Candidate Survey: April Miller for Frederick County Board of Education
Doctor of Optometry – Penn. College of Optometry, BA in Biology and Psychology from UMBC, 1988 graduate of Middletown High School, MD
My education experience is serving on the Frederick County Board of Education for the last 8 years as well as having three students in our local schools. I live the policies and decisions made by our Board and that provides invaluable perspective.
I currently serve as Chair of our Curriculum and Instruction Committee and a Board representative on our Career and Technical Education Committee.
I still consider myself just a parent not a politician. I was elected in 2010 and 2014 to serve our community on the Board of Education.
Social Media Accounts
Facebook – Dr. April Fleming Miller for Board of Education
Why are you running for office?
I started this journey in 2010 after fighting for a change to our math curriculum when my oldest daughter was in 5th grade, it was called TERC math. At the time, we had a School Board that was not interested in listening to the community and I wanted to change that. I want a School Board that is responsive to the families and students they serve, that respects parents as educational partners and involves the community in the educational process. A Board that stands up and does the right thing for students even if it means taking their voice to the State level.
Who do you consider your political role model, and why?
Larry Hogan, because he was not a politician, he was a businessman who wanted to use his talents to help the State of MD. And he keeps fighting for MD even when he was fighting illness himself.
What is your favorite book about politics and policy, and why?
Conform/ Finding Your Element
What is your favorite book about education, and why?
I Got Schooled – M. Night Shyamalan/ How Children Succeed – Paul Tough/
Quiet- The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and Quiet Power-The Secret Strengths of Introvert – Susan Cain/ Crazy Like a Fox- Dr. Ben Chavis and Carey Blakely and books on brain-based learning and education.
I believe education has shifted in way that is geared to a particular learning style and children that do not fit that mold struggle. The reasons they do not fit vary, but the result is unrealized potential. Why are we seeing such an increase in behavior issues, mental illness, anxiety? What role do adverse childhood experiences have in the classroom? How does development, personality and character traits impact learning? We are so focused on putting every child in a group, putting on a label or being culturally proficient that we have forgotten that each and every child is an individual and deserves an opportunity for an education that meets their needs.
What will be your top priority on the Board of Education?
My top priority is to continue to put students first in every decision or vote that I make. My priority is to continue to be the voice for our students, families, motivated teachers and the community in the schools.
What is the biggest issue facing your county schools?
One of the biggest issues facing our schools is the current behavior, mental health and emotional needs of our students. Our students go to school wondering if they will be safe, seeing mistakes plastered on social media, even touching a drug can kill you and then dealing with taking high stakes tests containing information that sometimes they were never even taught. It’s a different world than when we were in school and we need to realize that.
What are the three biggest issues facing Maryland schools?
Student/School Safety and Security, Curriculum and Standardized Testing, Special Education (including dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia), behavior issues and increasing mental health and emotional needs of our students
Have you read your county schools curriculum? If so, which parts do you like and which parts do you dislike?
This answer would be too long to put on one page, so I will try to summarize.
I am very proud of our dual enrollment programs with our local colleges, our apprenticeship and career options as well as the opportunities for certifications.
We are working on some innovative programs in competency-based learning that allow for more options for high school credit.
We have some incredible teachers that know how to reach their students and deliver the information they need. They are succeeding in spite of the constant curriculum changes driven by the State over the last few years. It’s time to evaluate the impact of all of these changes on our students and remove and improve, so to speak.
Each child deserves and education that does not put limits on their potential. We also need a structured, scientifically-based reading system that has been proven to be successful. We currently use a balanced literacy approach that is still too whole language based. Current curriculum needs to be re-evaluated to align with student development where necessary and restrictions (via common core) on acceleration lifted.
We need to focus on spelling, writing and grammar again. Cursive writing should not be a site-based decision. History needs to be taught objectively. We need to realize that you can’t “think like a scientist” or a “historian” etc. unless you are actually taught content first.
The Foundations of Technology course, directed by the State as a graduation requirement, cannot remain in it’s current form.
What is your position on school spending?
Close to 90 % of our 600 million dollar budget is staff salaries and benefits. It makes it very challenging to address needs let alone innovate education when even additional dollars are most often targeted for pay increases. I believe the budget should reflect priorities and the overarching priority is student achievement, safety and well-being.
One other issue that needs to be addressed through the legislature is the incredible burden that the use of prevailing wage in all of our school construction has put on our County budgets. There are also many unfunded mandates that take a lot of staff time and school resources.
Please identify the three areas which you believe should be prioritized when it comes to school funding
Curriculum Development, Security, Teacher Training
What is your position on teacher tenure?
Research shows that an effective teacher at the front of the classroom has the highest impact on student achievement, so then what type of impact does an ineffective one have? Schools need to be proactive in hiring effective and motivated teachers, providing professional development that may be individualized to meet their needs, supporting them in classroom management especially in regard to IEP, 504 and behavioral issues and have a process for removing those that do not teach or reach students well.
What is your position on standardized testing?
Testing needs to be directly related to and designed to improve instruction, period. We need to continue to be the voice our students need to advocate for other measures of success than standardized testing and to be the voice for our most vulnerable students where testing can actually cause distress.
What is your position on classroom size?
I voted against increasing class size to fund a staff salary increase, however, it passed. We have spent the last several years trying to recover from it. There are many aspects to look at that vary by grade level, special populations and needs of the students, physical space of the building, structural needs of the course (science labs, PE, computers, etc.) and whether programs would be eliminated with a decision to increase class size.
Do you believe the Board of Education should have taxation authority?