Candidate Survey: Jennifer Abell for Charles County Board of Education
Senior Development Manager at March of Dimes
Four grown children through public school and a Board of Education member for 14 years
Board of Education member for 14 years
Why are you running for office?
I’ve had four children raised in the county, all attended and graduated from the public school system. I have 14 years experience as a Board of Education member and are familiar with staffing, budget, socio-economic challenges that impact education, discipline, policy, negotiations, etc. —every issue associated with the operation and management of the system. I am familiar with the concerns have about meeting their children’s educational needs and emotional and physical welfare, and able to make informed difficult decisions in addressing any of those issues and challenges the school system faces. I want to ensure that ALL children have the benefit of the same quality of education as my own.
Who do you consider your political role model, and why?
Jack Kemp – The most important politician of the 20th century who was not president!
What is your favorite book about politics and policy, and why?
The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt
He challenged conventional thinking about morality, politics, and religion in a way that speaks to everyone on the political spectrum.
What is your favorite book about education, and why?
The Conservative Case for Education: Against the Current
By Nicholas Tate
Tate touches on all aspects and every controversy possible in the educational environment ranging from religion, discipline, curriculum, etc.
What will be your top priority on the Board of Education?
Ensuring students are attending school in a safe and secure environment and graduate high school college and career ready as productive members of society.
What is the biggest issue facing your county schools?
Funding/Budget – We have an ever-growing system, and to meet educational needs of students, hire quality teachers, build and maintain safe schools —it all requires an awareness of funding sources, and knowledge of how to spend money wisely.
What are the three biggest issues facing Maryland schools?
Funding (for materials, staffing, and buildings), discipline and safety (they are significantly related) and drug abuse.
Have you read your county schools curriculum? If so, which parts do you like and which parts do you dislike?
Yes. I like most of the curriculum especially the fact that we have moved back towards teaching phonetics and offer a large variety of high-level courses and incorporate technology and fine arts throughout. The one part I despise would be “new math” .
What is your position on school spending?
Uncertain on the question. With regards to what, exactly? Schools have to spend money.
Please identify the three areas which you believe should be prioritized when it comes to school funding
Classroom Technology/Computers, Security, Teacher Benefits
What is your position on teacher tenure?
We have to value our experienced teachers. Our students benefit from the wisdom gained from an educator’s years in the classroom, working directly with students. It is imperative to remove incompetent teachers from the classroom, but a truly poor teacher is an exception, in my opinion. Educators deserve our support, and our more experienced teachers can, and do, provide valuable assistance as mentors to peers who may be struggling to better meet classroom challenges, or to newer educators who are adjusting to their roles.
What is your position on standardized testing?
If the testing is used to both identify accomplishment AND used as a tool to promote learning — with specific content areas identified to both educators and parents as mastered objectives, or not, and the educational program affected to enhance learning — great. If standardized testing is used as a determining factor in the success or failure of a teacher — that is unfair and a misuse of the testing. The ongoing changes to public school teacher evaluations — which arose from questions of accountability by parents, employers, post-secondary institutions — need to be crafted and utilized as part of a comprehensive view…which includes all of the factors that impact a classroom setting. Number of students, the degree of ability variation, socio-economic factors of the student population, available texts and tools, etc.
What is your position on classroom size?
The lower the teacher-student ratio the better.
Do you believe the Board of Education should have taxation authority?