Candidate Survey: John Robertson for Montgomery County Board of Education
BA ECONOMICS and SOCIOLOGY, BROWN UNIVERSITY, MA INSTRUCTIONAL SYSTEMS DEVELOPMENT, UMBC, MSW, UMD SCHOOL of SOCIAL WORK
2017-Present Assistant Principal, Roberto Clemente, Germantown, MD
2009-2017 Assistant Principal, Northwest High School, Germantown, MD
2007-2009 Assistant School Administrator, Seneca Valley High School, Germantown MD
2006-2007 Student Support Specialist, Seneca Valley High School, Germantown MD
2005-2006 Social Studies Teacher, Seneca Valley High School, Germantown, MD
2003-2005 Social Studies Teacher, Randallstown High School, Randallstown, MD
2002-2003 School Director, ConneXions Community Leadership Academy, Baltimore MD
2000-2002 Teacher Mentor, Baltimore City Public Schools, Baltimore MD
1998-2000 Mathematics/Social Studies Teacher, Randallstown High School, Randallstown
1992-1998 Mathematics/Social Studies Teacher, Harlem Park Middle School, Baltimore MD
This is my first experience running for a political office.
Why are you running for office?
I am running for office because I am looking to make a difference in the lives of students in a greater way. I have always been passionate about supporting the whole child. In my 26 years in education, I have come across children who have needs greater than the four walls of the school building. In the day to day as a teacher, I made it a point to build relationships with the students and families in my classes, so they knew who was in their corner. As an administrator, I made it a point to build relationships with the entire grade level I was working with. I want to continue to do this and build relationships with families across all of Montgomery County. In building these relationships, I am an advocate for my students and their families.
Who do you consider your political role model, and why?
President Barack Obama is my political role model. He attempted to unite Americans and inspired us to reach towards our better selves.
What is your favorite book about politics and policy, and why?
My favorite book about politics and policy is Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol. The author was able to detail the impact of macro-policies on the functioning of local enterprises…such as local schools.
What is your favorite book about education, and why?
My favorite book about education is Results Now: How We Can Achieve Unprecedented Achievements in Teaching in Learning, by Mike Schmoker. The book provides a comprehensive and detailed plan for achieving an instructional program that will meet the needs of all students.
What will be your top priority on the Board of Education?
When I take my seat at the Board of Education, my top priority will be to put structures in place that allow more resources to be allocated for the social-emotional development of students. I want to make sure students are their best selves. I want to build the capacity of teachers, counselors, and administrators to better identify signs of stress, anxiety, and depression. I also want to place properly trained personnel in buildings that can treat these behavioral health challenges as well. These structures will serve as a support in educating the whole child in order to reach high levels of academic achievement.
What is the biggest issue facing your county schools?
I think the biggest issue facing Montgomery County Public Schools is the limited resources students have access to in terms of social and emotional learning. Throughout my tenure, I have seen more and more students struggling to balance the stresses of their personal and school lives. We need opportunities for students to speak out when they are feeling the effects of these stressors. These opportunities also need to be supported with properly trained personnel.
What are the three biggest issues facing Maryland schools?
Inequity, lack of funding, and school safety
Have you read your county schools curriculum? If so, which parts do you like and which parts do you dislike?
As a school administrator, I have had the opportunity to do more than just read the curriculum. I have had first hand opportunities to engage in lesson planning with teachers, observing and analyzing the implementation of lessons, as well as reflecting on how the curriculum can be strategically used to enhance student learning. This year in particular, I have spent time looking at how to make learning experiences more applicable and meaningful to all students. We have planned and implemented learning opportunities for students to apply concepts on a more regular basis. The parts I like the most are those in which students are reflected in the learning. I am in favor of the changes that have already been made, i.e. World Studies curricula at the middle school level, so that this occurs more often. The parts that I would like to see improved upon would be areas in which students do not get the opportunity to take the strategies and skills they have learned and apply them when interacting in their communities on a daily basis. Schools that implement the International Baccalaureate programs at all levels are making those important strides.
What is your position on school spending?
Schools need to be fully funded to achieve the established priorities of the district. Continuous assessments should be conducted to determine the efficacy of existing programs and to ensure fiscal responsibility. Programs that do not yield positive outcomes should not be funded.
Please identify the three areas which you believe should be prioritized when it comes to school funding
Curriculum Development, Teacher Training, Vocational Skills
What is your position on teacher tenure?
I am in favor of the three year teacher tenure. From my own experience and conversations with colleagues, after a third year of teaching we have felt the most successful. In those first three years, teachers have had learning opportunities and been given the time to improve their craft. I think that because we are in such an important role in that we are engaging and molding youth, we cannot be afraid to tell educators they aren’t ready yet. We emphasize a growth mindset in our students, and we should model that same mindset. I appreciate the evaluation timeline that MCPS implements. With more time and experience a teacher is evaluated formally less frequently. This does not mean they are not observed and are not still pursuing growth. I think we need to continue to hold our educators to high standards and once they have reached tenure, we continue to provide professional learning opportunities because we are lifelong learners.
What is your position on standardized testing?
I believe standardized testing has a time and place. Currently, students spend too much time completing standardized test and county based assessments that reflect standardized tests. If we truly implement real world applicable curricula, our students should be assessed in the same way. The computerized tests are not student friendly and do not truly demonstrate the extensive capabilities of our students.
What is your position on classroom size?
The smaller the better. The suggested class sizes that each county offers needs to be more than just a suggestion. We need to show our teachers and parents that we care and give them classes that have no more than 18 students in grades k-2, no more than 21 students in grades 3-5, and no more than 25 students in grades 6-12. This allows teachers to build stronger relationships, dedicate more time to each students academic, social and emotional learning. Teachers have more and more put on their plate. Teachers already are more than just a facilitator of knowledge. They are pseudo guardians and mentors, and we need to make sure we support them in every way.
Do you believe the Board of Education should having taxation authority?
I do not think the Board of Education should have taxation authority. Our role is to focus on what is in the best interest of students and staff. We will continue to advocate for those needs and allow the proper authorities to dictate taxes.