2020-6-25 Board Member Report

2020-6-25 Board Member Report

Revised for publication.

First I would like to thanks our student board member Allison Alston, who has demonstrated a strong leadership. When I saw her performance at Reservoir High School’s Black History Month, I was really surprised and admired. You are a super star. We will miss you.

Today, I will talk about something different. The nation is watching the hardship, struggle and pain the African American community are experiencing. As a community member and a school board member, I share the same pain and the same concern:  Where are we going? How can we get to  the point where injustice will go away? When will everyone have the same opportunity to pursue their dreams and reach their full potential?

Two recent events highlighted here:

  1. I read the petition from more than 400 HCPSS high school students shared with the board. A 2015 Glenelg High School graduate is leading the campaign. Glenelg High School unfortunately had been on the newspaper front page for several racist incidents. Just reading the petition, for example:
    1. Some students called black students “N word” and there were no consequences. 
    2. Some teachers could not remember Asian American Students’ names or faces in a small classroom for half the semester. Some of our staff could not pronounce students’ family names.
    3. Some staff or teachers discouraged African American students or Latino American students from entering  into AP classes. 
  2. Many community members called me regarding a recent social media post from an HCPSS administrator. They feel the post was insensitive and offensive. They  believe our officials  should have been more thoughtful and responsible when they express their opinions  publicly, which includes clicking the “like” button on social media platforms. 

All these events made me think: What can we do to eliminate explicit and implicit biases, microaggression, discrimination and oppression? How can we systematically implement the necessary actions steps?

The questions are tough to answer as we are naturally inclined  to find a fast and easy way out, yet unsuccessfully so. The inconvenient truth is, only when we are able to face the reality truthfully and do self-reflecting and soul-searching, we are able to move forward. We can aim big, however, we should act small, starting with incremental steps for which we have the ability to execute as well as to examine the outcomes each step along the way. 

I agree that HCPSS should include more anti-bias training to help our workforce to better connect with the students and families. These connections will create stronger motivations for our students to work hard and also provide more opportunities for them to excel. We also need to increase culture proficiency training.When we do so, we need to ensure that everyone is included. No individuals or groups should feel being ignored, marginalized, discriminated against and/or oppressed.

I agree that HCPSS should work hard to reduce bias during the hiring process to increase workforce diversity and leadership diversity. When we do so, we need to ensure that everyone is included. No individuals or groups should feel being ignored, marginalized, discriminated against and/or oppressed.

I agree that HCPSS should include a more diverse curriculum to help our students expand their learning horizon which will promote better cross-group, cross-culture understanding and respect. When we do so, we need to ensure that everyone is included. No individuals or groups should feel being ignored, marginalized, discriminated against and/or oppressed.

I want to make a motion: 

Motion:

The Howard County Board of Education denounces any bias and racism towards African American, Asian American, Latino American, Muslim American, LGBT community,  and any other groups who have been ignored, marginalized, discriminated against and/or oppressed. 

Board Member Report 2020-05-28

2020-5-28 Board Member Report

Revised for publication.

We are almost at the end of our semester. We are experiencing a turbulence and we are facing uncertainty for the fall. 

It is important for the school system to keep examining our distance delivery model and listening to our teachers, students and parents.  Our students’ well-being and academic growth are both in the center of our daily operation. We should be able to conduct a survey before the school closes for the summer. 

Many questions can be asked, for example: 

  1. How do you feel during this time?
  2. Do you have a preference for synchronous (live-streaming) or asynchronous (pre-recorded) class formats?
  3. What is the best/worst part of distance learning? Where do you want to see improvements and changes? 
  4. If we could make one change or do one thing to help you with right now, what would it be? 
  5. For students in special education, ESOL, GT, etc, what do you want to change for the distant learning model?
  6. Do we have enough support for our high risk students and families?
  7. Which kind of interactions do you like with your teacher?

There are many more questions. It will take lots of effort to design an effective and actionable survey.

There are many unknowns. It is important to explore different possibilities , plan for the fall by conducting surveys and learning from the students and teachers. We should always pursue innovation in our teaching methodology and delivery. 

I know many families are exhausted and anxious to know what is next. Frankly we don’t know the full picture until we get over this pandemic. However, I strongly believe that we will be able to overcome this short period of difficulty. Our community is gradually open again and comes back to normal soon. We will stay strong and safely.

Thank you. 

Board Member Report 2020-05-14

Board Member Report

2020-05-14, Thursday

Revised for publication.

First, I want to thank Ms. Min Woo, Specialist and Mr. James Lemon, Executive Director of Community, Parent and School Outreach for hosting the Well-Being in the Asian Community seminar. I dialed-in and listened for a while. I just missed Dr. Martirano’s excellent speech. It was a great seminar for the community. 

We have been hearing more feedback from our parents, students and teachers.  For students with special needs or resource limited families, please keep reaching out to school and discuss your children’s needs and how the school can help to meet their needs. 

For High School seniors, we care about their graduation, one of the most important ceremonies before their grown-up life. 

For High School juniors, they worry about their senior year experience and graduation next year. Please notice that everything will be a little different and take some time to self-reflect, manage your course-load and re-prioritize your curriculum. 

At the elementary school level, we are keeping revising our distant learning practice. I believe the school can do a little more than we are having now. For example, 

  1. Having more, short virtual meetings with teachers and peer students online. Building a connected classroom with our teacher and classmates of younger ones will also help our students’ psychosocial well-beings. It does not need to be long and well-scripted. Even a fireside chat with our teachers, a joke around with their peer classmates will be very helpful. 
  2. Providing a curriculum less intense, more engaged and more organized. Building and keeping a good routine for our young students will help them in the long run. Helping them to learn to be self-disciplined and being resilient, being independent from a daily, not so rigid agenda will help our students. 
  3. If a teacher wants to engage more with their classroom and students, we should encourage that engagement. Sure, we don’t want to  overburden our teachers. 

When we look back in the future, we may realize it is NOT what the academic knowledge our children learn, but the way we deal with this unprecedented crisis. Our children will learn flexibility, adaptability, accountability, discipline, compassion, and resilience. These great traits will benefit them all the way in the future.

Another topic I would like to highlight: we need to use this opportunity and time to prepare on how to integrate distance learning into our curriculum, especially if we are not sure how/when we will come back in the fall. If we are not able to get this right, those less-fortunate students will be impacted more disproportionally.

I truly appreciate our superintendent, teacher and staff’s dedicated effort during this time.

Thank you. 

My board member report on 2020-4-16

Revised for publication on 2020-04-16

We are entering a new phase of our education. We finally started our distance learning for high school students. I am glad to  hear many positive feedback from our parents. Middle school and elementary school will start next week. I wish this will give our students and families some relief, engagement, feelings of belongings and education. We are all together. 

I wish parents and students keep sharing their feedback with our school system such that the school system is tracking what the school system is doing, and keep improving the methodology, delivery approach and community communication.  In the current situation, I am especially worried about our delivery model for kids with special needs, younger kids having few parents’ involvement, kids who are already struggling or lagging on their subject. 

We probably will not go back to school for this semester. High School seniors will probably graduate without a prom or a graduation ceremony. Other students transition to a new middle school or a new high school even do not have a chance to say goodbye to their friend. I wish the school, community and parents are keeping a close eye on their children’s mental health. More video games, more screen times and less physical activity time for several months are very challenging for every student in this pandemic era.  

We need to be really careful on our spending. We will receive our 2021 operating budget in five days from the county executive. In Scott E’s blog, according to Dr. Holly Sun, Howard County’s Budget Director, Howard County is estimating a revenue loss of over $35 million in the current fiscal year, with major losses in income tax, recordation, and hotel tax. A significant revenue impact is also anticipated for FY 2021. These revenue losses don’t qualify for any known federal aid, which usually only covers expenses related to emergencies.

Here I am asking our school, pause any non-urgent spending until we hear from the county executive on the 2021 operating budget. 

As a board and a school system, we need to prepare for a difficult time ahead of us. We need to scrutinize any spending and probably think about a hybrid education delivery mode in the future, to incorporate distance learning as another education tool. 

Thanks.

My board member report on 2020-03-26

My Board Member report for today’s virtual board meeting

(revised for publication here):

This is a difficult moment which we have never faced before. Everyone is putting their effort to mitigate the current difficult situation. We don’t even know when this coronavirus emergency will end. My school visits have been on hold for two weeks now. I appreciate that the board receives daily update from the superintendent and his staff.

The plan presented by the superintendent last night was the school’s first step. It is not perfect. I am hoping we will be able to work together to improve this plan and make sure our students are taken care of and everyone in the community stays safe.

I am looking forward to a simple, limited structured instruction plan for our students before we have a fully developed plan. We can not wait for another four weeks. We can have a relatively structured curriculum and routine for students every day of the week, one for the morning and one for the afternoon, with much longer recess time and lunch time. This will be very helpful for many students and parents. Our students love our teachers and they want to hear from their teachers.

I don’t expect the online education will be the same as classroom education. We will not be able to serve every student as usual during this difficult time in our nation. We are not able even to offer PE class now.

So we need adapt to the new situation quickly. There will be up/downs during the process, as long as we can implement, correct and improve. This is also an opportunity to develop our future education model, incorporating online teaching and classroom teaching.

For the current plan, I am very concerned about the 25 thousands ES students who need to wait to the end of the second closure period. I am also concerned about the HS seniors facing graduation, special education kids needing intervention programs, kids from low income families getting the necessary help.

Let’s stay calm and work together through this difficult time. Stay safe. Thanks.