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juliereilly

Candidate Survey: Julie Reiley for Montgomery County Board of Education

Name
Julie Reiley

Age
54

County
Montgomery County (MCPS)

Education
Pomona College, B.A., Economics (1985)
Yale Law School, J.D. (1988)
The Writing Program, Johns Hopkins University, M.A. Writing (2002)

Career/Occupation
Retired attorney and law school instructor. Most recent employer: The George Washington University Law School, Professorial Lecturer in Law (2005-20016). Prior employers: Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Washington, DC. Trial Attorney; Whitman-Walker Clinic, Inc., Washington, DC, Legal Consultant; private practice with two law firms. As an attorney I engaged in complex legal and factual analysis, including highly technical and complex financial laws and regulations.

Education Experience
As an MCPS parent, I have been an education advocate in Montgomery County, and Annapolis, for a number of years. I have served as a co-chair on the Montgomery County Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC), a vice-chair and member of the MCCPTA Special Education Committee, and on the boards of my son’s elementary, middle, and high school PTAs. I have served on numerous committees, panels, and groups within MCPS.

I have been awarded the Maryland PTA Lifetime Achievement Award, the MCCPTA Special Education Committee Outstanding Parent Award, and the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

Political Experience
This is my first time running for office. I do not consider myself to be a politician, and I do not view the board of education as any kind of a stepping stone in furtherance of future office. I am running for board of education because we need strong voices on the board who will put students first, and committed to providing a high quality education to all students

Website
http://www.reiley4education.com

Social Media Accounts
Coming soon.

Why are you running for office?
I am running for the at-large seat on our board of education because I want to make sure that seat is held by someone who has a record of dedicated education advocacy within MCPS on behalf of all students. I am an MCPS parent and the mother of a child with special needs.

I have a long record of educating on behalf of equity for students within the county and Annapolis, in particular students with special needs. My special education advocacy has taken me to Annapolis, where I led a non-partisan grass-roots coalition of parents and advocates lobbying for legislation that would increase accountability to special education students and their families in IEP meetings and due process hearings. Even though our legislation was opposed by two large interests within the state and county, we continued to fight for what we knew to be right and fair. Thanks to our advocacy, a light has been shined on special education within the state, and I believe we are seeing greater accountability. In MCPS the efforts I led resulted in an audit of the special education department and a published report with numerous findings and recommendations regarding ways MCPS could increase accountability and better meet the individualized needs of its students.

Finally, while I am known for my tireless advocacy, in particular on behalf special education families, I am committed to working with all stakeholders to provide a high quality public school education for all MCPS students. Because All Means All, this includes our students with learning differences or special needs, our highly gifted students, our English language learners, our students of color, and our students impacted by poverty, as well as traditional learners and students who do not fall into any of these groups.

Who do you consider your political role model, and why?
Board of education in Montgomery County is non-partisan, and it is vital that members of the board put our students’ education first, regardless of personal political ideology or affiliations. That said, I have always admired politicians who, upon leaving public office, engage in charitable endeavors. For, example, I admire Jimmy Carter’s work on behalf of Habitat for Humanity, and George HW Bush and Bill Clinton’s work together on the Bush-Clinton Haiti Fund.

What is your favorite book about politics and policy, and why?
Board of education in Montgomery County is non-partisan, and it is vital that members of the board put our students and their education first, regardless of personal political ideology, affiliations, or connections.

What is your favorite book about education, and why?
I have read many books and articles related to early childhood education and Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, ADD and Executive Function Disorder, from Building Healthy Minds (Greenspan) to Asperger Syndrome & Your Child, Unlocking Your Child’s Potential (Powers and Poland) to Temple Grandin’s The Way I See It. Because much of my research and reading has had an emphasis on executive functioning, it has provided me with insights relevant brain processes.

While I appreciate this area of knowledge may seem specialized, and to a certain extent it is, my experience with my son has profoundly shaped my understanding of the need for early childhood education services in general, and how both young minds and teenage minds work in the educational / classroom context. Thus, one of my priorities will be expanding public pre-K programs.

What will be your top priority on the Board of Education?
My top priority will be providing a high quality education to ALL students. MCPS has numerous issues that must be addressed. Two priorities are the achievement gap and overcrowded schools with overly large class sizes.

The achievement gap remains a significant priority in Montgomery County. The achievement gap(s) is a complex educational challenge that cuts across different groups of students -students of color, English language learners, students impacted by poverty, and students with learning differences and/or special needs. At times these groups overlap, at other times they do not. Thus, when addressing the achievement gap, it is imperative to take a big picture look in order to appreciate the commonalities of students in the gap, as well as a nuanced approach that understands the complexity of these students so that the most appropriate and effective, research-based practices and strategies are used. I would like to engage in further study of the effectiveness of additional funding in recent past years aimed at the achievement gap and expanding those that have been effective, and appropriately addressing those that have not been effective.

I firmly believe increasing access to public pre-K is essential in addressing the achievement gap. Thus, I will support expanding access to pre-K programs within MCPS.

I also believe we need to increase access to special education services, and increase accountability to special education families, as well as all families.

Overcrowded schools with large classes are another concern. We have too many big schools that are over capacity. Teachers cannot provide students with the kind of individualized attention, both in class and feedback on assignments in large classes. Counselors have too many students for whom they are accountable. Safety and security is impacted when schools with our schools are big as they are, especially when they are over capacity and young children have to go back and forth between the main building(s) and portables.

What is the biggest issue facing your county schools?
The achievement gap remains a significant priority in Montgomery County. The achievement gap(s) is a complex educational challenge that cuts across different groups of students -students of color, English language learners, students impacted by poverty, and students with learning differences and/or special needs. At times these groups overlap, at other times they do not. Thus, when addressing the achievement gap, it is imperative to take a big picture look in order to appreciate the commonalities of students in the gap, as well as a nuanced approach that understands the complexity of these students so that the most appropriate and effective, research-based practices and strategies are used. I would like to engage in further study of the effectiveness of additional funding in recent past years aimed at the achievement gap and expanding those that have been effective, and appropriately addressing those that have not been effective.

What are the three biggest issues facing Maryland schools?
I believe three critical issues / priorities for Maryland schools are:

Addressing the achievement gap, including expanding pre-K education services (see prior answer for more detail).

Better meeting the needs of students with learning differences and/or special needs, and increasing access to special education and related services, differentiated instruction, and increasing accountability to special education families (as well as all families). This also includes supports and services for mental / emotional health.

Funding for education, both for school operating budgets and capital expenditures, depending on the school systems’ needs.

Have you read your county schools curriculum? If so, which parts do you like and which parts do you dislike?
I am an MCPS parent. My child has attended general education and enriched content classes. Overall, I am satisfied with the curriculum, though I do see one area in which it is lacking – writing. There are no writing classes in middle or high school. I taught writing for over a decade to law students, and I cannot overstate the importance of teaching students how to write. Too many of my students arrived with insufficient basic writing skills, which masked their understanding of the substantive issues. Writing is a primary form of communication; all adults should write well. We need to do a better job of teaching it.

What is your position on school spending?
We need to spend our school funds wisely, looking for ways to eliminate inefficiencies, while prioritizing students’ educational and safety needs. We need to base construction of new schools on updated and nuanced demographics, we don’t build new schools only to end up at capacity (or over) shortly thereafter.

Please identify the three areas which you believe should be prioritized when it comes to school funding
Special Education, STEM Programs, Vocational Skills

What is your position on teacher tenure?
In order to provide a high quality education, we need to recruit, train, and retain highly skilled teachers, and I believe MCPS does a good job of this overall. That said, while every school district will have some individual teacher concerns, and accountability to students and families is very important when there is a concern, I am not aware of any larger issues with regard to teacher tenure within MCPS.

What is your position on standardized testing?
In the past MCPS has had too much mandatory standardized testing. Teachers have been put in the position of teaching to a test, instead of teaching a subject. Likewise, students were too often evaluated on their test taking skills rather than their understanding of the curriculum, or their individual growth. Thus, while I do understand some, appropriate, testing is necessary to help evaluate how we are serving our students as compared to the nation, other states, and counties, local school districts and classroom teachers also need the ability to create their own assessments and methods of evaluating student learning. Thus I support recent changes reducing standardized tests in MCPS.

When addressing assessments, we need to consider how we measure success and if we can do it smarter without increasing testing. Thus, while measuring whether students are proficient (and where they fall above and below) has benefits, it is also important to find ways to measure student progress and growth. If we have students who begin the year two years below grade level, but end it only one, we want to measure that, to capture that rather significant progress by the student and the teacher. Likewise, measurements that show the growth of our highly gifted students would provide useful incentives and data.

By measuring growth, we have valuable data in terms of successful vs. unsuccessful grouping and intervention models, as well as recognizing the achievements of students, and their teachers, who may not have hit certain county or state benchmarks, but who have made notable progress. Along these lines, we need to measure the success and growth of students who are on a non-diploma track.

What is your position on classroom size?
I am concerned about the impact of large class sizes on students (and teachers). Large classes make differentiated instruction really hard to achieve. Feedback on written assignments, and feedback on writing skills themselves, is hindered significantly when classes are too big.

Large classes are especially problematic in any class that requires written analysis, and feedback on it – which is just about every subject. I believe we need to look at opportunities to address this, such lowering class sizes, and increasing para-educator/ professional support in the classroom, and increased opportunities for co-taught classes. We need to consider required (smaller) class size limits, rather than advisory class size guidelines.

Do you believe the Board of Education should having taxation authority?
No. The board’s responsibility is to allocate revenue across its budget; it is not its responsibility to raise revenue — nor should it be. Taxes need to be assessed and levied in the context of the competing needs of the entire county, and then the revenues need to be allocated accordingly. While as a board member I would prioritize education in terms of my advocacy before the county, the board should not have the authority to impose its own education tax.






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