Candidate Survey: Ray Leone for Anne Arundel County Board of Education, District 7
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Over a decade of parent leadership advocating for parents and students as the President of the Maryland PTA and the President of the Anne Arundel County Council of PTA’s representing 160,000 and 13,000 members respectively. Served on the School Board Nominating Commission and had my name forwarded to the Governor for consideration under the previous nomination system.
Advocacy at several levels National, State and Local Council, no political office held.
Why are you running for office?
There are many different issues facing our schools today from class size to aging facilities to teacher compensation. Several schools in my district are busting at the seams with enrollments well over the Maryland State rated capacity. Tracey’s ES, Crofton Woods ES and Edgewater ES are all at or over the state rated capacity. I would look at any ideas that would decrease class sizes, even new charter schools to help set up smaller schools without the normal capital costs. A priority for me would be to reduce the student to Counselors and Psychologists ratios to something closer to the recommended 1-250 ratio.
I want to address teacher compensation that could take years to fix and will easily cost an excess of 20 million dollars just to restore the Step Gaps. We need to fix the pay issues and bring them to on par with neighboring counties so they do not move elsewhere. We need to keep experienced teachers here in our schools. I would address the teacher compensation issues in a measured way each year for the next few years until we achieve a level playing field with other surrounding counties. I would also look at ways to incentivize new teachers to commit to longer term employment.
District residents have told me that they feel a disconnect from the current board and have concerns with transparency, we need to address those concerns. I would also encourage more open processes between parents and schools, parents and the school board and work toward a greater level of transparency.
Who do you consider your political role model, and why?
I tend to look to some of the original writers of the Constitution men like Adams and Jefferson. I do not believe in big federal government, we need to get back to a more state centralized model that provides for more local control of the issues and problems that affect our daily lives.
What is your favorite book about politics and policy, and why?
The Debate on the Constitution Vols 1 and 2 because I like knowing what was in the heads of the writers when they debated. We need to remember why this document is so important and re-examine it from time to time.
What is your favorite book about education, and why?
I tend to spend a majority of my time reading current day to day legislation and board policy/budget materials to keep up with whats going on. Currently I’m working my way through the Kirwin Report.
What will be your top priority on the Board of Education?
A top to bottom look at spending and programs to find ways to save money and apply that money to the issues I have mentioned above, rather than to continue the escalation of spending I currently see.
What is the biggest issue facing your county schools?
Class size and lack of Guidance Counselors and Psychologists to address student health.
What are the three biggest issues facing Maryland schools?
1) Current funding formulas do not work and create unfair burdens in some jurisdictions,
2) While Universal Pre-K would be wonderful, it is simply not affordable, many schools lack the space or structure to house Pre-K students let alone grades K-12,
3) Vocational Training and Financial Literacy are sorely needed to balance the playing field for non-college bound students. We also need more Civics in our classrooms.
Have you read your county schools curriculum? If so, which parts do you like and which parts do you dislike?
I have read some, usually in the areas that I didn’t understand the approaches that were used to teach my children. I have concerns like many folks over not teaching cursive writing or the teaching of common core driven math, lack of civics and a lack of financial literacy. I try to understand each concern from different perspectives before coming to any conclusion.
What is your position on school spending?
Spending needs to be scrutinized to a greater degree and be more outcome based.
Please identify the three areas which you believe should be prioritized when it comes to school funding
School Maintenance, STEM Programs, Vocational Skills
What is your position on teacher tenure?
Teacher tenure should be outcome based and awarded to teachers that maintain high standards. Principals should have the ability to drive outcomes in their buildings and let go teachers who do not achieve results.
What is your position on standardized testing?
Testing should be determined at the state level not pushed by the US Department of Education and should be used mostly to drive student outcomes.
What is your position on classroom size?
We need smaller class sizes so teachers can focus on teaching.
Do you believe the Board of Education should having taxation authority?
Not the way Anne Arundel County is currently configured with a tax cap. There are too many other funding issues to rest that much authority in the Board of Education. The Executive and Council having to strike a balance, given the needs of the rest of the county seems a fairer system.