Discussed in more detail below, the following issues
are the impetus for the Artman campaign platform:
- Focus on the Whole Child
- Diversity & Inclusion
- Educator / Staff Retention
- Community Building
- Closing the Achievement Gap
Focus on the Whole Child
Children are faced with harsh realities at an earlier and earlier age. From active shooter drills to inequality; the ever increasing food choices that continually decrease in nutritional value; increased demands on teachers and caregivers time; daily deluges of technology, our youth deal with a lot. We must ensure our educational system can fully support the demands of our society and our students’ needs.
From emotional intelligence to access to mental health resources, we need to better support our youth. Is this something new to this generation, no, but how much easier would it be for students to interact in a professional environment if they were given the tools of empathy, vulnerability, and compassion at a younger age; a focus on self health as well as achievement demands.
I am also a firm believer in health and wellness when fueling your body. Will children eat chips and drink soda – probably. Can we provide them with the basic knowledge of how these foods are manufactured and are specifically made to remove nutrients and provide unhealthy fillers – DEFINITELY. Let’s increase the Farm 2 School initiative and ensure all FCPS students understand where their food comes from. Let’s set up community gardens where students work together to grow healthy foods, learn scientific principles, and share the overflow of food with community members.
Knowledge is power – you will see this as a theme throughout many of these topics. I believe when students have the knowledge, they can make better choices, setting them up for a successful future!
Diversity & Inclusion
The culture of the school is essential. When every child has the sense of belonging, the school and community will flourish. It is my firm belief that leaving the hard questions in the shadows, on on the fringe, only feeds the fire of “difference”. It is in exploring our differences that we begin to understand just how similar we all are. As discussed in “Community Building”, I believe the community has a huge role to play in ensuring diversity and inclusion in our schools. By actively seeking citizens of our community to provide first hand accounts to our students, relationships are built, and the impact becomes more personal.
During my time as a board of education member, I would work to get the curriculum to seamlessly integrate different cultures, backgrounds, and traditions of all demographics. I believe the heritage of the Frederick County farming community is just as important as the immigrants who toil in the fields to harvest the crop. That the iron furnaces of the Catoctin Ridge which helped fuel the American Revolution, could not have been successful without the enslaved labor force. We do not have separate histories, we as peoples are intertwined and all of our contributions to society (good, bad, or indifferent) should be equally displayed in our curriculum.
In addition, our educator and administrative population should be reflective of our student population. It is important for our diverse student population to have a diverse adult population within the educational system. This has to be an intentional effort. If we are passive about our hiring strategies, we will not close the gap associated with the diversity of our educational staff. More information on the recruitment and retention of quality educators is discussed in “Teacher Retention”.
In every child, dormant beneath the surface, are seeds of possibility waiting to come out. But in order to do so, in order for our students to flourish, the environmental conditions must be correct.
Educator / Staff Retention
It is my firm belief that educators and school administrators have the most difficult job in our society and they do it with such grace and compassion. Teachers bring out the dreamer, the inventor, the writer in all of us. They need our support and we need to ensure they are getting compensated for the work they do for our families, communities, and societies. I believe that teachers and administrators not only deserve a professional wage, but also deserve career growth opportunities, career ladders, and recognition for the work they do.
While educators and administrators are often times the face of education, the support staff are busily buzzing around ensuring the school continues to run effectively, is clean, safe, and temperature controlled. These staff often work at all hours setting up events and taking events down. Early mornings, late nights, and weekends these members of our education system are out there – and usually with smiles on their faces. When supplies run out, I often hear stories of them purchasing more with their own income. Our education system staff deserves competitive wages, growth and promotion opportunities, and recognition as well.
How do we do this? It has to become a priority. Our student’s success depends on having the top educators in our schools. Per the overview of Maryland Local Governments Finances and Demographic Information published in January 2018, Frederick is running a lean school system with our total (federal, state, and local funding) per pupil funding ranking 21 out of 24 in 2018 and our local funding ranking 14 out of 24. Our per pupil funding on a local basis is almost $1000 below the Maryland average. This is contrasted by having the 7th largest taxable income in the state.
Getting the educators in the door is only the beginning. Once we find, hire, train, and onboard these great professionals, we must keep them here at FCPS and support their success and career goals. Throughout my career, I’ve seen multiple strategies for staff retention and believe these principles can be applied to the education profession. Taking the very best of these strategies and implementing them to ensure we have fully qualified, satisfied, and supported staff will ensure we retain the very best talent. Not every engineer wants to be a manager or VP just as not every teacher aspires to be a principal or administrator. An educator career path can be developed and implemented for these educators. Frederick is 1 of only 2 counties in Maryland that does not offer a merit/step salary program (Overview of Maryland Local Governments Finances and Demographic Information, January 2018). It is important to get educator input on what this career ladder would look like, but should include several phases with increased responsibility and increased pay.
We as a community need to elevate the status of educators in our homes and broadly across the county so that the education profession can regain the prestige it once had. To build the pool of educators, it has to be a profession we want our children to enter, and I believe it starts with respect and a professional wage.
Where I come from the phrase, “it takes a village” is used a lot. I believe that rings true even more today than ever. With the demands of the world getting larger, and the expectations of our students ever increasing, it is important to ensure they have a community of people behind them. What would it look like to have our children learning from and engaging with all generations and to have our younger generations spark the dormant youth that is hidden within our greatest generations?
Besides the cost of time and coordination, I believe the integration of our generations together is possible. How much more exciting would a lesson from a war veteran be for the child while at the same time allowing the soldier see his / her impact on the next generation – even possibly finding healing in telling his / her story? How much more impactful would it be if lessons on civil rights and minority rights were supplemented by members of our society that have personal stories to tell? Our brains remember through experience and personal connections. Let’s use the wealth of generational knowledge that we hold in our community to teach our upcoming generations the value of hard work and perseverance, the meaning of community and coming together, show them that there are many adults who want to see them succeed.
Same is true for our youth sparking energy into the community. What would it take to create pen pals in the community? At any level, writing courses could include writing letters to hospitals or senior living communities. This not only teaches children sentence structure and grammar, but has the ability to heal the sick, tell the lonely someone is out there, and give people something to look forward to. Any responses that are received can be read to the class to demonstrate the impact that a simple gesture could have in someone’s life.
These are just a few ideas, and I am sure there are many others. We can all learn from each other and help our community be loving and supportive for all those who call Frederick County our home.
Closing the Achievement Gap
Although achievement gaps have narrowed over this time, substantial gaps in National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores have persisted for low-income students, English language learners (ELL), students with disabilities, students from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, and youth in foster care, homeless youth, and youth exposed to trauma and violence.
The achievement gap will not be closed by the school system alone. While curricula, educational practices, and teaching techniques are major aspects of the solution, it will also require addressing non-school social and economical factors which have a larger influence on students’ success. To make strides in this area, collaboration across multiple entities is essential. Policy experts, educators, advocates, parents, and the community at large are all stakeholders in closing the achievement gap and increasing the opportunity for all students.
It is my belief that meeting the other issues of this platform head on will put FCPS in a great position to close the achievement gaps. Gaining and retaining highly qualified staff, focusing on the whole child, thriving for diversity and inclusion, and building an engaged community are the building blocks required to improve student outcomes.