Candidate Survey: Autrese Thornton for Baltimore County Board of Education
B.S. Special Education and Masters in Leadership and Teaching
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Coordinator of Community Services
Teacher, Special Educator, Media Specialist, Teacher Mentor, Assistant Principal
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Why are you running for office?
Coupled with my intricate knowledge of student and teacher needs, the flow of operations in various school settings, as well as strategic and pragmatic solutions to multiple issues within a schooling operation, the need for the decision-makers to be more reflective of the demographics of the students compels me to run for the seat that district four will hold on the Baltimore County Board of Education. I believe there are needs of the students and employees of the County that I can help meet. My person-centeredness and leadership abilities will enable me to draft strategic solutions to help students, teachers, and administrators build relationships and connections to ultimately enhance student achievement and create safer schools.
Who do you consider your political role model, and why?
My political role model would definitely be Elijah Cummings. He is the definition of resilience and integrity. B always advocating for those who support him, Cummings has obtained fame and popularity among many communities. He also has never gotten big headed and too good to be out doing groundwork in the community.
What is your favorite book about politics and policy, and why?
Common sense by Thomas Paine describes the natural accession of democracy and revolution. Politicians and policies are for the good of the people they serve; and Paine points out that organizations that best serve the people will always surface. I’m a glass half full kind of person and I believe the crooked politics and policies will always lose to those that are for the people in the end.
What is your favorite book about education, and why?
What will be your top priority on the Board of Education?
According to Harvard professor and AirBnb Consultant, Robert Livingston, cognitive diversity enhances company performance. If our mission as a school system is to prepare our children for success professionally, we must give them a conducive environment that mocks the real world. Diversity is imperative for students to be fully stretched and maximize their fullest potential. It should be considered in all aspects of their learning and environment. By considering diversity when drawing school attendance zones, we will better equip our students for success in school and more importantly for success professionally after their time in the school system.
What is the biggest issue facing your county schools?
Given the recent collapse of a university bridge in Florida, regular audits of building safety need to be in place as well as a system to implement renovations and repairs according to priority needs. A more strategic and verifiable maintenance process should be implemented to prevent incidents like that on FIU’s campus. As far as renovation, the budget should be reviewed to address current facilities needs. Community input would also need to be considered to ensure the collaboration of all stakeholders in addressing concerns.
What are the three biggest issues facing Maryland schools?
Mental health awareness, promotion of the development of relationships, and development of students’ skills that aren’t usually taught in classrooms are three solutions to a lot of problems we face in Baltimore County. Individuals perform better when they are confident; they are also more easy-going and fearless during learning when they feel that someone actually cares about their success. Through the development of relationships and implementation of mental health awareness, we can improve the culture of our school system. Development of unique skills will give students an upper edge in their careers.
Have you read your county schools curriculum? If so, which parts do you like and which parts do you dislike?
Common Core is a curriculum that is assessed by the PARCC assessment. Alignment with the curriculum needs to be evaluated to make sure students have hands on experiences as well as exposure to Common Core. PARCC needs to fully assesses the skills and abilities of students.
What is your position on school spending?
By simple observation, common knowledge is that the system’s resources aren’t allocated fairly to support the demographical needs in Baltimore County. The system’s resources should be fairly and equitably divided among its schools by assessing the population count, demographics, and educational needs of a school. I believe with the right oversight and decision-makers in place, the County can do a lot better to ensure the support for schools with large populations of minority and low-income students. I will work tirelessly to analyze performance and population data to optimally allocate resources to Baltimore County Schools.
Please identify the three areas which you believe should be prioritized when it comes to school funding
Foreign Language Programs, School Maintenance, Teacher Pay
What is your position on teacher tenure?
Tenure is an excellent incentive for teachers to perform well; however, once acquired tenure reduces the incentive for teachers to perform well. Tenure is necessary however for the retention of professionals in the teaching industry as well as again incentivizing teachers to perform very well. Consistency before tenure should continue after tenure due to the development of habits so I do support the implementation of tenure.
What is your position on standardized testing?
Standardized testing enables us to measure students on a uniform scale; however, humans are complex and unique. Cognitive diversity and utilizing a variety of unmeasurable skills will be absolutely needed in post secondary education as well as in the work force. Preparing all students for the same test and measuring their intelligence based on that one test is not the only way to prepare students for life after grade school. We cannot ignore the significance of standardized testing because it is a big deciding factor for most colleges; but we can implement other strategies that bring out the unique skills of our students as well as teach them practical personsable and self-defining skills such as resume building, interview skills, and work etiquette.
What is your position on classroom size?
Smaller classroom sizes has been proven to increase student performance; obviously with our mission being to maximize student achievement, we would advocate for smaller classroom sizes. Smaller classroom sizes also help teachers better manage their classrooms, so they make the job if a teacher a lot easier. Although smaller classrooms cost more due to the increased funding for more teachers and more classrooms, the benefit of increasing student performance ultimately increasing the human capital in the county will return to us exponentially.
Do you believe the Board of Education should have taxation authority?
The board should not have direct taxation authority but it should be able to request funding from tax dollars when it sees fit. As stated before, in order to improve the conditions of our classrooms, we will require more funding for teachers and more buildings.