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2020 Board of Education Election Survey

The Magnet Foundation surveyed candidates for the Board of Education in 2020, asking for candidates to respond by May 8th.

Candidates were asked the extent to which they agreed with the following statements using a 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) rating scale:
  • MCPS should identify gifted and talented students. (Comment: If you agree or strongly agree, how should the educational needs of identified students be met?)
  • MCPS should continue to offer test-in gifted magnet programs at the middle and high school levels. 
Candidates were also asked to respond to the following questions:
  • What is your opinion of the changes that have been made to the selection process for the elementary school center program and the middle school magnet programs in response to the "choice study"?
  • Should the "choice study" changes be extended to the high school magnet programs at Montgomery Blair, Richard Montgomery, and Poolesville?
  • Is there anything else you would like the Montgomery Blair Magnet community to know about your candidacy? 
Responses were received from 11 of the candidates:

Update: Some responses were received after the deadline. We chose to include these because the information still benefits the community. Responses that were received after May 8 are marked with the date the response was received.

Mitra Ahadpour (At-Large) (No Response)

Stephen Austin (At-Large)

(Response received May 19, 2020)

1. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should identify gifted and talented students.
Comment: If you agree or strongly agree, how should the educational needs of identified students be met?

Strongly Agree.

First step is to ensure the programs can accommodate all the students that test in. This is the best way to ensure inclusivity. I am a firm believer in the need to expand our programs.

2. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should continue to offer test-in gifted magnet programs at the middle and high school levels. Comment:

Strongly Agree.

Definitely. We need to expand seats in the programs as well.

3. What is your opinion of the changes that have been made to the selection process for the elementary school center program and the middle school magnet programs in response to the "choice study"?

I think expanding the testing is the right path, but without more room to accommodate higher admissions, less desirable outcomes have materialized.

4. Should the "choice study" changes be extended to the high school magnet programs at Montgomery Blair, Richard Montgomery, and Poolesville?

These programs should be expanded first. A new Poolesville HS would open up more seats.

5. Is there anything else you would like the Montgomery Blair Magnet community to know about your candidacy?

My campaign centers on improving local schools for all families so we don't have to talk about moving students to other schools. Where I do believe in moving students is in magnet programs because this is by CHOICE. I am a big supporter of these programs and I would also like to expand CTE programs across MCPS.

Anil Chaudhry (At-Large)

1. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should identify gifted and talented students.
Comment: If you agree or strongly agree, how should the educational needs of identified students be met?


Strongly Agree.

customized curriculum delivered as a combination of remote learning and small group instruction at local schools with weekly / bi-weekly "home day" at a centrally located HS in the county.  

2. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should continue to offer test-in gifted magnet programs at the middle and high school levels. Comment:

Neutral.

I believe that GT in middle schools may not be the best use of limited educational resources in the county. We should use the middle school GT funding to expand the GT programs in high schools. 

3. What is your opinion of the changes that have been made to the selection process for the elementary school center program and the middle school magnet programs in response to the "choice study"?

I vehemently disagree with the current process. We should use objective baseline criteria as screening factors and then establish an "order of priority list" that adds certain number of points for socio-ethnic factors in order to improve the educational experience while ensuring that only students capable of sustaining the rigorous workload are admitted to the programs.

4. Should the "choice study" changes be extended to the high school magnet programs at Montgomery Blair, Richard Montgomery, and Poolesville?

While I specifically oppose the use of non-objective screening criteria, based on socio-economic criteria to assign students to magnet programs, I support the use of such criteria as a tie-breaker for selecting students that pass the objective screening criteria.

5. Is there anything else you would like the Montgomery Blair Magnet community to know about your candidacy?

I am a data driven candidate. Although I have my beliefs, I am willing to change them in response to empirical data and well reasoned arguments. I am a fiscally conservative progressive who supports resource allocation based on objective criteria.

Sunil Dasgupta (At-Large)

1. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should identify gifted and talented students.
Comment: If you agree or strongly agree, how should the educational needs of identified students be met?


Agree.

MCPS follows two paths for supporting GT students. One, in test-in magnets, and the other, at home schools. (A third category of whole school magnets are really specialized schools and I am not addressing them in this discussion.) The balance between GT and general academic programs depends on how we define GT. The law provides a definition for what is GT, but the law itself is a social artifact and tries to combine two quite different concepts:

A) A definition of GT that is broad and includes those children who can be prepared to be GT. In this model, family resources are often critical in determining which children will go into the magnet programs. And as more families prepare their children for magnet programs, the school system will have to build more and larger magnet programs to accommodate them. The importance of preparation and family resources in this model means that students from families that cannot afford tutoring-type services may not have access to magnet programming.

B) A narrow definition of gifted, which identifies the uniquely gifted rather than just the better prepared. This model leads to more limited magnet programs, but expanded and enriched curriculum in the home school. There is difficulty in determining the uniquely-gifted from the well-prepared, but organizations such as Johns Hopkins CTY may be able to help MCPS to do this.

My tentative conclusion is that Model B is superior than Model A because it focuses on the uniquely-gifted while supporting a larger number of students in their home schools. So, philosophically I would like to see us veering toward Model B but I am not looking to dismantle current programs. Of all the magnet programs in the county, I think the Blair Math/Science magnet is the closest to Model B.

As we do this, we need to keep in mind that MCPS itself needs to prepare students better so that they are ready for magnet programs. This is especially a problem in math, where novel problem-solving needs to become the norm than the exception. It is not the case right now. We also have to make sure that students of color have equal opportunity to track up toward the more rigorous coursework whether they be in a magnet program or in the home school. One way to ensure this is to diversify our recruitment to include more teachers and staff of color.

2. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should continue to offer test-in gifted magnet programs at the middle and high school levels. Comment:

Agree.

Based on my comment above, my hope is that magnet programs will continue to serve the uniquely-gifted students. What I would really like to see is better preparation of students inside schools for magnet programs.

3. What is your opinion of the changes that have been made to the selection process for the elementary school center program and the middle school magnet programs in response to the "choice study"?

MCPS has made policy changes to selection to enable students from lower income families to gain from magnet opportunities. The record of these initiatives is mixed. Universal screening appears to be working and I believe it is changing the composition of magnet programs especially in elementary school CES. The trouble with universal screening is that it generates more students and the system must accommodate. MCPS has also adopted a rule that says students remain in their home schools if they have 20 or more peers there. I have only heard about the rule anecdotally from parents whose children were denied magnet entry, but I am yet to see clear evidence on how this rule is playing out overall. One possibility might be to use CTY-type second tier testing to identify the uniquely gifted to send to magnet programs and to boost rigorous academic work in home schools.

4. Should the "choice study" changes be extended to the high school magnet programs at Montgomery Blair, Richard Montgomery, and Poolesville?

Universal screening is a great idea. Follow that up with second-tier testing, if necessary, using different evaluation tools, to ensure selection for the uniquely gifted.

5. Is there anything else you would like the Montgomery Blair Magnet community to know about your candidacy?

I am a college professor and I care about rigorous academic work and understand that some students are going to be ahead and we have commitment to meeting students where they are. I also have had direct experience with the magnet process based on my own children’s experience and as a result my own thinking has evolved over time. When my children started in MCPS, I thought they would qualify for select magnet programs. They did not. I sought to understand why and the discovery process helped change my thinking. As I learned more, I began to see two distinct models of magnet education as I have outlined above. The problem has been how MCPS has sought to manage the tension between the two models. Parents of uniquely gifted students criticize magnet programs for not meeting the needs of their students while parents of students who work hard and benefit from support at home demand that their children be let in, if necessary by expanding the programs. My commitment is to making sure to look at research and data and make informed and transparent decisions.

Shebra Evans (District 4)

1. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should identify gifted and talented students.
Comment: If you agree or strongly agree, how should the educational needs of identified students be met?


Strongly Agree.

MCPS should be able to identify the needs of each student and provide the instruction needed to thrive in the classroom.

2. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should continue to offer test-in gifted magnet programs at the middle and high school levels. Comment:

Agree.

3. What is your opinion of the changes that have been made to the selection process for the elementary school center program and the middle school magnet programs in response to the "choice study"?

I appreciate that we are communicating earlier with families that are typically harder to reach within MCPS. Equity and excellence is maintained when we remain committed to expanding access, opportunity, support and resources to allow each of our students to reach their full potential.

4. Should the "choice study" changes be extended to the high school magnet programs at Montgomery Blair, Richard Montgomery, and Poolesville?

MCPS has implemented many of the recommendations referenced in the choice study. Beginning in the Fall of 2020, several regional/county-wide programs will be offered at John F. Kennedy, Springbrook, and Watkins Mill High Schools. The expansion of more district wide programs gives students more choice and options to programs that often have limited space.

5. Is there anything else you would like the Montgomery Blair Magnet community to know about your candidacy?

I am running for re-election to the Board of Education because I am proud of the work we are doing to expand access and opportunity for all students. In my current role on the board, I have traveled to national and state school board conferences. In relation to school districts across the country, Montgomery County Public Schools far exceeds others in the area of excellence and equity. We are not perfect, but we continue to make progress. I want to continue the work and believe my experience coupled with my proven leadership will be an asset.

Michael Fryar (District 2)

1. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should identify gifted and talented students.
Comment: If you agree or strongly agree, how should the educational needs of identified students be met?


Strongly Agree.

They are a special education class as identified under Javits, ESSA and the Talent Act. They need a different approach to education and need to have classrooms that can meet their special needs and abilities.

2. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should continue to offer test-in gifted magnet programs at the middle and high school levels. Comment:

Strongly Agree.

I believe that gifted programs should be independent schools with their own budget and education approach. Magnet programs are not uniquely for gifted students and should incorporate regular education students who are interested in the magnet track.

3. What is your opinion of the changes that have been made to the selection process for the elementary school center program and the middle school magnet programs in response to the "choice study"?

"Paper and Pencil" testing does not capture the full spectrum of talented and gifted students. In addition, the testing is corrupted by 1) administering testing that can be prepped for by students (COGAT), 2) the amount of testing throughout the year given to students that create test anxiety/fatigue, 3) issues and problems with the testing format itself (failing laptops, poor internet connections, testing distractions). The true test for selection should be the same one that I took to qualify for TAG - IQ testing as administered by a psychologist/psychiatrist.

4. Should the "choice study" changes be extended to the high school magnet programs at Montgomery Blair, Richard Montgomery, and Poolesville?

Yes.

5. Is there anything else you would like the Montgomery Blair Magnet community to know about your candidacy?

I was a TAG student (and member of Young Mensa) and attended a one day a week program. I would have loved to have a full week program. The idea of a school committed to talented and gifted education was not even a dream when I was a student. The program needs to be an independent school, with independent programs, but the testing needs to be more comprehensive and the program broadened beyond traditional education.

Paul Geller (At-Large)

1. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should identify gifted and talented students. 
Comment: If you agree or strongly agree, how should the educational needs of identified students be met?


Strongly Agree.

The key after identification is to get these students, even those who fell a tad short, real enrollment in more rigorous instruction. As a member of the Black and Brown Coalition, I would like to see all students who attain a PARCC/MCAP score of 5 in math (as an example) be automatically enrolled in the highest level math course available.

Beyond attending a Center for Enriched Studies, or when that is not possible for geographic or family reasons, every avenue to receive rigorous content should be explored. When possible within a school, identify approximately a class size worth of students to receive accelerated instruction. To attain a sufficient number of students, perhaps grouping by subject matter proficiency rather than by age/grade could be considered. MCPS also has the ability to combine classroom and online teaching, such as the Interim Instructional Service (IIS) model, which could be used as a template to establish a new program to increase course offerings at the high school level when there are not enough students for a traditional class. One teacher could be assigned the same number of students but from three different schools (8 or 9 per school, nearby geographically) and could remote teach from alternating locations thereby still reaching all students and providing small group and one on one instruction. In a pre-COVID world this would have meant a paraeducator with the group at the other two schools, but in our new reality, this could be at home.

2. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should continue to offer test-in gifted magnet programs at the middle and high school levels. Comment:

Strongly Agree.

All students should have the opportunity to take the test for these programs. This is about making sure students with the ability are given the opportunity to thrive in programs that traditionally have not been well publicized to parents/families/guardians by and large. 

These are highly specialized programs and should continue. Again, I believe IIS could be used as a model for providing some of the courses offered in these programs remotely with virtual teaching. 

I remain concerned that some students have greater access to test prep classes/tutoring and the advantages those bring in test performance. Also, any test is one moment in time and may not accurately reflect the student’s ability due to any number of outside influences that day: student health, temperature of testing environment, technical difficulties during testing,… So, considering multiple measures is important.

3. What is your opinion of the changes that have been made to the selection process for the elementary school center program and the middle school magnet programs in response to the "choice study"?

I greatly appreciate MCPS’s work on universal screening. I believe parents should also have a voice in advocating for more challenging work for their children. Modifications to include use of non-cognitive criteria and group-specific norms that benchmark student performance against school peers with comparable backgrounds are encouraging to be inclusive, yet should be used carefully. It remains to be seen whether non-cognitive criteria should be available to reviewers on first review since receiving certain services such as FARMS or ESOL could introduce racial and ethnic identifiers, or presumed identifiers, that were otherwise not part of the process. These factors could trigger the implicit bias that we tried to remove by relying less on teacher recommendations and comments. 

The key after identification is to get those students, even those who fell a bit short, enrollment in more rigorous instruction. Rather than just inviting more students, I would like to see exit numbers on who actually went to the programs and if not, why not. Simply offering access to more students, doesn’t necessarily mean it will increase accessible in reality. Until we expand programs, or at least some course offerings at more locations, greater accessibility is not possible. 

Please remember that the school placement of these programs (Policy ACD) had been introduced in years past as a strategy to increase socioeconomic and cultural diversity whether in a Title 1 elementary or higher poverty middle school.

4. Should the "choice study" changes be extended to the high school magnet programs at Montgomery Blair, Richard Montgomery, and Poolesville?

Yes, with the same concerns as for elementary and middle school programs. Our three county wide magnets should continue as they have in the past. However, a second Global Ecology program elsewhere in the county would be wonderful! In the case of Poolesville, the placement of the program at that school was to increase enrollment at an underutilized school. Having “local” or area available magnet programs or IB schools should be encouraged. This will not detract from those programs and will give more academic opportunities to all students, hopefully without having to make the choice of whether it is geographically feasible.

5. Is there anything else you would like the Montgomery Blair Magnet community to know about your candidacy?

I am a past President and Vice President of Programs for the 43,000 member Montgomery County Council of PTAs (MCCPTA), and leader of most of the successful education funding initiatives of the past decade in Rockville and Annapolis. From leading the charge from start to finish on the record Education First Budget of 2016, to increases in school construction funding from the state, and changes to County Recordation and Impact fees, I have been at the heart of the issue. To do this I formed successful coalitions, sometimes far afield from education, to strengthen and benefit our community. 

Since 2016, my Operating Budget advocacy has yielded MCPS an addition $462,000,000 over Maintenance of Effort. This is unprecedented.

I got my start with advocacy writ large as the former PTSA President of Belmont Elementary School, where I increased PTA membership and engagement from 178 to 650 members in a school of only 312 students, and broke county and state records in the process. Along with friends from another school, I leveraged that strength in numbers to get Promethean Boards in all elementary schools that lacked them, and WiFi in all our schools in 2012-13. Then, under my constant pressure, MCPS finally upgraded from a handful of sluggish Netbooks, to swift Chromebooks for nearly all our students districtwide. These same Chromebooks are now proving to be invaluable educational lifelines to the 55,000+ students using them at home while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When casino revenues replaced state investment in education, I made sure the situation was rectified. I advocated tirelessly for the overwhelming passage of the 2018 statewide ballot initiative, better known as #FixTheFund, to ensure future casino revenues supplement state investment, not replace it. When students statewide wanted a greater voice in approving the budgets of their local school systems, I was one of two adults in Maryland to advocate alongside student leaders to obtain full voting rights to Student Members of Boards of Education and granting them the ability to vote on budgets in their jurisdiction.

Awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Board of Education in 2016, a Lifetime Achievement Award by Maryland PTA, the Gold Oak Tree Pin from National PTA for volunteer excellence, along with numerous citations from state, local, and various organizations, I am best known for my full-time, voluntary dedication to making things better for MCPS students, teachers, and staff since 2012. My two children attend MCPS.

Jay Guan (At-Large)

1. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should identify gifted and talented students. 
Comment: If you agree or strongly agree, how should the educational needs of identified students be met?

Strongly Agree.

Each child develops and progresses at his/her own pace so the students who are at a similar age can have heterogeneous educational needs. The learning style and strength also vary from child to child. In a large and diverse school district as MCPS, it’s important to recognize this heterogeneity and offer programs at differentiated rigor level to serve the needs of all kids appropriately.

2. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should continue to offer test-in gifted magnet programs at the middle and high school levels. Comment:

Strongly Agree.

The test-in magnet programs are an integral part of MCPS’s curriculum which has been offering many students rigorous education opportunities appropriate at their level. Those programs are highly demanded and are one of the strengths of MCPS. We should continue to offer them.

3. What is your opinion of the changes that have been made to the selection process for the elementary school center program and the middle school magnet programs in response to the "choice study"?

Recommendation from the “choice study” was meant to make the selection process more “holistic”. However, it was not immediately clear for many as to how the various criteria were used in the selection process. The selection criteria and the process can be more transparent. 

While universal screening is a step in the right direction, MCPS should also provide more academic support to students in lower ES grades, especially the students whose families are under socioeconomic stress, to ensure no GT students with diverse backgrounds falling through the cracks.

4. Should the "choice study" changes be extended to the high school magnet programs at Montgomery Blair, Richard Montgomery, and Poolesville?

I think we should evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the “choice study” changes in elementary and middle school first before making changes to high school magnet programs.

5. Is there anything else you would like the Montgomery Blair Magnet community to know about your candidacy?

The organization that I volunteered for, the Chinese American Parent Association, was formed as a response to the Choice Report and its recommendations. GT education is one of the core issues for CAPA-MC's members.

Lynne Harris (At-Large)

1. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should identify gifted and talented students. 
Comment: If you agree or strongly agree, how should the educational needs of identified students be met?


Strongly Agree.

We need to look at universal screening, and then ensuring that high quality and well-delivered enriched and accelerated learning is available in every school -- because I believe every school has a large enough cohort to support devoting instructional resources to GT students.

2. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should continue to offer test-in gifted magnet programs at the middle and high school levels. Comment:

Strongly Agree.

But we need more -- and more truly geographically accessible - magnet opportunities.

3. What is your opinion of the changes that have been made to the selection process for the elementary school center program and the middle school magnet programs in response to the "choice study"?

I fully support making these opportunities objectively available to all students via universal screening.

4. Should the "choice study" changes be extended to the high school magnet programs at Montgomery Blair, Richard Montgomery, and Poolesville?

We need to franchise -- with fidelity to quality -- the CAP, Global Ecology, and IB magnet programs to more sites in MCPS. Both more seats, and more true access.

5. Is there anything else you would like the Montgomery Blair Magnet community to know about your candidacy?

Collins Odongo (At-Large)

(Response received May 19, 2020)

1. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should identify gifted and talented students. 
Comment: If you agree or strongly agree, how should the educational needs of identified students be met?


Strongly Agree.

Through a cleraly defined assessment metrics

2. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should continue to offer test-in gifted magnet programs at the middle and high school levels. Comment:

Strongly Agree.

The testing must be reflective of the curriculum

3. What is your opinion of the changes that have been made to the selection process for the elementary school center program and the middle school magnet programs in response to the "choice study"?

The changes were made in a rushed and non consulattaive manner. There is need to improve on aparticipatory process

4. Should the "choice study" changes be extended to the high school magnet programs at Montgomery Blair, Richard Montgomery, and Poolesville?

Yes. To create a wider scope of both choice and participation for aguaranteed involvement and access

5. Is there anything else you would like the Montgomery Blair Magnet community to know about your candidacy?

I have wider scope of relevant skills orientattion that have acquired in both the academia and work experience that has accorded me a unique opportunity as an agent of societal positive change

Dalbin Osorio (At-Large)

(Response received May 19, 2020)

1. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should identify gifted and talented students. 
Comment: If you agree or strongly agree, how should the educational needs of identified students be met?


Strongly Agree.

We need to expand the offerings for identified students, as is, but I believe that providing mentoring as students transition to more rigorous coursework would be really vital in ensuring that they feel supported during the early participation of their enrollment in these programs. We, also, need to hire more teachers with shared-lived experience (meaning a diverse staff that looks like our students) so that students can identify with the folks teaching them. Studies have shown that students perform better academically when they have a connection to the school staff.

2. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should continue to offer test-in gifted magnet programs at the middle and high school levels. Comment:

Disagree.

I do not believe that testing should be the only requirement, or the overriding requirement, for admittance into gifted and magnet programs. Some students are exceptional students who struggle with taking tests, either because of anxiety or poor preparation skills, and I do not believe that students should be penalized because their test scores are not up to par. Standardized testing is an outdated rubric for academic success, as is, and it does not capture the whole student.


3. What is your opinion of the changes that have been made to the selection process for the elementary school center program and the middle school magnet programs in response to the "choice study"?

I think the changes made are sound ones and they are designed to make our programs more equitable. MCPS has struggled to consistently enroll black and brown students in more rigorous coursework, even with them having the appropriate test scores, so the changes made are a way to rectify that. I appreciate the community engagement aspect of the blueprint, as too often decisions are made in silos and we need to earn the community's trust in order to have buy-in for these wholesale changes.

4. Should the "choice study" changes be extended to the high school magnet programs at Montgomery Blair, Richard Montgomery, and Poolesville?

Yes, I believe so. Montgomery Blair, Richard Montgomery, and Poolesville are arguably are three most successful high schools because of their ability to prepare every student for whatever success looks like to them. They are diverse, highlight numerous industries that don't often have black and brown representation, and are operating in the real world when it comes to education. I believe that the changes should be applied, because I believe in uniformity, but I also appreciate what the three schools have done to ensure our students receive the most equitable education possible.

5. Is there anything else you would like the Montgomery Blair Magnet community to know about your candidacy?

I was a teacher for four years before becoming a social worker. My number one job was keeping families together, and I was able to intimately understand how voiceless communities feel when they're not listened to. I became a school social worker to work on ensuring that families like yours had someone they could count on and see things from every angle, and then advocate on your behalf. I have non-profit managerial and budgetary experience, so I am uniquely prepared to work with others on the Board to manage this expected financial windfall we are about to experience. I've worked with our most vulnerable children and families, and every step of my career has begun with families like yours asking me to protect their child, teach their child, and help their child. I take that responsibility very seriously, and I am now asking for your trust in this election. I promise you that, through consistent community engagement and my professional experience, we can ensure that every student regardless of their zip code, can be successful.

Ehren Park Reynolds (District 4) (No Response)

Cameron Rhode (At-Large)

1. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should identify gifted and talented students. 
Comment: If you agree or strongly agree, how should the educational needs of identified students be met?


Agree.

MCPS has fantastic magnet, International Baccalaureate (IB), and other special programs. We should keep these programs strong and look to expand -- both geographically and by program type.

2. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should continue to offer test-in gifted magnet programs at the middle and high school levels. Comment:

Agree.

Yes, and we should try to expand opportunities for testing.

3. What is your opinion of the changes that have been made to the selection process for the elementary school center program and the middle school magnet programs in response to the "choice study"?

I am in favor of expanding access to magnet programs and encouraging more students to reach for these programs. I left SMCS (Poolesville HS) after one year; some of my peers left after one semester or even after three years. If the program isn't a good fit, that can be that student's discovery to make. But many students surprise themselves with their success in magnet programs. I believe the recently implemented changes are important in fostering talent.

4. Should the "choice study" changes be extended to the high school magnet programs at Montgomery Blair, Richard Montgomery, and Poolesville?

Yes.

5. Is there anything else you would like the Montgomery Blair Magnet community to know about your candidacy?

I graduated from Poolesville High School in 2012. My candidacy is endorsed by Delegate Kumar Barve, Delegate Jim Gilchrist, former Delegate Andrew Platt, and former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler. Feel free to contact me anytime by any method.

Darwin Romero (At-Large)

1. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should identify gifted and talented students. 
Comment: If you agree or strongly agree, how should the educational needs of identified students be met?


Strongly Agree.

I believe that the school system has a responsibility of engaging ALL students including gifted and talented students. I also realize that these students come from different backgrounds and experiences that require a different curriculum that fully engages and challenges them. These students should be identified by parents and/or teachers and assessed by the school system.

2. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should continue to offer test-in gifted magnet programs at the middle and high school levels. Comment:

Strongly Agree.

I'm all about meeting the student where they are and helping them achieve excellence in all that they do. If a student demonstrates that they can manage a more rigorous curriculum I believe they should be given the opportunity to test-in to gifted magnet programs at the middle and high school levels.

3. What is your opinion of the changes that have been made to the selection process for the elementary school center program and the middle school magnet programs in response to the "choice study"?

As I previously mentioned gifted and talented students come from different backgrounds and experiences and what we need to improve is the identification process of these students and expand the selection criteria by which they are measured. The goal of the choice study is to increase diversity and equity throughout MCPS and this can be accomplished when we engage parents and teachers early on in the process.

4. Should the "choice study" changes be extended to the high school magnet programs at Montgomery Blair, Richard Montgomery, and Poolesville?

I believe the choice study changes should apply at the elementary and middle school level. By the time students get to high school they should already identify with a specific program of study and an exemption should be given only to those students who have demonstrated an exceptional level of rigor.

5. Is there anything else you would like the Montgomery Blair Magnet community to know about your candidacy?

I am a proud alumni of the Blair Magnet Program and fondly remember my time at the "old" Blair High School. I truly believe that the one size fits all approach does not work and it is our responsibility as a community to make sure that all of our students succeed in school and in life. We need to challenge all our students and engage them in the learning process. So on June 2, 2020 vote for Darwin Romero for Montgomery County Board of Education At Large.

Rebecca K. Smondrowski (District 2) (No Response)

Steve Solomon (District 4)

1. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should identify gifted and talented students. 
Comment: If you agree or strongly agree, how should the educational needs of identified students be met?


Agree.

MCPS does a great job across the board of providing special programs beginning in elementary school with enriched studies, and continuing through middle and high school with magnet programs and the consortium/choice options.

2. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should continue to offer test-in gifted magnet programs at the middle and high school levels. Comment:

Agree.

Yes, MCPS has proven ways of identifying gifted students for the magnet programs. There are a limited number of seats in many of the special programs, so we need to continue to be selective in how we place students.

3. What is your opinion of the changes that have been made to the selection process for the elementary school center program and the middle school magnet programs in response to the "choice study"?

I know that middle school choice programs begin early in the fall for 5th graders and the process lasts many months into the winter, and the expansion of choice study a few years ago opened up more opportunities for more students across the county.

4. Should the "choice study" changes be extended to the high school magnet programs at Montgomery Blair, Richard Montgomery, and Poolesville?

I believe the high school special programs system we have now works well. There are many options for students both regionally and countywide - magnet, IB, engineering, biomedical, etc.

5. Is there anything else you would like the Montgomery Blair Magnet community to know about your candidacy?

I am an advocate for preparing our students for life in the real world. Magnet programs in MCPS have proven to be very successful. Just look at the many students who have gone through those programs and found success in their careers. I also believe we need broader vocational programs across MCPS. We currently only have one high school that offers technical training to be a plumber, electrician, or auto worker. We need to expand those to other schools in the county. Also, I want to ensure MCPS stays #1 in the state by improving our rate of retention of teachers. Half of new teachers in MCPS don't stay past their third year. Lastly, I believe all 206 schools in Montgomery County need to be safe and modern. Many schools have waited too long for repairs or rebuilds.

Pavel Sukhobok (At-Large)

1. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should identify gifted and talented students. 
Comment: If you agree or strongly agree, how should the educational needs of identified students be met?


Strongly Agree.

As the owner of a tutoring center that attracts a high number of gifted and talented students on both the middle and high school level, I can unequivocally state that gifted and talented students should be a challenged with an advanced curriculum that is designed specifically to suit their needs and to push them to reach their full potential. Allowing gifted and talented students to take these courses together will foster an atmosphere where the students will also be able to learn from each other. As a result, I fully support the GT and Magnet programs in Montgomery County. I believe that we should do more manage the stress of students in these programs. Based on my experience, the extremely competitive nature of these programs can sometimes have a detrimental affect on the mental health of students, but I fully support gifted and talented students learning together in specialized programs.

2. Rate from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”: MCPS should continue to offer test-in gifted magnet programs at the middle and high school levels. Comment:

Strongly Agree.

Yes, as someone specializes in test-prep, I believe that standardized testing is a reliable indicator of how strong reading, writing, and math skills. Moreover, I believe standardized testing is the true “equalizer.” Recommendations by teachers, personal statements, resumes, etc. can still manipulated and are rather subjective by nature. Standardized testing is the only thing that guarantees a level playing field, where the children of immigrant parents who can barely speak English but who force their children to read outside of school, compete on the math team at school, etc. consistently outperform the children of parents who may have more resources at their disposal but who allowed their children to take the easy way out. However, with that being said, there are some concerning news. I am well aware that some test-centers have had copies of the real magnet tests, which gave some students an unfair advantage. The tests for these gift magnet programs need to be changed every year, so that unscrupulous can’t give some students an unfair advantage by giving it to them in advance, as that defeats the whole purpose of these exams.

3. What is your opinion of the changes that have been made to the selection process for the elementary school center program and the middle school magnet programs in response to the "choice study"?

I agree switching the testing process from opt-in to opt-out, meaning that all students are universally tested for eligibility. This allowed students whose parents may not have known how to apply to these programs to be given a fair opportunity to be selected. However, the criteria used to decide which students should be admitted has been a disaster. It had a disproportionate affect on Asian American students. Moreover, the Board, last time I checked, has refused to publish what specific criteria was used for selection, breeding distrust in the Asian American community in particular. Many of my parents believe that their students are being punished for being Asian American and that the Board made the changes for the sole purpose of limiting Asian American applicants. Increasing diversity in magnet programs could have been done by increasing funding at magnet programs and creating more spaces for under-represented minorities so that these changes would not have come at the expense of other minority students.

4. Should the "choice study" changes be extended to the high school magnet programs at Montgomery Blair, Richard Montgomery, and Poolesville?

For the reasons stated above, I don’t support the exact same process to be implemented on the high school level. Specifically, while I support universal testing to even the playing field for students whose parents may not know how to apply to these magnet programs, the board needs to be transparent about the selection process being used and to make sure that any attempts to diversity the magnet programs do not come at the expense of other minorities, specifically Asian American minorities.

5. Is there anything else you would like the Montgomery Blair Magnet community to know about your candidacy?

On a personal note, my wife and I have been very involved with many families in the magnet communities. Specifically, my wife has started a debate program at our center that many magnet students have done exceptionally well at. I am very proud of this program, as it allowed many magnet students to participate in an activity that allows them to build their confidence, improve their communication skills, and find their voice. Based on our experience, a lot of students in these programs grow up to become the future leads of tomorrow. However, we also need to be mindful that some students in these programs are bullied at lunch or made to feel ashamed for having been accepted into the program. Add to that the competitive nature of these programs where the students essentially competition with one another not just for grades, but for college admissions, since colleges can take only so many students from one schools, it is essential for us to support the students both academically and emotionally to make sure they continue making a difference in the world.

Lumpoange Thomas (No Response)