Candidate Survey: Pete Fitzpatrick for Baltimore County Board of Education
BS – Emergency Health Service Mgmt, BS – Nursing
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Three children who are in or have gone through Baltimore County Public Schools. (dealt with IEP, 504 Plans, and special transfers) Five years of local advocacy related to overcrowding, redistricting, and other system issues.
Why are you running for office?
I’m a life-long resident of Southwestern Baltimore County, and a product of the Baltimore County Public Schools. I guess you could say I’ve been involved in the area’s schools nearly my whole life, but it was when my kids entered school that I started to become involved in education advocacy. [Kids have an odd way of forcing us to be adults.] I really became involved in advocacy as part of the solution to overcrowding in the Catonsville area. [Truth be told, there were a lot of rumors flying around, and, well, it made me mad to see parts of my community pitted against one another.] Through that evolution, and the subsequent redistricting process I decided that I needed to continue to be involved.
So why the leap from community advocate (some might say “rabble-rouser” – and they wouldn’t be wrong) to seeking an elected position on the school board? The main answer is I think I can help, but there’s more to it. I just didn’t feel that I could sit back, having rightly-criticized the work that has gone on, and then shirk from putting myself forward when the opportunity presented itself.
That having been said let me lay out some things that are the core values that would drive me as a member of the board. [I ask and fully expect you, the stakeholder, to call me out should I drift from them.] Transparency – Too often the workings of the school system are shrouded from the public eye, or, at least, seem too have been. I would like to see a system where every stakeholder gets the chance to to see the processes at work. In that vein, my hope is that we can avoid hidden agendas and the sense than people are left out.
Justice – I hear a lot of talk about increasing equity in the system. What I want to see is a system that isn’t just equitable, I want one that is just. An equitable system would be one that would meet the needs of the students to meet the same outcome. While an equitable system might solve the problem of different starting points, it fixes the same end point for everyone. Is that enough? Should the goal of our children’s education be a piece of paper or should it be equipping children of many different backgrounds with what they need to be successful? I think it should be, and I think that striving for a just education is probably the most important thing we should be doing.
Listen to the person on the sharp end – I’m a nurse and a paramedic. I work in a high-stakes field with often-limited resources. Sound familiar? Our teachers work in just such an environment. What I’ve found in my field is that care and outcomes are always maximized when the leadership listens to the ground-level providers, and gives them what they need to be successful.
Everything else – Our schools should be safe, they should be well-resourced, and there should always be a coherent plan for where everything in the system is headed.
Ultimately, folks, what I want is to be a guy who works for a good school system. I don’t want to be a guy who wants to win an election. What I believe is that the system works best when the stakeholders have a voice.
Well, I am a stakeholder in this community. I have been for most of my life. I’ve been a student, a parent, and a advocate. And now I’m asking you to lend your voice to mine on election day so we can give all of our kids the tools and opportunities they deserve.
Who do you consider your political role model, and why?
I’ve never really thought much about it. I would probably have to go with Cicero for his commitment to the Roman Republic in the face of both great personal gain at its expense and in the face of personal danger in opposing its fall to the last extremity.
What is your favorite book about politics and policy, and why?
I’m going to go with “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Which is not really about politics, but teaches the importance of moral courage. What could be more important to a leader?
What is your favorite book about education, and why?
“School Days” by HL Mencken (because: Mencken)
What will be your top priority on the Board of Education?
Restoring a focus on the classroom. The goal of any leader should be to place the best people in the best circumstance with the best equipment to do a job. We need to listen to our educators in the classroom, provide them what they believe they need, and support them throughout. We’ve lost this in a troubled sea of packaged programs, misplaced testing, and poorly-thought-out application of technology.
What is the biggest issue facing your county schools?
Overall, the system lack transparency and routes for direct stakeholder input.
What are the three biggest issues facing Maryland schools?
Lack of transparency
An unjust distribution of resources
A loss of focus on the classroom
Have you read your county schools curriculum? If so, which parts do you like and which parts do you dislike?
I am not an educator. I would have educators evaluate and develop curricula following best practices and research-supported methods.
What is your position on school spending?
We need better planning to maximize our fiscal resources. We also need more transparency to ensure that spending decisions are not influenced by personal connections and benefit.
Please identify the three areas which you believe should be prioritized when it comes to school funding
New School Construction, Teacher Pay, Teacher Training
What is your position on teacher tenure?
I support tenure with criteria established for performance and development. I want to hire, develop, and support teachers in a way that makes tenure irrelevant.
What is your position on standardized testing?
I believe in metrics that are fitted to the circumstance involved. Overstandardization in metrics and testing leads to crafting teaching to meet those standards, and to meet the educational needs of students.
What is your position on classroom size?
We must provide teachers with a workload that lets them provide a learning environment suited to the situation. Fitting class size to audience and discipline is key to that.
Do you believe the Board of Education should have taxation authority?
No. Not in the purview of the office.