Laurie Halverson Questionnaire Responses

Brickyard Coalition Inc.
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR BOARD OF EDUCATION CANDIDATES 2014

Name

Laurie Halverson
Street Address

8812 Harness Trail
Potomac, MD 20854

BOE Election District
#3
Education
1986 Bachelor of Business Administration, Marketing and Personnel/Industrial Relations
2013 Leadership Montgomery Graduate
Occupation
Community Volunteer
(My career background: Senior Analyst for a Benefits Consulting firm for 7 years in Winston-Salem, NC, and a Human Resources Generalist at Victoria’s Secret Stores in Columbus, OH headquarters for 2 years)

 

Questions:

1. If elected to the Board, what would be your top three priorities for the next four years?

Priority #1:  Building an environment of collaboration and transparency.
There are many competing needs county-wide and it is vital for our Board of Education members, County Council, and state delegates to work in tandem.  I think we can all agree that education is the #1 asset and priority in Montgomery County.  Yet, even though the goal is clear, competing needs are growing and threaten the stronghold we have on education.  There are times when public input and transparency have been ignored or perhaps forgotten as political leaders grapple with the needs of the county.  It is important for everyone to work together to provide the checks and balances and keep all parties accountable and open on public issues.

As a School Board member, I would work with our County Council members, County Executive, state delegates, parents, teachers, administrators and community members to make the best use of county resources.  I would commit to greater transparency of the MCPS budget so stakeholders can have a clear picture of how the $2+ billion is being spent.  I would also adhere to policies and work to change the policies as necessary with public input.

Priority #2:  Focus on learning with less emphasis on test taking.  While state tests are an important tool to use in evaluating student performance and teacher effectiveness, it isn’t a panacea for education.  Great teachers who can reach each child are far more important than any test.  The School Board mission should emphasize that MCPS work toward attracting and cultivating the best teachers to raise MCPS as a top international school system. I believe the all encompassing goal of “closing the gap” can be reached when students are learning from teachers who are well qualified and supported with effective training and a mentoring atmosphere, and when schools are led by visionary principals who know and can advocate for the needs of each child in the school.

Priority #3: Revitalization/ Expansion.  If we don’t keep up with the district’s plan to revitalize our school buildings and expand the footprint of current buildings to keep up with the 2,500+ annual enrollment increases, our schools will decline to a state not conducive to learning.  It is vital to keep all projects on time and on track. I would be an activist in collaborating with elected officials to obtain the funds to make this happen.

2. Please list what you consider to be the top three failures of MCPS over the past four years and what you think should have been done to address these issues.

#1 Failure to demonstrate effective responsiveness to community concerns, causing issues to escalate:

    • Brickyard Property
    • Mold issues at Rolling Terrace, Bells Mill and Poolesville HS.
    • Various issues between local schools and MCPS headquarters at Carver, such as grading and grouping practices.  
#2 Failure to be transparent with budget and data
  • For example, some of the budget info is no longer provided on each school’s At a Glance page, so it is no longer possible to determine a cost per student at each school.
  • Math final exam failure rate has been an issue since the year 2000 but it took a PTA President to “discover” the issue.
  • Several years ago, I fought to put safety survey questions on the MCPS Security at a Glance Report and that data is no longer provided on the report.
#3 Failure to be collaborative with County Council Members and state delegates.
  • The result was that Baltimore got a 1.1 billion deal last year and MCPS got less than promised.
  • Tension exists between County Council Members and Board of Education Members.

3.  Would you be willing to support an issue or program even if the Superintendent did not?  If so, please provide three examples over the past two years where you have disagreed with or voted against a request or recommendation to the Board of Education by Superintendent Starr. (Non-incumbents please list three areas where you would have disagreed with Superintendent Starr had you been a BOE member.) 

I would not run for the Board of Education if I were planning to be a rubber stamp for the Superintendent. I do respect Dr. Starr for his skills and leadership role and value his input, but feel comfortable disagreeing with him.  That’s the role of the BOE-oversight.  I think I’m more tuned into issues of transparency, policies and communicating with parents and the public.  That is the perspective I will bring at the board table.

Here are a few areas I may have disagreed with the Superintendent’s recommendations:

    • I was not in favor of the way Dr. Starr restructured the community superintendents because I felt it took away from community inclusiveness.  
    • I think Dr. Starr surprised the BOE with the focus schools concept and I would have mentioned my concern at a public BOE meeting instead of on a YouTube video.    
    • I would have opposed the resolution to adopt the Brickyard site as a lease for ball field use without the public’s input.

4.  Would you support and vote for providing the Board of Education members with full time professional staff to assist in fulfilling their elected duty to provide oversight of MCPS?  What specifically would your recommend?

This was discussed at least once in the past several years at the Board table and voted down.  Ultimately, it is the responsibility of Dr. Starr’s staff to provide data and information requested by the Board.  Dr. Starr is held accountable by the Board and the Board is held accountable by the voters. I think there is some merit in having employees who are directly accountable to the Board and not to Dr. Starr because of the size of the school system and the many diverse community groups in our county.  I notice that the work our Board of Education members do is more than part-time work and if you calculate the time spent, their hourly pay would likely be less than minimum wage.  

I would recommend that an objective group of non-MCPS human resources analysts study the issue, including the hours board members work, the number of emails that are sent and received, and conduct a survey of the Board of Education members and prepare a recommendation which would be shared with a committee of community leaders.  The analysts and the committee together could make a recommendation to the Board of Education and there would be concrete data and input to back the BOE decision.  

5.  The Potomac Elementary School is one of the oldest schools in the MCPS system but funding for a new school was once again delayed this past year.  If elected to the BOE, will you commit to provide funding for a new Potomac Elementary School without any further delay?  

Potomac ES is long overdue for a new school.  I will be a strong advocate to keep all projects on track and on time. I have been in Potomac ES a number of times and my children have slipped on the gym surface and I sat at the broken cafeteria tables.  I have also been concerned about the portables that were close to the bus loop.  I will be a strong advocate to keep all MCPS projects on schedule without further delay.

6. Do you believe that public school land leased directly or indirectly to a private entity should conform to all Montgomery County zoning, master plan and other land use regulations that would apply to a private landowner?

 I think that public school land should conform to all existing zoning laws, including master plans and other land use regulations..

7. Do you believe that any lease of school property should be made through competitive bidding and after public input regarding the best use of the property? 

Yes, schools and county facilities are part of a neighborhood and it is important to involve the community in the process for the sake of transparency.

8.  The two MCPS Bus Depots at Shady Grove must be relocated to another site and other MCPS Depots are over capacity.  As we understand, there is a joint work group made up of MCPS and County staff led by the Department of General Services considering alternative locations for the Bus Depot. Would you favor or oppose the use of the Brickyard school site, located on a residential road with 3 traffic circles and 11 speed bumps, as a location for use by MCPS as a bus depot? 

I would oppose a bus depot at the Brickyard site. It’s a small site in the middle of a neighborhood. It would be an unilikely location when there is a bus depot close by on Westlake. Frankly, I would be surprised if that option ever came up because I see a greater need for bus depots in the central and northern parts of the county. 

9. Assuming the selection process was made by competitive bid, would you favor using of the Brickyard school site as an organic educational farm in furtherance of the No Child Left Inside policy and as suggested by Governor O’Malley?

Personally, it sounds like a fabulous idea for the school children to have exposure to organic farming and I would love to see the produce grown from the farming in the school cafeterias.  I think there would still need to be a process of gathering community feedback before approving a bid for anyone leasing the new land.  

10. As a member of the Board, what would you do to improve the relationship between MCPS/BOE and the County Council?

I have already built relationships with County Council members and I know all of the Board Members and all of the Board candidates as well.  I would attend County Council meetings as often as possible to show the members I value what happens county-wide as well as at MCPS.  I would meet regularly with County Council members to build a strong relationship.  I also would like to work closely with Essie McGuire who is a powerhouse of knowledge on the county’s budget as well as with the MCPS budget leaders to see how more budget information can be provided online.  

11. If you are elected to the Board, will you commit to insist the BOE apply for mandatory referral with the Maryland National Capitol Parks and Planning Commission for any change of use of a school property before the BOE authorizes such change of use by resolution, agreement or other methods, as required by the Regional District Act?

I think school land is precious.  Ideally the BOE should seek community input even before considering any plans for school lands.  It would seem reasonable and prudent for the BOE to apply for mandatory referral for any changes of use of a school property before the BOE authorizes any changes.

I empathize with your Brickyard community.  The performance and responsiveness of the BOE with the proposed Soccerplex lease was poor.  They violated the Open Meetings Act.  Even the governor called the proposed Soccerplex lease at the Brickyard site a “big mistake.”  I agree. 

12. Please share with us an overview of your campaign (including your key endorsements, major donors, fundraising, and campaign plan) and why you will be a competitive candidate.

I have support county-wide from my experience as a county PTA leader, as a Leadership Montgomery member, and a church leader.  I also have ties county-wide with the Boy Scout Community since my husband is an assistant scout master.  I am putting together a strong campaign committee:  all have been involved as PTA leaders, one is a lawyer who advocates for children with disabilities and a BOE candidate in 2010, one is a PR expert, and one is a former teacher at Pyle, and one is a current CIP Co-Chair with MCCPTA. I will add more committee members and will have more support after the primary.  A number of people have committed to donating to the campaign and helping me after the primary.  

The website (http://www.lauriehalverson.com/) is live and donations are starting to come.  I sent my first email blast last week.  I have many community members who are committed to hosting coffees.  I will have a fundraising kick-off by June.  I’m committing my own personal funds to get started.  My campaign Facebook (Laurie Halverson for Board of Education) page and Twitter account (@HalversonLaurie) are updated regularly. 

I have been very active in getting out to events around the county such as the county executive debate in Bethesda, a food policy forum in Takoma Park, a parent group meeting in Silver Spring, a Sankara Eye Foundation event to meet families from India, the State of Black Montgomery in Silver Spring, and several Board of Education meetings.  I have met individually with County Council members and chiefs of staff.  I have attended both Democratic and Republican events.  I am poised to win this election precisely because I plan on taking nothing for granted. 

13.  Why do you feel you are qualified to serve as a member of the Montgomery County Board of Education?

Depth of Experience, over 10 years as a PTA leader:   (MCCPTA Vice President of Educational Issues for 2 years, Health/ Safety Chair for 2 years, Curriculum Co-Chair for 1 year, Churchill Cluster Coordinator for 3 years, Bells Mill PTA President)

A Doer with Results:  

    • Awarded “White House Champion of Change” by the Obama Administration for my work on bullying prevention.
    • During a complete overhaul of MCPS curriculum, I collaborated with MCPS Executives and kept PTA leaders informed about Common Core State standards and the new Curriculum 2.0 and encouraged PTAs to advocate for a more parent-friendly report card. 
    • A key player at Bells Mill ES in advocating for and receiving 8 portable classrooms to replace moldy ones that were causing children and teachers to have allergic symptoms and headaches.

Positive Relationships already built: I have already built positive relationships over the past 10 years with MCPS executive staff, County Council Members and Board of Education Members and have gained new relationships county-wide through Leadership Montgomery

Already familiar with MCPS Policies:  I have already served as a PTA representative on various MCPS Policy Committees on topics such as bullying prevention, charter school policies, and discipline in schools, so I am familiar with policies and the process of changing them. 

Human Resources and Analytical Skills:  I also bring my career experience in human resources and benefits.  I have working knowledge of human resources issues and analytical knowledge as a senior analyst.   

In Touch with Parents:  I am a parent with two sons who are a freshman and a senior so I have been through all levels of MCPS as a parent.  As a PTA leader, I have spent over 10 years being responsive to parent concerns and have often served as an intermediary between parents and MCPS on issues to improve communication before the issues had escalated.  

Overall, I believe I can make a difference as a BOE member.  I have proven that I can make a difference as a PTA leader.  I am passionate about the need to reach every child. My experience with MCPS leaders gives me insight on how to approach challenges. I ask for your vote to put me in the position of making some needed improvements in our school system.  Thank you!