence-based and expert-endorsed actions that our Board of Education can take. These steps include expanded mental health and physical security upgrades. Some of these steps have already been implemented. The next Board will need to review what has already been implemented and take additional steps to protect our schools.
Suthowski: Our schools already have secured doors and security cameras. Our secondary schools have SRO officers. However, what they can do and not do is dictated to them by the state. Also, there people in our community that would like to have them removed. I also would like to have all cell phones placed in students lockers and not allowed out during the school day.
Palmer: There are many areas of safety that cannot be discussed openly. It would only let people who intend to do wrong know what safety procedures are in place. I would like to see more SROs in schools. That cop car in the parking lot along with an armed officer is a big deterrent and would make someone think twice about trying to wrongfully enter that school.
What is your plan for raising tests scores?
Demko: Highly qualified, dedicated teachers are the key to student success.
We have a serious teacher shortage which has become worse since Covid.
In order to recruit and retain qualified teachers, we need to treat them as professionals, provide them with well-trained support staff, and show them we value their efforts by raising salaries.
Ennis: The board cannot raise test scores and schools will not be able to raise test scores until they can appropriately address the behavior and attendance issues of students. Full transparency of data on student attendance, behavior and academic achievement needs to be a part of every board meeting and work session. Once these are addressed, the Board will approve curriculum resources that have been shown to be effective in increasing student achievement realigning budget items if needed.
Fitzgerald: I believe that the teachers and other staff in this county go above and beyond to prepare students for the myriad of tests they encounter. I plan to continue to support rigorous, instruction across content and grade level. I also believe that its imperative for our special education students as well as English Language learners to continue to receive the maximum support in all content areas.
Guy: It is a real challenge to “raise test scores,” right now as most of our students nationwide are behind their current grade level with the impact of the decisions made on public safety during this pandemic. We desperately need to work towards mastery of skills for these students and implement remedial learning for all grade levels. Reprieve from state testing advocacy will be needed so time can be better used for remedial learning.
Hazel: In order to help our students, we have to be real with academic assessment. I believe students are further behind than current scores reflect. Post assessment, teachers will most likely be required to revisit the basics to bring our students up to speed. Core subjects build upon a foundational understanding. Students will never learn or advance without a solid foundation, so we need to build upon a rock and not upon sand. This will result in greater test scores
Lombardo: We will need to accurately assess each student to find out exactly where they’re currently at as far as their academic proficiency. We then place the students within a lesson plan to address their education gap. Although supplements such as after-school tutoring will continue, it is not the solution. We really have to address a student’s plan within school hours, and make sure that they are proficient in the basics before they advance. We need to bring students up to the bar, not lower it.
Murray: Increase the opportunity for any technology resources.
Siggers: Test scores can improve when school/classroom decorum improves. Teachers show up prepared to instruct and guide students. Phones have become a pandemic within school particularly, the classroom. Phones can be an effective tool in instruction but often is a distraction and point of contention. Students are better able to focus and participate when they aren’t troubled with fights and other distractions. I believe that the code of conduct and dress code need to be examined for updates and strongly enforced. Mentoring could be effective also in improving scores.
Angelot: We must realize that we are preparing our students for the 21st century. It is known that tests do not accurately reflect a student’s knowledge. In fact, many colleges are waiving their test requirements! However, as we presently use tests to measure student outcomes, we can, again, expand our access to in-school tutoring so that students do not have to stay after school to receive tutoring. Although I am against block scheduling, let’s put our FLEX periods to use!
Connolly: Keeping schools open for in person learning, retaining educators and providing a classroom environment conducive to learning will go a long way to improving test scores. Current high school students spend 20% less time in the classroom than they did just three years ago due to the new “Block Scheduling”. This experimental scheduling should stop immediately.
Groves: Many people believe the way to raise scores is to increase the amount of academic time. I believe the way to increase scores is by reducing the amount of extra duties a teacher is required to perform in the classroom and focus on the task at hand–the teaching of their subject matter. When the teacher can focus on their content, rather than having to teach extra social courses, we get teachers that can pack a lot of learning into a shorter amount of time.
Malone: First, we need to determine where our students are weak, English, Math, etc. Then we could focus on those areas of weakness in our curriculum. It may require hiring additional staff to assist with this such as: in school tutoring and after school help. This would also require parents to work more with their students at home on the weak areas.
Miller: Test scores and learning can be affected by things outside of instruction, so focusing on students mental and emotional health can increase school attendance and participation as well as reduce classroom disruptions that affect learning for everyone. More access to universal Pre-K programs would enable more students to start off on the right track. More access to quality after-school programs for at risk students would provide them with tutoring to shore up weak skills.
Beauchamp: Raise the standards in our schools. We need to go back to traditional 50 minute class periods and focus on teaching the basics of reading, math, science and history, those are the subjects the students are tested on. The students need to learn…not just pass.
Lewis: We need to meet students where they are. Focus on the tools and resources that are proven to show promise and build confidence in our scholars. Students learn in many different ways we need to understand what works best for them.
Plotts: As the only candidate endorsed by the Wicomico County Education Association, in District 4, I look forward to working with the association, educators, our superintendent, and central office staff to raise test scores. Some of the steps we could take would be to reduce class sizes, add additional after-school tutoring, ensure we are adopting a positive school culture, and utilize new rewards and incentives.
Suthowski: Again, this is not the job of a BOE member. The superintendent and his executive team will present their plan to the BOE.
Palmer: Teachers need much more face time with the students. Get someone else to do jobs like bus duty, cafeteria duty, hall duty and other jobs like these. Then get back to the basics, reading, writing and arithmetic and reduce considerably all these feel good inclusive subjects. You have to crawl before you walk. Our students are not learning the basics.
What changes would you like to see to curriculum?
Demko: All schools which receive public financial support must meet Maryland’s College and Career Readiness Standards, which are intended to “help (students) succeed in today’s knowledge-based global economy.”
Our school system’s Dept. of Curriculum, Instr. Resources & Prof. Development is charged with selecting the resources used to implement this curriculum.
I think there needs to be more openness in this selection process.
Ennis: There needs to be full transparency of curriculum and curriculum resources. Ensuring that parents feel welcome to ask questions about what is being taught is essential. While the board can approve curriculum it is more important that the district provide parents with knowledge of materials used in a course. It is important that they know where to find those resources. This is key to giving parents confidence that what is being taught in the schools is aligned with what is expected.
Fitzgerald: I am not sure what this questions is asking me as a candidate. The curriculum is set by the School Superintendent. It is my belief that the current Wicomico County curriculum is rigorous and age-appropriate.
Guy: We need to re-access what skills will actually matter for these students to have fruitful careers post-graduation. We need accuracy and honesty for courses with a high level of interpretation and allow for conversation. Secondary education should have a heavy emphasis on skills that matter to a student’s career interest.
Hazel: Financial Literacy implemented in K-12 would be a great addition to the curriculum. Most students that graduate know little about saving money and investing in the future. If we could start teaching at an early age, our students will have a great advantage when they transition to living independence, going to college, or establishing a career. In playing catch-up, we can start by teaching core subjects without reducing content or having political fillers in the curriculum.
Lombardo: I would like to see the WCBOE create a county curriculum without adopting the (MSDE) Maryland State Department of Education’s framework, which is politically-compromised with bias. The state does not, and cannot mandate curriculum – not even through Maryland’s Blueprint. We can create our own curriculum, and still meet the state standards without adopting their framework. However, this will require work. We need to return to core subject matter, having no integrated political activism.
Murray: An increase of student, teacher, parent input.
Siggers: look forward to working toward building a more effective curriculum for all students.
Angelot: Although, for the most part, the curriculum is set at the state level. I would like to see financial literacy, mental health, and comprehensive health education introduced into our curriculum to better prepare our students for the 21st-century economy and be functioning adults upon graduation.
Connolly: The current Board of Education’s support of experimental, semester based, “Block Scheduling,” which is proven to not be in our students best interest, needs to immediately end. Schools should expand extracurricular activities which encourages better grades and more school involvement by both students and parents.
Groves: I would like to see a return to the traditional six-or-seven period day and away from the semester model that has been used over the last couple of years. Advanced Placement courses don’t translate well to this method, and block scheduling is not doing anything to increase the test scores or attention spans of our students. The semester method works well on things like music, art, health, drafting, IA, and so on, but even those classes would serve students better if they were full year.
Malone: I would like to see us spend more classroom time on financial literacy. It is definitely needed; however, the issue is finding time in the current curriculum for this course. We provide financial literacy in the elementary schools through a partnership with Junior Achievement. But there is a need to enhance the financial literacy teachings in the high school years.
Miller: I would like to see more emphasis on background knowledge to improve reading comprehension and writing. I would like to see more problem solving to increase flexible thinking in math and science. Financial literacy expanded in all grades to increase connections with real world math. I would like to see more access to STEM programs across all grades and to Increase the number of students who can join the CTE program.
Beauchamp: We need to address the 3 year gap in education from the pandemic. Our children are behind, we need to get them caught up and connected academically.
Lewis: It would be most beneficial to see a re-evaluation of existing curriculum. Lay out the goals, and/or objectives to see if it best fits are whole system. As a member of the current team often there are plans, methods and processes that are discussed through numerous meetings Development is key.
Plotts: I believe we should expand course offerings at our Career and Technology Education (CTE) center to ensure we offer all possible career pathways with the goal that all our students are college or career ready at graduation. We also need to make sure our curriculum stays up to date and includes the ever-changing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses.
Suthowski: Again, this is not the job of a BOE member. I do sit on the curriculum council and spend many hours each month reviewing new material.A new phonics program was recently introduced. This year a new literature series will begin in grades 6-12 and middle school science teachers are excited about their new program. Some comments have been made about a financial literacy course. Remember, when something new comes in -there is only so much time in the day. What will be removed?
Palmer: There needs to be many changes to our curriculum. Let me give you a personal opinion about two areas that need to be wiped from our schools. Everybody thinks it was great when Bill Gates gave schools millions of dollars for computers and introduced Common Core to the curriculum. What everyone failed to realize is that Gates needed minions to develop certain skills to be used in his factories. Then the biggest problem. Get the ideology of CRT out of our schools. Yes, it is there.