Candidate Survey: Wendy Costa for Kent County Board of Education
B.A., M.A., Ed.D
Manager of educational programs, Mount Harmon Plantation. I was on the founding team of University High School in Fresno, CA, a school that is usually ranked in the top 100 high schools in the nation.
Northfield School; Vassar College; Columbia University; University of California, Davis. I studied American History and Educational Leadership.
Two terms on the Bryan, TX school board 1984-1990; one term on Kent County, MD school board (current). In 1998 I was a Salvatori Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, where I learned a lot about conservatism. I was on the founding team of University High School in Fresno, CA, which U.S. News ranks as one of the top schools in the nation. It is a charter school. I was a consultant to the KIPP schools in California, which provide a rigorous education to low-income children.
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Why are you running for office?
I am running for a second term to continue the substantial progress the district has made in recent years. We have an administration and board that works well together. I want to see the district use volunteers more effectively; raise more money through grants and donations for teacher mini-grants and field trips; send more graduates to four-year colleges; improve our school buildings; and have before and after school care.
Who do you consider your political role model, and why?
I have many political role models, from George Washington and Alexander Hamilton to Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Barack Obama. Any honest politician who puts the best interests of the people above a rigid ideology is a role model for me.
What is your favorite book about politics and policy, and why?
I read about 50 books a year. My favorite is usually the one I am currently reading. Currently I am reading Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence. Milton Friedman’s books have influenced me about school choice. Victor Davis Hanson’s books and essays have influenced me, as have the commentaries of David Brooks.
What is your favorite book about education, and why?
Lawrence Cremin’s multi- volume history of American Education is my favorite book about education because it explains how public schools have evolved and how they have contributed to American prosperity. He was my professor at Columbia University. Another favorite is Kidder’s Among Schoolchildren.
What will be your top priority on the Board of Education?
Top priority is to retain the students we have and to make our schools excellent enough to attract young families. There are at least 300 children in Kent County who do not attend public schools. We must ensure that all students in regular education are proficient in reading and math by third grade, and we must really shine in a few areas. We are not there yet, but we are going in the right direction. Volunteers and para professionals should do bus duty and lunch duty so that teachers can prepare and teach.
What is the biggest issue facing your county schools?
Declining enrollment is our biggest issue. Antiquated school infrastructure is also a big challenge in Kent County.
What are the three biggest issues facing Maryland schools?
Aging buildings, teacher shortage, low salaries for teachers and support staff.
Have you read your county schools curriculum? If so, which parts do you like and which parts do you dislike?
I have read the curriculum. Of course, local school boards have almost no control over it. The curriculum is the product of many, many interest groups. It is very wide and too shallow. School boards must ask themselves what children need to know and be able to do in order to lead productive lives in the 21st Century.
What is your position on school spending?
I think tax dollars are spent carefully in Kent County. We need more money for building maintenance, for preschool programs, for meaningful field trips, and for competitive salaries for teachers and support staff.
Please identify the three areas which you believe should be prioritized when it comes to school funding
New School Construction, School Maintenance, Vocational Skills
What is your position on teacher tenure?
Automatic teacher tenure after three years of just average performance is not in the best interest of students. If there must be tenure, it should be along the lines of what college professors must achieve in order to qualify for lifetime employment. Guaranteed lifetime employment at age 25 seems un-American to me. Good teachers don’t need tenure.
What is your position on standardized testing?
Standardized tests can tell a lot about how schools are doing, but there are other measurements that are also important. Standardized tests can identify strengths and weaknesses of individual students as well as schools and districts. High test scores are the result of effective teaching and thoughtful curricula.
What is your position on classroom size?
Generally I favor class sizes of no more than 24 students. A great teacher can sometimes handle larger classes. Small class sizes help teachers give attention to every student.
Do you believe the Board of Education should have taxation authority?