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District 2 – 2020 Howard County Board of Education Primary Election Voters’ Guide

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As a service to our readers, The Business Monthly asked Howard County Board of Education candidates running in the 2020 Primary Election to provide responses to a short questionnaire. Their unedited responses follow. This Voters’ Guide includes only the candidates running in the primary election.

District 2

James Cecil

What will be your number one priority as a member of the Board of Education?

My number one priority is addressing the achievement and opportunity gaps for our most vulnerable students. We see continued gaps in achievement, which is directly linked to gaps in the opportunity of our most vulnerable students. Funding to support equity programs has continually been reduced and special education funding has been relatively stagnant for far too long. The most recent redistricting process has eroded public trust in the board and the term equity has been blamed for the flawed process it became associated with. In fact, it’s mere mention was booed during work sessions. We have to restore trust in the board in order to restore focus on equity and make a compelling and unifying case about why we must work harder for the students who deserve better.

What budget experience do you have that will help the Howard County Public School System?

I have spent 17 years working in the public sector at the University of Maryland. I have experience working on capital and operating budgets in addition to experience in procurement best practices. Over that time, I have also been required to reduce spending while seeking to maintain services. I have found ways to reduce spending, maximize the power of collaborating efforts across departments to reduce costs and I have identified and executed strategies to increase revenues such as writing successful grants.

What changes will you offer to how Title 1 funding is being used?

I believe in the current structure of allocating Title 1 funding at the elementary school level to maximize impact, support interventions and potentially reduce the impact of delayed supports. Early access to these supports is proven to positively affect outcomes for students.


Larry Pretlow

What will be your number one priority as a member of the Board of Education?

My number one priority as a board of education member is to cut wasteful spending in the current budget and make our funds achieve more. The achievement gap is a major problem in District 2 and right now we are wasting money on a bloated central office and not fixing the problem. We need to cut wasteful spending and put money in the classroom. Closing the achievement gap will require collaboration with local businesses for after school programs as well as implementing practices to encourage achievement for minority students like Hammond High school has done to encourage them to take advanced courses by stopping steering.

What budget experience do you have that will help the Howard County Public School System?

I offer experience as a print shop supervisor working at Staples where I was responsible for meeting goals on a limited budget. I was honored for my work at a company-wide conference. In addition, as an Oakland Mills Village Board member I am responsible for overviewing the budget of the board along with my other colleagues and ensuring we achieve the most with the funds available and try to increase revenue by working to entice development opportunities in Oakland Mills.

What changes will you offer to how Title 1 funding is being used?

I would like to study the viability of increasing some Title 1 funds for students in Middle and High School as they currently do not receive any funding. However, research shows early childhood is the best time to close the achievement gap which is why Title 1 funds are allocated for elementary schools. So, I support allocating the majority of Title 1 funding for elementary schools.


Antonia Watts

What will be your number one priority as a member of the Board of Education?

The most important priority is providing all students with access to a high-quality education. There is an opportunity gap in the county. The opportunity gap focuses on the input or access that a student has to an education. Students from traditionally disadvantaged families have fewer educational opportunities compared to their peers. This gap starts even before kindergarten. Children without access to early education may enter school up to two academic years behind their peers and may never catch up. We were very fortunate that my son was able to get into the RECC program for preschool and preK, but I know not all children are able to do so. Because he was in a school-based program, he was taught by a highly qualified educator. This is not always the case for preschool programs. I will work to expand the number of high-quality and affordable pre-K programs available to our children.

What budget experience do you have that will help the Howard County Public School System?

As an engineer, I managed the budget of several multimillion dollar vehicle programs. In this role, I analyzed data and derived cost effective, yet innovative solutions based on data. Currently, I serve on the Howard County Library Board of Trustees which requires understanding of a large budget and its impact on the fidelity of the system. I am responsible for working with my colleagues to develop policies that relate to the management of the library and to the management of its CEO. The structure and responsibilities are similar to that of the Board of Education. This means that I have recent and relevant experience working on a policy board. I will focus on waste reduction and expanding partnerships with other county services. It is imperative that we prioritize services that directly impact our children.

What changes will you offer to how Title 1 funding is being used?

I support the HCPSS policy of concentrating Title I funding at the elementary level. Early intervention services can have a significant impact on educational outcomes and can increase long-term success. However, the funding is used for school-wide programming which can miss some of our neediest students. HCPSS should also use intensive one-on-one instruction to improve learning.

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