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District 5 – 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 5

Yun Lu

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

My Number One priority will be children in the Howard County. Being a member of the BOE is about preparing children for their bright future – improving their academic achievement, physical well-being, as well as social-emotional readiness. The BOE decision making process should put our children first and should be based on accurate data, valid analysis and take input from all stakeholders to serve the best interest of our children and communities.

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

I am on the BOE Operating Budget Review Committee (OBRC), so I am familiar with the HCPSS operating budget. I have testified at BOE budget hearing and Howard County budget hearing regarding both capital budget and operating budget. The operating budget proposal was based on student enrollment projection and my statistical expertise will help improve the enrollment projection accuracy. I have been a Federal Acquisition Certification (FAC) Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) for almost ten years and have directly involved in the procurement process. FAC- CORs are acquisition professionals in the Federal Government performing contract management activities and functions. In the superintendent FY2021 proposed budget, 80 million are contracted services. I will approach budgeting by closely looking at the contracts to see whether they provide the best value for the school system. I will also work on looking into ways to attract more bidders and potentially lower the prices of the contracts.

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

I propose to start a pilot program to apply a small part of the funding to improve high school dropout rates for disadvantaged students. The goal of Title I funding is “improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged”, however, the disadvantaged students in non-Title I schools will not benefit from the program. For example, among Class 2018 high school students, Hispanic students had 16.75 percent dropout rate and Free and Reduced Price Meals (FARMs) students had 12.98 percent dropout rate. Those students were not covered by Title I funding. As a pilot study, I would allocate a small portion of the Title I funding to high schools to improve high school dropout rate for disadvantaged students. The students who drop out of high schools are typically not career ready and tend to stay in poverty when they grow up. The school system needs to help these students.


Saif Rehman

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

We have a trust issue. Although there are many needs when it comes to the Board of Education, my number one priority will be to restore faith in the public-school process. We must have public servants on the board that will provide real-world understanding and experience to turn the district around. Our class sizes are growing larger, our resources growing smaller, and yet our administration budgets continue to balloon. These are all issues stemming from a lack of accountability and leadership that has broken the public trust. We need to streamline how we communicate with our families, provide clear transparency on our decision-making, so that our constituents can hold us accountable for how we spend (or save) their tax dollars. As the District 5 representative I intend to bring my leadership and experience, along with a commitment to accountability, to help our board regain the community’s trust.

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

With more than 30 years working with corporations and government agencies of all sizes, I have managed budgets as small as a few thousand to those currently over $1.5 billion. No matter the size of the budget, the responsibilities remain the same. In the private sector it means lowering costs, increasing revenue, and creating value for shareholders. In the public section it means lowering cost, increased value delivered, and saving taxpayer dollars whenever possible. Not only have I managed budgets, but as a technologist, I helped create transparent budgeting processes and worked on numerous projects resulting in cost savings, transparency and accountability for my clients. I intend to bring this holistic approach towards the budgeting process in place at HCPSS that is a mystery at best and mismanagement at worst.

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

Title I is a federal policy designed to close achievement gaps and ensure all children have an equal opportunity to access high quality education. It attempts to achieve this by providing funding for supplemental academic services and supports. Unfortunately, the current process for distributing those funds has been less than transparent and so much of how those funds are being spent can be difficult to discern. My first goal would be to ensure we put a transparent process in place to track every Title I dollar to ensure the money is reaching its intended purpose and, if not, recalibrate the use of those funds to improve the outcomes of our students in need. With an accountability of dollars spent, we can then analyze the effectiveness of our investments and decide if funding changes are needed to maximize student outcomes.


Gene Ryan

No response.


Cindy Vaillancourt

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

Right now, because of the Covid 19 crisis, the most pressing issue facing the HCPSS/BOE is how to adjust the delivery of instruction, and completely revamp the budget and resource allocation to reflect our new reality. Going forward, adapting to the new reality, capitalizing on alternative delivery models that improve outcomes especially if they are more cost effective, and taking a comprehensive look at calendars, programming, and start times when the Board moves ahead with attendance area adjustments to open HS13 so that we can maximize facility utilization, provide programmatic choice to families, and improve outcomes for all of our students.

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

After being on the Howard County Board of Education for 8 years from 2010-2018, I participated as a Board member in 8 Budget cycles, as well as paying close attention for several years before 2010, and in the 2 years since I left the Board. I am intimately familiar with the Budget process, its strengths and its weaknesses.

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

For decades now, HCPSS has focused all of its Title 1 funding on the elementary schools under the theory that early interventions are the most critical. I agree that the need is very great in Middle and High Schools, but since the funding is relatively limited, it still gives HCPSS the most benefit to focus on elementary schools. HCPSS should compensate itself by providing additional and permanent differentiated staff at the Middle and High School level. I would recommend that there be more oversight over what is currently the principal’s sole domain with the use and direction of the Title 1 staff in elementary schools.

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