Red Maryland Candidate Survey: Jason “Mr. J” Johnson for Frederick County Board of Education
Jason “Mr. J” Johnson
B.S. Biology/Chemistry (IUP) M.Ed Curriculum and Instruction Educational Technology (Concordia, Portland)
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Classroom Educator / Administrator of over 15 years (Science & Computer Science)
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Why are you running for office?
My purpose is to “Educate & Inspire”. I am running to ensure that going forward Frederick County Public Schools will excel at inspiring its learners, not only to meet the challenges posed by educational standards, but those posed by the world. As a member of the Board of Education, I will seek to initiate and support programs that place our students in positions of state, national and global leadership. I will support our educators in teaching our students how to problem-solve in order to express their gifts in a way that prepares them for success in a world with demands we have yet to encounter.
Who do you consider your political role model, and why?
Much like my influences while coming of age, politically I have been influenced by different individuals. As a child my earliest political influence was Theodore Roosevelt. I remember readily internalizing his quotes. As I grew, I began to learn of the power in the message of hope and love from Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I can say that others have inspired, but these two stand out for me as political inspirations.
Like them, I believe that education should focus on intelligence as well as character and that knowledge should be delivered from those who make it clear to our students that they care.
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr )
“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care” (Theodore Roosevelt)
What is your favorite book about politics and policy, and why?
I do not really have a favorite political book per say. I am however, a fan of the articles of our Constitution, if you can consider them a book. Without question it stands out to me as an extraordinary work on governance, even making provision for its own improvement. I have always stood in awe of the eloquence and detail of how it was written and marvel in how it has remained a guide for our nation (and others) for hundreds of years, to this very day.
What is your favorite book about education, and why?
The First Days of School by Harry K. W.
As an educator I felt like I really didn’t know what I was doing until I read this book! The insights on student engagement and the establishment of sound classroom routines have stuck with me until this day. I believe it is an essential read for classroom educators and school system leaders alike. It would be extremely hard to have the vision needed to guide a school system if you were unfamiliar with what it takes to guide a classroom. Most often in sports, great coaches were players who became “students of the game” and there is no greater student of education than a teacher.
As a member of the Board of Education I will take my teaching experience and turn it into great policy decisions for the students of Frederick County Public Schools.
What will be your top priority on the Board of Education?
As a member of the Board of Education, my top priority would be to establish a culture of active student engagement. Students who are actively engaged do not bully their peers. Students who are actively engaged close achievement gaps. Students who are actively engaged become awesome problem solvers, who better shape our world and make their parents proud. In order for our students to be actively engaged they need adequate class sizes, well trained, compensated educators and opportunities to apply their talents beyond the classroom.
If students are not actively engaged and enjoying their educational experience then they are not growing.
As a member of the Board of Education, I will promote and support policy that enthusiastically connects our students to their education. Our students need to know that the skills they are learning each day have real world value that connect to activities, causes and professions they care about. Our students need to hear this message from not only their educators, but from the community! I will champion policies that interconnect businesses, universities, and professional groups with our students so that they are in position to make an impact on the world now! Our students should be exposed to mentors who are success stories in their field, to internships, conventions and fairs that place them at the forefront of modern achievement.
As a member of the Board of Education I will actively engage the students of Frederick County Public Schools to take their place as leaders in the nation and the world.
What is the biggest issue facing your county schools?
At present, the biggest issue facing FCPS is the need for increased funding in order to properly serve our growing community. Development in our county is occurring at an increasingly fast pace, so it is paramount that our school system is able to grow alongside the county’s development to meet the demands of increased enrollment.
What is your position on the Kirwan Commission recommendations?
The commission proposes good ideas (full day school for 3-4 yr old children of struggling parents, emphasis on training for non-college bound students, provisions for teacher pay and government transparency) that would benefit Maryland’s children.
I believe that concerns about the recommended costs are valid and that further discussion is needed to develop creative and sustainable solutions for funding that will not produce an undue tax burden on citizens.
What are the three biggest issues facing Maryland schools?
-The Need for Active Student Engagement
Have you read your county schools curriculum? If so, which parts do you like and which parts do you dislike?
Yes, I have reviewed our county’s curriculum and as a parent of both a current student and FCPS graduate, I have also lived the curriculum.
As someone with a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Educational Technology, I can assure you that there is no perfect curriculum. I understand that curriculum writers work tirelessly to develop modules and standards that provide guidance to our educators to assist them in leading our students toward success in the face of both state and federal performance requirements.
This stated, I can say that as a member of the Board of Education I would advocate for a greater level of differentiation in the required outcomes from year to year in some of our middle school courses. Some curriculums utilize strong reiteration in their objectives from year to year, which can lead to students and parents not being able to rightly identify differences in grade level work. It is important that students (and parents) see growth in the complexity and scope of student work from year to year. I would advocate for greater clarity in the language for student outcomes from year to year so that students and parents can readily identify growth.
In addition, I would advocate for electronic textbooks and materials that support these outcomes. In this digital age no student should have to needlessly haul textbooks back and forth to school. There is an exhaustive amount of dynamic “living” textbooks that our students could readily download and use offline on their assigned digital devices to amplify their respective curriculum.
What is your position on school spending?
Our school system works hard to account for every dollar received from our taxpayers, yet we still face overcrowded schools and lose good educators to other counties based on pay. This said, I support our county’s request for increased funding per student but also believe that creative choices may have to be made to address major issues in response to funding shortages.
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 our county’s policy on teacher tenure. As an educator I am aware of just how hard it is to achieve and that it is not a “magic shield” against wrongdoing, but rather an indication that one has matured enough in their practice to warrant fewer formal observations during the year. An example being that an educator who is non-tenured would be formally reviewed four times in a year versus a tenured teacher being reviewed twice.
What is your position on standardized testing?
I believe that there is an overabundance of standardized testing. While some exams provide students opportunities for scholarships and future readiness, there are some exams that bear no weight on a student’s given curriculum or forward progression towards graduation. We must be careful not to spend our students’ precious time and taxpayer dollars on exams without purpose.
What is your position on classroom size?
I support adequate classroom sizes and would prefer to see no more than 25 students per educator in a classroom.
Do you believe the Board of Education should have taxation authority?
This is a complex issue. On one hand a school board with taxation authority would be able to receive funds directly while having accountability to the taxpayer. On the other hand, school boards without taxation authority are in situations where they receive funds from the county’s elected council, establishing a layer of oversight, where funding requests are thoroughly reviewed.
Considering both, I feel a school board without taxation authority is by nature inclined to greater parent support, while a school board with tax authority may come under fire whenever a tax is levied and invite parent frustration. I feel students strongly benefit when their parents are inclined to support the school system, rather than decry it for perceived over taxation. Because of this I am not in favor of changing the school board’s structure of non-taxation authority in my county.