Candidate Survey: Edward Kitlowski for Baltimore County Board of Education
Baltimore County, District 6
B.A. Honors Ithaca College 1976, M.Ed. Loyola 1986, 30+ Graduate credits University of Edinburgh, Towson University, Cape Breton University, East Tennessee State University
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Retired teacher, Director of Pipe Band US Naval Academy
Taught 30+ years in Baltimore County Public Schools, MD Coordinator for Foreign Exchange Students, Faculty at Project Access Howard Community College, Adjunct faculty CCBC, Harford Community College, Kosciusko Foundation Participant
I have not held a political office. I have worked on several local campaigns
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Why are you running for office?
I attended and taught in Baltimore County schools. I have a personal commitment to the system. I know what works and doesn’t work. I fought for better schools as a TABCO representative, writing letters, talking with legislators, and going to rallies. As a Special Ed. teacher, I advocated for more opportunities for students. As a parent, I demanded accountability of my daughter’s schools. I see serving on the Board of Education as the next step. In knowing the system, I can hold the superintendent accountable, not only to budgeting but also to curricular and disciplinary issues. I believe my experience will benefit not just the teachers, students and parents in District 6, but all of Baltimore County. I believe BCPS should prepare students for life, not just graduation. The leadership of BCPS made decisions that were often more about ulterior motives than what was best for students, parents and teachers. Sometimes it seemed like making the Newsweek list was more important than our student’s education. This mindset generated the agenda and priorities of the system. Many parents, teachers and students have been left out of the decision making process.
Who do you consider your political role model, and why?
Abraham Lincoln was a 19th century Renaissance man. Education was very important to him and he was an avid reader. He served in the military and was physically strong but understood the tragedy of war. He was both pragmatic and philosophical in governance. His cabinet had differing views that allowed him to hear all perspectives of an issue. Despite the serious nature of his time, he had a sense of humor and was supposedly a great story teller. Mr. Lincoln was never accused of hubris. I have modelled my leadership style on the qualities Mr. Lincoln displayed. I believe it is important to hear all perspectives and listen from a position that all the speakers have a commitment to excellence. Humor can lighten a conversation and create camaraderie. Stories, or analogies, can make abstract or difficult concepts easily grasped and personalized. And lastly, service to country is a necessary quality of our republic.
What is your favorite book about politics and policy, and why?
The book I used when I taught US Government. It was apolitical but described the philosophies that shaped our democracy and how the process works. It did not have extraneous fallacies.
What is your favorite book about education, and why?
“Teacher Wars” by Dana Goldstein. Her book is both a history of education in the U.S. and an explanation of the forces that shaped how education is delivered. Her research is impeccable and her citations are solid. She personally interviewed contemporary policy makers. This book should be required reading for all legislators and members of Boards of Education.
What will be your top priority on the Board of Education?
Restore integrity in the system. The trial of Dr. Dance is only the most visible. The Master Agreement between the Board of Education (BOE) and the Teachers Association of Baltimore County (TABCO) is rampantly violated with impunity. The county discipline policies are not followed. The grading policy does not reflect a student’s work production. The graduation rate has risen but many BCPS graduates require remedial courses in college. The community is skeptical of the system’s transparency, and feel ignored. Teacher autonomy in curricular matters has been reduced with micromanaging. Many students do not feel their time in school is adequately preparing them for work or college. The role of the School Resource Officers is unclear and more influenced by the school principal than local law. Many parents question the budgetary allowance for educational technology.
Restoring integrity is a context for how the system runs. Integrity is more than just honesty; it includes doing things they way they were meant to be done. It means having programs be whole and complete and not a “work in progress” when it relates to student’s and teacher’s lives.
What is the biggest issue facing your county schools?
My commitment is to LIFT (Leadership, Integrity, Focus, Transparency) Education. School leadership in BCPS is in turmoil. Dr. Dance resigned and was found guilty of actions around financial disclosure but other questions related to BCPS budgeting of educational technology are connected to him. There is a rift in the BOE and the community regarding his replacement. Right now, there is a need for leadership that has both a vision and clear goals. The issue of Integrity was covered in the previous question. There is a question amongst parents, teachers and students around the level of use of educational technology. This is essentially a question of what should be the focus of instruction. Dr. Dance initiated numerous new programs and changes in a manner that was viewed as haphazard. The lack of transparency is a common complaint of parents leading to skepticism and distrust.
This is the condition in which the daily issues of discipline, building maintenance and teacher turn over exist.
What are the three biggest issues facing Maryland schools?
Educational funding, school safety and discipline, and retaining Common Core and PARCC tests. The Kirwin Commission was established to review and make suggestions on revisions to public education funding. The last examination was in 2002 and was called the Thorton Commission. Since that time, there has been a marked increase in the number of children in poverty from 22% in 2002 to 45% now, many educational ramifications. These students qualify for Free and Reduced Meals. They also enter school with educational deficits. The number of non-English speaking students has doubled and there are more students who qualify for special education services than in 2002. Even if funding had remained constant, it would still be insufficient to maintain the level of educational services. Less funding has meant fewer teachers and other resource personnel, further exacerbating discipline and school safety issues. Public education costs money, adult services cost more.
The recent school shootings have focused public attention on a tragic, yet rare event and overshadowed the issue of discipline and safety on a daily level. the Obama era Guidelines on school discipline policies were intended to end what has been termed the “school to prison” pipeline. This refers to the large percentage of African-American males who are suspended from school and eventually end up in the adult prison system. Many school administrators reduced or stopped suspending students, even for flagrant actions. No additional resources were provided so these disruptive students were returned to class. As a teacher, I had personal experience with this phenomena.
Maryland was one of the first schools to apply for and qualify for additional Federal funding under Race to the Top, with the proviso the state adopt Common Core Standards, new standardized testing that would become part of teacher evaluations. As of today, only seven states will use PARCC assessments, three do not require high school students to participate. New Jersey will cease using the PARCC assessments leaving Maryland, New Mexico and the District of Columbia as the only entities that will use them. Having educational standards is seemingly a sound idea, but there are many problems with how the Common Core standards were developed. The PARCC assessments are provided by a for-profit organization. Maryland essentially relinquished a great deal of control over education in the state.
Have you read your county schools curriculum? If so, which parts do you like and which parts do you dislike?
I taught numerous BCPS curricula and was part of several curriculum writing teams. At one point, teachers were given choice and flexibility within the curriculum. Recent versions have become much more prescriptive. There has also been an increase in the use of software. There are some educational reformers who believe classroom instruction should become more like a video game. The push for individualized learning often means more time on computers.
The most recent 12th grade English curriculum is an improvement and requires the student to use critical thinking and write responses supporting their position with research. Friends who teach elementary school complain about the math curriculum. In Baltimore County, students do not examine the Revolutionary War past 5th grade, unless they take AP US History. That means our students have only an elementary level of understanding about the most important event in our history, and possibly global history.
What is your position on school spending?
The student body in Maryland has changed with different needs than even a decade ago. We don’t have a teacher shortage, we have a long standing work action. Teacher pay has not kept up with inflationary costs. Pennsylvania and other states along the east coast offer better pay, work conditions and pensions. Schools are expected to provide more services with less resources. The use of technology has actually increased teacher workload. The Kirwin Commission makes recommendations about more than just increased spending. More money without changing the system into which the money flows is wasteful.
Please identify the three areas which you believe should be prioritized when it comes to school funding
Curriculum Development, Teacher Pay, Vocational Skills
What is your position on teacher tenure?
Tenure does not mean a guaranteed job. It means there is a right to due process, a fundamental part of our Constitution. I have seen teachers lose their job because they were ineffective in the classroom. This happened after due process. I have seen principals with authoritarian power attempt to dismiss teachers who questioned policies and were superb teachers. What prevented the principal from simply firing the teacher was the security of tenure and the right to due process. I believe the best way to teach students the rights, privileges and responsibilities of our Democracy is to use schools as the model.
What is your position on standardized testing?
Standardized tests are just assessments. As a special education teacher, I used standardized tests as part of the evaluation process and for planning the program for the student. My brother is a psychologist and uses standardized tests. Colleges use standardized tests as part of the admission process. BCPS uses standardized tests to evaluate school performance and as part of teacher evaluations. This creates a dynamic in which teachers have more at stake than the students. It also does not yield an authentic assessment of student ability. BCPS has also been administering the SAT to all Juniors in high school. There are times when standardized tests are justified and useful. I would examine the use and justifications of standardized tests used in BCPS.
What is your position on classroom size?
As a teacher, I know class size makes a difference in certain situations. When I was in 6th grade at Cromwell Valley Elementary School in Baltimore County, there were 44 students in my section. We were the top section in a middle class neighborhood. Discipline was not a problem. I taught special education classes. Class size made a difference. My last year teaching came after over a dozen positions were cut from the school. Class size doubled which meant less time given to each student. This was a low income area.
Do you believe the Board of Education should have taxation authority?
In Baltimore County, no. One of the fundamental aspects of our democracy and a rallying cry of the American Revolution is “No taxation without representation.” Giving the Baltimore Co. BOE taxation power would violate a principle of our democracy as four members are appointed, not elected. Legislators, directly accountable to the voters, are the ones empowered to tax.