(Left to right) Howard County Board of Education candidates Linfeng Chen, Jacky McCoy, and Dan Newberger.

The Local News Network at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism sent a questionnaire to all 155 school board candidates to get their views on important issues. The results are compiled in the Capital News Service Board of Education Voter Guide.

Below are the responses from candidates for the Howard County Board of Education: Linfeng Chen, Jacky McCoy, and Dan Newberger. Candidate Tudy Adler did not respond to the questionnaire.

Voters can vote for up to two candidates.

Linfeng Chen

Howard County Board of Education candidate Linfeng Chen.

Campaign email: chen4boe@gmail.com

Website: chen4boe.org

Facebook: www.facebook.com/DrChen4BOE

Age: 46

Employment: I work for Baltimore Aircoil Company as a Principal Engineer

Education: Ph.D. in Applied Mechanics, University of Virginia

Why are you running for the school board?

I am running for the Board of Education because I want to solve the pressing problems in our school system. I have observed many issues in HCPSS as my eldest child grew from a kindergartener to a 10th grader. COVID made some issues even worse. Some of the most pressing issues include the drop in academic performance, the staff shortage, overcrowded schools, the mental health crisis, school safety, dropped school enrollment, lagged school infrastructure, lack of long-term planning and school start times.

What makes you a good candidate for the board?

I am a parent of three children attending each level of HCPSS. I am the first college graduate in my family and earned a Ph.D. from University of Virginia. My personal journey told me that education can change people’s lives. I am a very involved parent in HCPSS elementary, middle, and high schools, BOE operation budget review committee, school advisory committees, scouting, and sports teams. I take on many roles and positions to support our community. I value the strength of diversity in our county. My unique background, leadership, community service experience, and strong community support make my campaign viable.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.

Abraham Lincoln. He played in a key role of ending slavery in America.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected?

The most important issue is to address the staff shortage. To address the staff shortage, I will request a review of the ground situation to discover the precise reasons teachers retire early or leave the school system. We must provide more support for classroom teachers by adding paraeducators (classroom assistants) and minimizing classroom disruptions. We must improve HR services, streamline the application process, and adjust the hiring timing to attract new graduates. We must pay staff a decent salary and recognize a job well done through bonuses to retain our staff.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it?

Yes, I am concerned about school safety. We have seen a couple severe incidents in last couple months in HCPSS. We need to keep SROs at schools so teachers can focus on teaching and students focus on learning. School resource officers are important to maintaining a safe environment for students to learn. It makes sense to have SROs now more than ever if we consider staff shortages and increased school fighting and acting out issues.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they?

We need to ask for and seriously evaluate community input and think about the diversity of our community when we consider any instruction materials and curriculum covering controversial issues. In a fast changing world, we need to constantly update our curriculum to ensure it does not include outdated or biased contents. As a school system we should present the facts, the truth, the methods, the reality. As a school board member, I promise I will listen to all sides, parents, teachers, students and concerned citizens of our county and make decisions that will be in the best interests of educating our students.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed?

Just like other key issues, I believe the Board of Education should supervise the way in which these decisions are made. Policy 8040-Selection of Instructional Materials establishes procedures for the evaluation, selection, and review of instructional materials for use in Howard County Public Schools. The Board of Education is in charge of setting up the vision, modifying and updating the policy. The Superintendent/Designee (including Curriculum Area Selection Committees) then oversees the selection of instructional materials that align with the vision and goals of the HCPSS Board of Education.

Jacky McCoy

Howard County Board of Education candidate Jacky McCoy.

Campaign email: jackymccoyBOE@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jackymccoyboe22

Age: 68

Employment: I facilitate Changing the Lens Workshops of Shaley Associates. The workshops are facilitated virtually and in-person.

Education: I earned a master’s degree in Secondary Education at Johns Hopkins University

Why are you running for the school board?

I’m running for a seat on the Howard County Board of Education (BOE) because as an educator who is dyslexic with an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in secondary education, I bring a special set of unique skills and experiences that will benefit the board and inform my decision making as a member of the board. My commitment is to real effective education for all students, real access to the necessary resources for students and teachers, and real family engagement from preschool to high school. It is my goal to ensure that every student has an excellent education and equitable access to opportunities, regardless of where they live within the county.

What makes you a good candidate for the board?

Having taught at the elementary, middle and high school levels, as well as tutored students in math and science for over 35 years, affords me a set of distinct skills and experiences that will benefit the BOE. My experience in facilitating workshops and dialogues with diverse groups of people, as well as leading and working with schools as a volunteer in several organizations will all assist me as I engage with board members, the school system, and members of the larger community. Being a mother of HCPSS graduates and grandmother of an elementary school student broadens my perspective further making me an excellent candidate for the board.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.

The late (U.S. Rep.) John Lewis (D-Ga.) was the epitome of a public leader. He began advocating for justice as a young person making what he called “good trouble.” John Lewis founded and chaired the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which became a national civil rights organization. He worked relentlessly for justice and human rights and boldly spoke truth to power which inspires me to become a member of the Howard County Board of Education. I have advocated for the needs of young people in the school system for many years and look forward to advocating for the needs of students, teachers, and families throughout the county in order that all students have opportunities to reach their potential.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected?

Our system needs to be renewed as a vibrant, exciting place to work to attract high-quality teachers and administrators. Investing more in recruitment and retention of excellent educators through programs like “Grow Your Own” teacher, offering competitive salaries and benefits for educators, expediting the HCPSS hiring process, and building a solid recruitment pipeline with local colleges and universities are some possible steps to address critical staffing needs. Concurrently, addressing learning loss and the social-emotional needs of students are paramount. Holding the superintendent accountable to address these issues is the task of board members and I commit to doing that.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it?

School safety must be seen as a partnership amongst all stakeholders. Meaning students, school and central office staff, families and community need to work together to create an environment where everyone is working to support a safe learning environment for all students. In order to provide a learning environment that is safe in all schools, efforts to improve de-escalation skills and the understanding of the needs of students must take center stage in addressing school safety. Regular opportunities to review de-escalation skills and techniques will help to reduce unsafe situations. Creating a safe and healthy learning environment must be supported by law enforcement and the entire community.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they?

I am concerned that history is taught the way it actually happened and that students learn accurate history and the many contributions of the diverse people of this country and throughout the world.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed?

The American Association of School Librarians has established school library standards developed with the input of librarians and stakeholders across the nation. Our Howard County Public School Systems’ Instructional Technology and Library Media Advisory Board provides opportunities for review of age-appropriate books made available to students. The HCPSS advisory board includes parents, Library Media Specialists, Technology Teachers, and other community members. Also, Policy 8040 provides a standard selection criteria for evaluating school materials. With the input of these stakeholders and policies in place, there should be no need for books to be removed from school libraries.

Dan Newberger

Howard County Board of Education candidate Dan Newberger.

Campaign email: dan@votenewberger.com

Website: www.votenewberger.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/votenewberger

Age: 48

Employment: Amazon Web Services, Government Regions Demand Manager

Education: Master in Public Policy (Harvard Kennedy School of Government) and Bachelor of Science (United States Naval Academy)

Why are you running for the school board?

In Howard County, we treasure our schools — they are key to our future. But our schools face big challenges right now. Only strong, compassionate leaders on the BOE can help our students recover from the pandemic’s effects on student learning, social skills, and mental health. We also need a real focus on recruiting, supporting and retaining the talented educators who will guide our schools into the future. I’ve spent my career helping complex organizations solve their toughest problems. I’m committed to the core HoCo values that are fundamental to our school district’s success, chief among them a deep belief that every child deserves the opportunities and support to reach their full potential.

What makes you a good candidate for the board?

I have the skills, experience, and values needed to help HCPSS tackle its toughest challenges. I have spent years as a practitioner of strategic planning, organization design and performance management, and I have deep expertise in public sector budgeting and policy-making. I have successfully worked alongside diverse colleagues with vastly different backgrounds, perspectives, and political opinions — in the Navy, nonprofit sector, federal and local government, and the corporate world. I am an experienced negotiator, team leader, and coalition builder. I will always seek to find common ground, build consensus, and solve the tough problems in the most effective, least abrasive way possible.

Please name a public leader you admire and explain why.

So many answers come to mind, but I’ll stick to leaders in education and select Carter G. Woodson. Born to illiterate former slaves, Woodson rose to become one of America’s most important and influential historians. Woodson’s work was critical in challenging whose stories are told and whose are ignored by historians, and it’s thanks to his efforts (among many others) that students today gain a more complete understanding of who we are and where we come from as Americans. I had the chance to learn more about Woodson as he was the namesake of a middle school I worked closely with, earlier in my career when I was director of operations for a network of public charter schools in Chicago.

What is the most important issue facing your school board, and what would you do about it if elected?

(1) Develop and implement comprehensive, tailored, data-driven pandemic recovery plans for every school in the district to guide their efforts to ensure all students and staff recover from the impacts of the pandemic; (2) Provide every student with the resources, support, and opportunities needed to maximize their potential, overcome their challenges, and gain the education needed to graduate and pursue their dreams; (3) Invest in innovative, 21st century schools by focusing on our educators and principals – hiring, developing, and retaining the best talent, and ensuring that we are providing our current and future classroom – and school leaders – with the resources, supports and development they need.

How concerned are you about school safety, and what if anything should be done to improve it?

Keeping our students, staff, and schools safe is the No. 1 fundamental responsibility of our BOE, and I am absolutely committed to putting in place all of the appropriate resources and policies that will best do so. School shootings are every parent’s nightmare, and I will be a relentless advocate for HCPSS to fully embrace and fully fund (in all of our schools) every aspect of the recommendations developed by the U.S. Secret Service and the National Threat Assessment Center to keep all of our students and staff safe from violence.

Do you have any concerns about the way history is taught in your district’s schools, and if so, what are they?

I was a history major, and I love the subject dearly. Two of the people who were most responsible for shaping my ability to think critically about the world were history teachers: Dennis Dowd at Evanston Township High School and Mary DeCredico at the Naval Academy. It is absolutely critical that our educators in HoCo are free to teach real, complete history to their students. True history (of our nation and of the world) is often messy and complicated, sometimes inspiring, and sometimes shameful, but we do our children no favors by shielding them from it. It is only by arming our children with the truth about history do we give them the skills and knowledge they’ll need to create a better future.

Do you think there are circumstances when books should be removed from school libraries, and if so, what kind of books should be removed?

We have a robust process in place to evaluate and select instructional materials, which includes participation by parents, educators, community members, and students. Our librarians follow a rigorous process to select books for our schools’ media centers that are high quality, age- and grade-appropriate, and approved by an authoritative list of approved bibliographic sources and reviewing journals. Political extremists are fanning the flames and creating controversy around this process, to advance their agenda of stripping our LGBTQ community of their rights. I won’t stand for it. No parent has the right to tell another parent’s child what they are allowed to read in our schools’ libraries.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *