Red Maryland Candidate Survey: India Ochs for Anne Arundel County Board of Education, District 6
University of North Carolina at Greensboro: Bachelors in Arts in History and Political Science and Masters in Public Affairs (Certificate in Nonprofit Management); Syracuse University College of Law: Jurist Doctorate (Certificate in Family Law & Social Policy)
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My experience in education includes teaching a high school law class in rural Upstate New York; 33 years conducting workshops, lectures, and webinars for local, national, and international audiences; advocating for Right to Education, elimination of child slavery and other youth issues in 21 countries including Guatemala and India; working with 100+ counties across the United States on juvenile detention reform issues (including eliminating the School to Prison Pipeline); reviewing social studies curriculum for AACPS; and monitoring foreign teachers’ (K-12 and college level) contracts, pay, and activities for compliance with federal exchange program regulations.
Starting as the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils’ Chief Legislative Coordinator in high school (1991-93), I testified before the Maryland General Assembly on educational and environmental bills, including helping to draft successful bills implementing service learning as a graduation requirement and banning smoking on school grounds. Additionally, I coordinated legislative initiatives on Capitol Hill and the United Nations while legal officer at the RFK Center for Human Rights (2004-2006) and interned for US Representative Stephen Lynch (2006-2007).
Social Media Accounts
#indiaforaacps (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
Why are you running for office?
I am running for the Board of Education to run in the district that I was born and raised in – and that I am raising my son in —because our teachers need support, our parents demand innovation, EVERY student deserves success, and it’s time our county delivers.
With a lifetime of experience advocating educational and youth issues, a background in law and policy, 30+ years public speaking and educating diverse audiences, and the unique perspective seeing both the brilliance and inequity in the AACPS system as a student and parent, I will champion equitable policies that are properly enforced, advocate for strong funding year in and year out, and budget priorities that ensure that ALL our students, families, and educators benefit from the investments we make in our public schools.
Of equal importance, this is a historic election with county residents finally having a voice in who will represent us on the Board. I have been “first” in all I do, whether it was due to my speech disability (e.g., first student that can’t talk to be in drama and debate classes, first attorney to use a speech generating device in a courtroom) or the numerous nonprofits and projects I have successfully started from the ground up – and I believe being the first elected to the Board of Education will set the example for ALL our residents – young and old – that we all have a voice and anything is possible.
Who do you consider your political role model, and why?
Robert Kennedy because he was a listener, he never gave up on anything even when finishing last, and he allowed himself to change viewpoints/activities after seeing what was needed in the community.
What is your favorite book about politics and policy, and why?
Hardball by Chris Matthews. In all honesty, I could care less about his TV show, but long before MSNBC, he wrote one of the best books on the history of how Capitol Hill functions, including how people from both sides of the aisle used to truly work as colleagues.
What is your favorite book about education, and why?
“Hacking School Discipline: 9 Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy & Responsibility Using Restorative Justice“ – Restorative Practice can be a great tool in reducing incidents that lead to school discipline, but only if it’s implemented correctly. This book not only discussed the theoretical framework for restorative practices, but backs it up with statistics, examples, and tools of how to implement it.
What will be your top priority on the Board of Education?
Ensuring equity throughout all of AACPS school system. I believe all other issues (teacher pay, classroom size, more support for special education, more mental health support, transportation, recess etc.) all factor into ensuring equity for all students and staff.
What is the biggest issue facing your county schools?
Similar issues but the achievement gap with students of color and rise of hate incidents/racism.
What is your position on the Kirwan Commission recommendations?
In order to ensure high quality education for all our kids in public schools, I am in full support of all the Kirwan Commission recommendations. We need pre-K for all our young children to be fully prepared for learning, we need increases in teacher pay and benefits to retain the best of the best, we need more learning opportunities for students entering the workforce straight out of high school, and we need more accountability from the top down.
What are the three biggest issues facing Maryland schools?
1) Significant achievement gaps with lower income students, special education students and Non-English speaking students; 2) Overcrowded classrooms, and 3) not enough career-ready learning opportunities
Have you read your county schools curriculum? If so, which parts do you like and which parts do you dislike?
I have been able to review what is available online. If we focus on reading, I appreciate the structure in elementary school of integrating actual reading assignments with group discussion, drawing, and other expressive methods to comprehend the content. Yet at the same time, more emphasis should be on subjects the students enjoy like history or science if we want them to then have a desire to read more, which will boost their learning of reading. I also think more local history should be integrated in all subjects based on where the school is located (students learn about Anne Arundel county and Maryland but not about the people/history of places like Annapolis, Fort Meade, or Glen Burnie. I also just want to note not all curriculum is publicly accessible, including book lists for reading being on a password protected webpage.
What is your position on school spending?
Education is one of the most essential parts of life – it’s how we grow and succeed in life no matter what that “success” may be for each individual, and so we need to invest as much as possible in our schools, whenever possible.
Please identify the three areas which you believe should be prioritized when it comes to school funding
What is your position on teacher tenure?
I support teacher tenure if it protects teachers from indiscriminately decisions while also allows teachers to be fired for just cause.
What is your position on standardized testing?
The increased emphasis on standardized testing has been a stranglehold on our kids actually being able to learn. Our kids need to not only learn facts and figures but how to USE those facts and figures, and tests limit lesson plans providing such opportunity. Moreover, standardized tests limit a teacher’s ability to teach according to students needs – if a class doesn’t understand a concept, the teacher should be able to take an extra day to discuss it, instead of being pressured to stick to a schedule just for the test.
What is your position on classroom size?
Maryland has reasonable “guidelines” for classroom size but those guidelines are never adhered to. The overcrowded classes – such as 26 in 1st grade or 28 in 4th grade – impacts both student and teacher as teachers cannot provide the individual support each student needs and deserves.
Do you believe the Board of Education should have taxation authority?
Yes, I think it’s a valid concept. I am not necessarily advocating for more taxes. However, 90% of Boards of Education across the country are financially independent], and it makes sense that the group spending the money should play more of a role in generating that money. Additionally, it would make the Board of Education fully accountable for all its decisions – generating the money and how it is then used.