Michael A. Durso Questionnaire Responses

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

Name

Michael A. Durso
Street Address802 Llewellyn Manor Drive
Silver Spring, MD 20905
BOE Election District
#5
Education
Bachelors Degree – Catholic University, 1965
Masters Degree – American University, 1969
Occupation
Retired HS Principal
Current BOE Member ( District #5 ) 

 

Questions:

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

    1. managing our continued enrollment growth
    2. monitoring MCPS programs impacting all students, inclusive of our efforts to address the long standing achievement gap and increasing diversity.
    3. review spending priorities ( both educational and operational )  

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.

Not sure I would call the following failures, but I think we could better……….

    1. articulate our vision for addressing current – long range problems, by a more clear and concise communication outreach
    2. have dealt with our 10 Innovation Schools in a method that did not label our schools in that category in a way that was seen as negative.
    3. interact and collaborate with the County Council in a more positive approach, rather than appearing at times to be oppositional.

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.

I have expressed concerns over our Innovation Schools, the Kemp Mill settlement, and “Burden of Proof “ legislation. Previously to this administration, I had voted against the Charter School and the Pearson Contract. I have not been hesitant to offer or express a concern to Dr. Starr and staff.

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?

Since arrival on the BOE in 2009, I have felt the Board could use a financial – data analyst to insure transparency in reports we receive in relation to budget and local and system-wide statistics. I am hoping that we will commission an outside group to study this ( as we have discussed in Open Session ).

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?  

The Potomac ES community and others ( Poolesville HS for example ) become understandably frustrated with the pace of funding their specific projects. I’m not sure any alteration of the order of schools needing new or modernized buildings is helpful in the long run to the larger MCPS community. That being said, I believe we should always strive to keep our projects on schedule.

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?

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? 

Both #6-7 allude to the Brickyard scenario that in hindsight could have been handled better by all parties involved. I believe that zoning, land use, and public input are paramount in dealing with future land use issues such as Brickyard.

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? 

With all of the ill will that the recent Brickyard situation generated, I would strongly oppose that site being used for an MCPS Bus Depot. 

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?

Perhaps the use of the Brickyard site as an organic farm should be an issue to come before both the Board of Education and County Council? We might want  to clear the air in what became a divisive issue, and have our legislators go on record to resolve the use of this site, as well as setting a possible precedent for future sites that might become a challenge.

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

I mentioned this in the first question, and am hopeful that with both formal and informal opportunities for interaction, this relationship can improve. I also believe that the primary responsibility for improved relationships rests with the Superintendent and County Council President. Of course, individual relationships play a part also.

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?

This is an area that I would defer to our legal counsel prior to a decision. On the surface, mandatory referral seems to make sense, but other unknown factors would lead me to believe wider input might be needed prior to a decision ( or vote ).

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.

Currently, I have endorsements from the MCEA, MCPSRA, COPAD-MD, Progressive Neighbors, and others yet to endorse formally.

Not facing a primary, I expect the campaign to pick up in late summer and fall leading to the November General Election. I will continue to make myself available to small-large groups, as well as participating in upcoming forums.

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

I believe my 44 year career in public education serving in three ( DC – Arlington – Montgomery ) jurisdictions, with 38 of those years in school administration, plus 5 years on the BOE warrants a return. I have a knowledge of what works in our schools, and believe I can work with a variety of groups to address issues facing our students and families in MCPS. We have much work and many challenges facing us on the Board, I would like to assist and continue in that work that is so crucial.

Thank you for your questions and concerns…………….Mike Durso