Candidate Survey: Irene Holtzman for Prince George’s County Board of Education, District 3
Prince George’s County
B.A. Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park
7 years as a classroom teacher, 8 years as a school and district administrator, currently work in educational advocacy
I currently work in educational advocacy – my political experience is limited to working with elected officials to advance educational opportunity for children and families
Why are you running for office?
After nearly two decades working in all facets of education, I am ready to put my experience, expertise, and energy to work to ensure that all children in Prince George’s County have equal opportunity for success in school, post-secondary education, career, and life.
Who do you consider your political role model, and why?
My grandfather was a US Congressman during the Civil Rights era. The legacy of his unwavering commitment equity and fairness inspires me daily.
What is your favorite book about politics and policy, and why?
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander – it really connected some of what I saw in communities where I taught to the greater legislative and policy context of our country.
What is your favorite book about education, and why?
Fostering Resilient Learners – it provides a strong framework for educators to discuss improving practices to support all students but particularly those who have experience adverse childhood experiences and trauma.
What will be your top priority on the Board of Education?
Making Prince George’s County a preferred regional destination for teachers. Teachers are the key lever in improving the educational experience for children and our county competes with neighboring counties for talent. We should be offering not just best-in-class compensation but also working conditions and sensitivity to teacher voice to ensure that we have the best qualified and inspired workforce teaching our children.
What is the biggest issue facing your county schools?
Transparency and accountability. Currently, comparable data on school performance is not readily available in an easily digestible format. Without understanding how we are performing currently, it is difficult to prioritize our goals for the future. A lack of data also makes it difficult to hold elected officials and school staff accountable for making progress.
What are the three biggest issues facing Maryland schools?
Inadequate funding, a crumbling infrastructure, and programs that are not meeting the needs of all students.
Have you read your county schools curriculum? If so, which parts do you like and which parts do you dislike?
The curriculum is fine – and I’m sure teachers appreciate the autonomy they have to create lessons that meet the pacing guides provided by the county. However, I am not sure that curricular development is sufficient to meet the needs of novice teachers. We should be collecting, organizing and making available the best of our teachers’ long term, unit, and lesson plans to institutionalize what’s working and no have teachers continually reinventing the wheel.
What is your position on school spending?
While Prince George’s County has made progress in school based budgeting, I don’t believe that schools have sufficient budget autonomy to meet the needs of their students. I would like to see most money being spent where it matters the most – closer to students.
Please identify the three areas which you believe should be prioritized when it comes to school funding
Curriculum Development, Teacher Pay, Teacher Training
What is your position on teacher tenure?
Teachers are the most important drivers of educational outcomes. Teachers must be held accountable for their performance and professionalism but should also enjoy adequate protections from capricious administrative decisions. This is a delicate balance but also achievable.
What is your position on standardized testing?
Standardized testing is one important measurement of student learning. Results should be actionable by schools and readily available to and comparable by the public. We also must make sure that we use other measures to evaluate schools and teachers and not excessively test students.
What is your position on classroom size?
Overcrowded classrooms can negatively impact student learning. The County should set goals on class size reduction while also maintaining the level of support for other impactful initiatives.
Do you believe the Board of Education should have taxation authority?
No. However, the Board should work collaboratively with the Council to ensure that education is adequately and fully funded.