Red Maryland Candidate Survey: Cathy Allen for St. Mary’s County Board of Education
St. Mary’s County
University of Virginia, BS in Nursing
Former Critical Care Nurse
I taught classes on topics related to critical care medicine to doctors, nurses, EMT’s, and respiratory therapists. I also worked as a substitute teacher at the elementary level in St. Mary’s County as well as a class teaching students in a course for Licensed Practical Nurse candidates in the Virginia Beach area.
I am in a non-partisan elected office and maintain a non-partisan position. I believe my responsibility is to understand the issues before us as well as the expectations of our community. I consider any applicable law, regulation or policy and then act after carefully considering all factors.
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Why are you running for office?
I want to continue my work on the St. Mary’s County Board of Education. I have represented our Board on the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) Legislative Committee, ensuring that the needs and views of our county are considered. Too often larger, more metropolitan counties don’t factor our differences in to legislative positions that will not work for smaller, rural counties. I’m able to successfully advocate for our needs. During my time on the Board I’ve served on several state-wide committees on behalf of MABE which has allowed me to interact with people across the state. I’ve used my background, my experience on our local Board, and my ability to work with others to advocate for common sense approaches to a variety of issues.
Who do you consider your political role model, and why?
I look to the statesmen of the past: former Senator John Warner (Virginia) is chief among them. Senator Warner was a gentleman who did his homework and conducted himself honorably. When asked why he took a certain position, he shared that he put country first, state second and party third. I am in a non-partisan position and look upon his comment to mean in my case my decisions should always reflect our community standards. I believe it’s important to always be prepared, willing to listen, and be able to articulate my thoughts respectfully which is what I admire about former Senator Warner.
What is your favorite book about politics and policy, and why?
Given my non-partisan office I steer away from political books.
What is your favorite book about education, and why?
I prefer to read articles on education from a wide array of sources. Doing so provides a cross-section of viewpoints on topics which I can then research for myself and consider the various points of each article.
What will be your top priority on the Board of Education?
I plan to continue to work to educate our legislators on the major problems I see with the ‘Blueprint for Maryland’s Future’ (aka the Kirwan legislation). I will continue to work to improve student achievement; for safe and orderly schools; and for effective and efficient use of resources.
What is the biggest issue facing your county schools?
Our biggest issue is our ability to maintain the excellence of our schools with essentially flat funding. We are achieving great results despite funding that places us near the bottom of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions. It doesn’t take excessive spending to achieve great results but it does need to keep pace with costs which flat funding doesn’t accommodate. We need to balance system needs with the needs of our community.
What is your position on the Kirwan Commission recommendations?
I do not support the vast majority of the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission.
What are the three biggest issues facing Maryland schools?
The three biggest issues facing Maryland schools are: competing (and constantly changing) views of what is needed to ensure students learn and are well-prepared when they graduate; preparing students whose life situations can, and do, vary widely, impacting their ability to function in school, ready to learn; funding impacted by ever-increasing mandates (which almost always arrive without funding) that often distract from classroom needs.
Have you read your county schools curriculum? If so, which parts do you like and which parts do you dislike?
Our curriculum is based on standards and objectives set by the Maryland State Board of Education and meets those guidelines. Teachers have access to an approved list of resources to support their instruction. This ensures that no matter which school our students attend, they receive a consistent program of studies. I believe the curriculum provides age-appropriate instruction for students.
What is your position on school spending?
I think it’s important for our budget to meet student and classroom needs; to be spent effectively and efficiently; to prepare students for the future; to address cost increases (fuel, utilities, etc.); and to be reasonable and sustainable.
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 believe the current requirement that someone only receive tenure after three successful years is reasonable. Teachers who are not competent can be removed at any time in their career. They must be provided with the opportunity to improve (with an agreed upon plan). Failure to improve that has been appropriately documented following a clearly defined process results in termination. This allows for due process without individuals being subject to changing administrations that may subjectively impact evaluations.
What is your position on standardized testing?
Accountability of some standardized testing is needed to demonstrate student learning. I believe that too much testing goes on which takes away from classroom instruction.
What is your position on classroom size?
I believe smaller class sizes in earlier grades are important for student learning. I also believe that classes much over 30 students are counter-productive to effective instruction and learning. Students of today experience a much different life than those of 30-40+ years ago. Family dynamics and stresses, among other things, affect many more students which can then play out in schools and classrooms.
Do you believe the Board of Education should have taxation authority?
I am absolutely against schools boards having taxing authority.