Harford County Board of Education Member John Smilko has announced that he plans to leave the Board at the conclusion of his original five year term on June 30, 2010. Smilko, a Bel Air businessman and resident of Joppatowne, was appointed by Governor Robert Ehrlich in 2005.
During his term, Mr. Smilko was outspoken on behalf of Harford County Public Schools and regularly invoked business principles when making decisions. Often critical of politicians and employee unions, Smilko most recently predicted dire consequences for local school systems under a new law regulating public school labor negotiations in Maryland.
Smilko will not serve out a one-year extension to his term created in 2009 by legislation establishing school board elections in Harford County. Smilko said he will stay on the school board as late as August, 31, 2010 to allow for a successor to be appointed by Governor Martin O’Malley.
The school board member appointed to succeed Smilko will serve until July 1, 2011, when the first set of elected board members will take office in Harford County. The elections are part of a planned transition from a seven-member appointed school board, to a nine-member board with three appointed members and six elected members.
Below is Smilko’s bio from the HCPS Web site:
John L. Smilko, 51, in 1986 co-founded and continues to operate a Bel Air-based computer software development firm, Kramer-Smilko, Inc. Mr. Smilko, a Computer Science graduate of the University of Maryland, has been a resident of Joppatowne for 26 years. He and his wife, Peggy, have three children – Claire, 17, and Emily, 15, senior and junior, respectively, at Joppatowne High; and Dana, 13, an eigth grader at Magnolia Middle School. The avid American history buff is active in his children’s interests as a supporter of the Harford County Recreation Soccer program and a parent volunteer with the Harford County Easy Riders 4-H Club. A member of the First Lutheran Church of Gray Manor (Dundalk), he has served as Deacon and Treasurer. Mr. Smilko is a member of the Document Management Industries Association (DMIA) and was selected as an Industry Elite while being featured in the September 2003 issue of the Print Solution magazine.
Great news. He has been one of the worst members we have ever had in our area. As a parent, I never saw him at our Elementary School or show for a patriot program or any other event. I guess he thought he was too good to actually visit schools. Thank goodness for the new elected members coming to the Board.
What do you want to see from our new elected board? What kind of candidate would get your vote?
Well for one Bob…….I would like to see the Board of Education look at how horrible the Everyday Math Program is in the Elementary schools and realize that Cecil County got rid of it for a good reason. The school board should do research very clearly on curriculum before they okay it. The Board of Education jumps on every bandwagon that comes down the pike.
just a caution about voting based on a single issue or voew on one issue. You end up with people whom you may not have much else in common with and you elected them. A broad criteria for your vote is a good idea. Just my advice based on school board voting before.
The criteria for my vote is whether or not the BOE member will actually provide oversight for the administration. We do not need another BOE member who will support everything the superintendant says. We have already had too many who would just take her word for it, I don’t want any more BOE members who can’t or won’t think for themselves. Every issue I can think of went however Dr. Haas wanted them to go. And they made a mess with Everyday Math and the Block Schedule. No one could have thought either of those were such a good idea. No one would consider anything we’ve seen as proof. The only reason it passed was because Dr. Haas wanted it to pass. Let’s hope we fine someone who really questions these nutty ideas and will stand up for our children instead of the superintendant and the administration.
From what I see, hear, and read (from many different sources) there is a real disconnect with what the BOE is doing and what significant numbers of teachers, parents, students (yes, I actually think they have a stake in board decisions and so their opinions should at least be considered), and school administrators (those willing to speak frankly as long as their comments are kept confidential) what them to do. This pattern of conduct is what finally led to the coming elected BOE. I agree, new and different is not always better or even necessary, and significant changes need to be carefully researched, thought through, then properly and honestly vetted with all concerned parties. Especially those that have to implement such changes. Any other characteristics you would like to see in our future elected BOE members?
Toby Sanchez says
I think the elected/representative school bd should be involved in the budget issues that the Superintendent portrays as done deals. IE. the use of county funds, aprox. 57% of the budget, goes for the boe to use as it deems necessary. The budget is not open for discussion, yet programs are often funded w/t a discussion w/n the community. IE. Drama therapy, 2% salary decrease vs. hc benefits budget cuts. The schools, buildings, in some areas are undercapacity, yet we are building more each year, and the costs be damned.
The student’s are less able to spell, add or to read, but the computer skills are outstanding. The teachers claim they are providing many of the class room supplies, why? Why aren’t the supplies purchased en-masse for all of the schools, county depts. et al?
It looks as if the senior high community service requirement could be used as a resource, too. Painting, lawn care, trash duty, there seems to be quite a variety of areas that could benefit from a more hands on approach from the boe.
I resent that the hs students I am in contact with know more about the different effects of various drugs and alcohol, than the Constituion. At least 3 out of 5 do not know how many states are in the USA. Several think that the borders between Canada and Mexico are the at the same place. Many do not know where the White House is located. Why?
I resent the teachers not being respected by students and parents alike.
I resent the parents not being involved w/ the schools in or out of the classrooms.
I resent the schools not enforcing a dress code…some of these girls look ready for “susan’s a-go-go”…the boys look as if they need to have a belt or a rope to hold up their pants.
So in answer to what I want in a new BOE member, I want a person that wants to know what he/she is funding and why, who and to what end. I want someone who will ask questions and get answers before voting on an issue ie. reading the budget before voting on it.
“susan’s a-go-go”? Wow, you’re dating yourself there! We refer to them as “prostitots” and apparently walking around pulling up your trousers is really cool. I haven’t figured out how wearing clothes with the same name on them expresses their individuality yet either. You could actually say they already have a couple of uniforms – they just all say hollister or aero. My kids are in private school because I didn’t want them in the public school setting dealing with all those distractions from education.
TOby the service learning law is written in such a way to prevent students from doing some of the things you suggest. It’s goal was to make students give to the communiy as a whole not just the school community.
The “Service Learning” Requirement is a joke. When I was registering my child for High School I was told that the community service graduation requirement would be met with school based “service learning projects” like food collection. But since no one tracks who actaully participates, everyone gets credit.
The service learning requirement is a state requirement.
While I believe the service learning requirement is good in theory we really can’t make people give of their time if they do not want to do so. To made it that students fail to graduate simply because they do not have the required hours when they have met all other academic requirements would leave the State vulnerable to law suit and the complete elimination of the requirement. So schools have come up with “creative” ways for students to earn these hours, all of which can be “earned” without a student leaving the classroom. Plenty of adults do absolutely nothing in their communities, does this mean they should be denied government services? Community activism by our youth is laudable but is it a necessary component of a public education?
Not from Here says
If you think about it, service learning should help in the college application process. Many private schools require community service. The difference in my very limited experience is that the private school grads know what they did to earn their volunteer hours while many public school kids graduated but have no idea what they did for the service learning component of their graduation requirement (and you know that they didn’t do much).
My wife, who works in a middle school, told me that our county has middle school teachers doing it as class projects. She also agrees most kids don’t know what they did essentially because this model leads to mostly teacher planned activities. When I taught in a different county that county had kids meet the requirement on their own and then they had to fill out a form(s) documenting and reflecting on their 75 hours (which can be started as early as 6th grade). They had to do it on their own. I would think the second leads to much more meaningful activites for the kid.
Rachel Tate says
“The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America” by Charlotte Iserbyt will shed light on a great many things for those who are mourning the tragic state of our education system. Iserbyt was a high-level education official in Reagan’s administration until she discovered education agreements had been signed between the US and USSR as well as agreements to allow UNESCO to design and direct much of what would happen in our schools. After amassing an aresenal of documentation and expressing concern, she was fired from her job.
Teaching to the test, holding teachers accountable via student achievement, creating tension between students and parents,reducing physical education/recess and yes, even the block schedule are all laid out in the book as a means to establishing a lower class who are too dumb and too lazy to protest when the government begins taking over every aspect of their lives.
Check out the appendix to find the yet unanmed competitive national grant program which will internationalize our system. Yes, Race to the Top is really about hiring international teachers and using international standards and testing.
The book can be downloaded at no charge. Some used copies can still be found. I have already printed out a copy; it would be my pleasure to provide a copy for any person who requests it and provides the paper.
Simply call 410-652-0250.
This may very well be the most important book you could ever read. We must band together to reclaim our educational system and restore our teachers’ to their rightful place as educators not robots in our classrooms.
I agree with you completely. Those on the board need to understand how their decisions impact the classroom. The implications for teachers and students must be given the highest consideration when making policy. I am a HS teacher in Balt. Co., live in Harford Co. and will file as a school board candidate this Friday. I am having a very informal meeting at Giovanni’s restaurant on Rt. 40 in Edgewood tomorrow night (Wed.) at 7:30. If you want to hear more feel free to stop by and bring a friend if you want. Would just ask that you confirm so I have an idea of how many to expect.
How about a BOE that set up accountability measures for the academic programs? We all love to rail about how much we hate Everyday Math and by extension the secondary U. of Chicago math. But until there is some data showing a decline in math skills, no one will try and change this curriculum. The only measure I’ve seen are the MSA scores which are going up! Since HCPS don’t use any nationally normed tests, it’s hard to know how good (or bad) things are. How about looking at SAT and AP scores as a measure of changes made to HS curriculum or the impact of Block Scheduling on AP scores. There’s a great study on this on the College Board site. Since the 1970’s corporations have used data to measure quality, but somehow that never caught on in HCPS. We need school board members who will reject any new program that doesn’t have meaningful evaluation targets built in and will push to have the effectivness of all programs evaluated. We don’t need more presentations that show “the number of students taking AP classes is going up.” We need to see which schools have students passing AP tests and at what rate. Yes, this was on Dagger, but it wasn’t published anywhere else. How about putting that data on each schools web site?
At this point nothing would prompt me to place confidence in the Harford County school system, so the candidate could say whatever they like, its a moot point. I moved to Harford Co. from AA Co. 12 years ago and my children were nearly a year ahead of their peers when I enrolled them. After a couple years and numerous issues we chose homeschooling.
The problem is the social agenda is given more importance than the fundamental educational needs. Who cares if Jenny has two mommies if the child can’t read the darned book. Then there is stretch spelling. This was a horrible idea, not because of anything except it was impossible for teachers to force the kids to relearn words that they had previously stretch spelled to their proper spelling and then keep up with marking wrong all the instances of that word misspelled later. There was just too much paperwork, too many papers for too many kids for that. To this day my kids who learned that stuff can’t spell anything properly.
Class room sizes are too large, and teachers are spread too thin. It’s not the teachers fault that the school in my area was over capacity and there were 35 kids in each classroom. It’s not possible for one person to control 35 children and adequately educate. What is totally rediculous is that the Dept. of Social Services will not allow one daycare mom to have that many children and all she would be doing is basic babysitting. Expecting a teacher to control that many all on her own and impart anything to them is completely unfair.
My now 16 year old was promoted all the way to third grade and he couldn’t read ‘Hop on Pop’. It took us two years to get him where he belonged and a significant monitary investment.
The reform needed is too large for one newly elected school board to manage, and the social education agenda is too deeply entrenched. It’s going to require a serious monitary investment, a complete curriculum overhaul, smaller class sizes, paid teachers aids, and complete buy in from each principle at each school before anything improves. My kids will be grandparents before that happens.
Cindy S says
We should ask ourselves: “What is the role of government in America, and what is its role in education?” By the time we find ourselves faced with consequences and potential policies of today’s education system, we are already in a losing battle. Over time, Americans, at-large and on a local community level, have yielded to the idea that government can and will teach young citizens of our nation in a neutral way so that they can succeed academically, and that government is the best entity to control what education should look like. Each area of government IS a special interest (regardless of the nice individuals who work within it), and that interest drives the plan. Social agenda and cooperation with government for government’s sake are two significant uses of public and government-regulated (which includes non-public) education. When regular citizens suggest that the schools need to “get back to the basics” those in government shrug, because the use of schools left that realm long ago. It helps them that the public assumes that the teaching of academics is still the purpose.
Are you the same “Cindy” that gave such accurate updates on the progress of the elected school board legislation that was moving through the MD Legislature?
Cindy S says
Thanks for asking, but I am not she. You might ask Cindy Mumby, the author of the article. I believe she has been following this closely.
Cindy local govt. like the BOE should have a huge role. That is a big part of their role. Federal govt should have limited roles in that they should simply ensure civil liberties are not being violated by policies designed to hurt the minorities.
Cindy S says
Yes, Cdev, we should separate levels of gov’t and define which level has what powers. The further-removed that the power is, the less ability the individual citizen and parent can have to hold schools accountable and to help them to improve. Individual liberty matters for the success of individuals and our nation. The Federal Dept. of Ed. should not exist. Core question here is: “What should the be the purview of the school system’s instruction and influence on the lives of individual Americans?” The answer to that question is the driving force behind programs, curriculum, funds, and use of the finite hours in the school year, therefore the finite opportunity to “educate” each child. Whereas many are willing for the government to require and assume the responsibility of academically educating children, there is much reason to question whether government is the appropriate entity to take on the many other current roles. As gov’t. has taken on the role of teacher in “social” issues, it has disdained the role of parents and the liberty of Americans, and it attempts to secure a given outcome of behavior in our society. Some actual results, which some might call “unintended consequences,” but which I call “predictable,” are: confusion in children as they are the tug-of-war-rope between parents and school, lowered academic ability in children because much of the education time is NOT about academic education, higher and never-ending funds needed for education because the purported goals are never attained and new programs always have to be designed.
Well said Cindy S. Too often school administrations come to the school board proposing the implementation of some new program because there is “research” that it worked somewhere else. That does not mean it will work in their locality and the administration should have to “prove” an overriding need for the new program. Our schools and children should not be used for “experimentation.”
If no one “experimented” we would not ever find new ideas that actually work!
Rachel Tate says
The public education system has been co-opted by those who desire to have a population espousing politically correct opinions at the expense of quality acadmic instruction. Anytime outcomes are the basis for scores, tests and coursework–the subject matter must be less rigorous in order to allow for all students to reach success.
Pick up a copy of Charlotte Iserbyt’s book, The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. You will learn 1) which president signed a copperative education agreement with the head of the Soviet Union,and 2)the United Nations Educational and Scientific Cultural Organization has significant input into our programming.
Hmmm. A deaf ear is turned to students, parents and teachers while the United Nations has a seat at the table.
PLEASE read Grasmick’s Race to the Top proposal. Despite what we all know to be true: local control/input offers the most benefit for our students and community; those in charge are literally racing for the top to get all of the states on board before anyone realizes that we have not federalized our system, but internationalized it–yes, that includes highering international teachers.
In today’s economy, I am certain that does not do anything to improve our teachers’ perceptions of job security.
Racheal I do take exception to this one point of yours.
“Anytime outcomes are the basis for scores, tests and coursework–the subject matter must be less rigorous in order to allow for all students to reach success.”
You are advocating here seeting the bar low so everyone makes it. The bar should be set high. Students will generally achieve the goal you set for them if we set the bar low then you will get a low product all around if the bar is high you will get a high product. I know I am sounding like I am refering to children as a commodity; but essentially they are. They are our biggest commodity, they are the future.
I think she’s saying that by teaching to the test, instead of the subject, you lower the bar by focusing the majority of effort on information covered in the test. If you teach to the subject, more students may fail which would lower how that school is rated. But the reality is some kids will fail even in effective classrooms with good teachers. Rachel will have to clarify.
Rachel Tate says
Amazed explained my point very well. We need to redirect the education of our youth to one that defines education as an academic pursuit rather than the inculcation of state sanctioned politically correct behaviors and values.
Current ideology promotes normative outcomes, skill set training and behaviorial conditioning which will result in a population of compliant sheeple. As such, we will become part of the manageable global resources which like a piece of plywood can be catalogued as damaged, defective and/or disposable.
Eudcation must not be seen as something pursued only during one’s youth. Instead, we must return to an ideology that promotes education as a life-long process. I do believe grades are important in order to reflect that learning has taken place. However, I also believe that we would all do well to put greater focus on seeing continued steady improvement by each student.
Why has it become acceptable for a student to continue bringing home straight As in classes where he/she gleefully accepts that nothing new has been covered all year, while the student who enters the class with a zero knowledge base and makes steady progress is denied participation in extra-curricular activities because an arbitrary passing grade has not been reached? Does it not seem that the second student is being unduly punished?
No, I am not advocating getting rid of grades. I do believe though that lowering the bar is an inuslt to all of us. Our students begin to believe the lies that they are not smart or that they have learned all there is to learn. Either way, those lessons will cost us the benefit of talented, innovative minds which are very much needed for the continued good health and well-being of all of society.
Yes, there are students who have simply given up or just refuse to do their work. I am not addressing them.
A few points I would make.
I agree life long learning should be a goal.
Teaching to a test needs to be clarified. If you mean teaching test taking startegies and tips at the expense of content then that is a problem if you mean however teaching the content specificlly on the test then is that not called following the curriculum? If the test is written to assess the curriculum standards and you teach those standards are you not effectively teaching the curriculum?
The participation mark for EC activities is ahrdly arbitrary. 60% is not arbitrary. If anything it is too low. If I did 60% of my job I would not a get a pay check I would get fired!
I too have a problem with grade inflation but to be honest the blame for this is more then the schools. It is every parent who, insted of calling the teacher and having an open dialouge, shows up at the school and screams at them. Instead of accepting that this is the grade your child merited based on the rubric argues over points and then proceeds to argue about the validity of the assignment until they get the grade they want. Administrators who pressure for higher passing rates etc.
True, however I am not interested in having Harford County students be Guinea pigs for new programs. A rather simple analogy would be not to buy the first year of a new model car, wait a year or two until the bugs are worked out. Once a new program is “proven” to work and is significantly better and/or less expensive than the current program being used then a change should be given serious consideration. There are plenty of examples where school systems jumped on the bandwagon of some new fad in education only to see that it did not work, had negative unintended consequences, actually hurt student achievement, and resulted in costly reversal/revision. Does anyone remember “open classrooms?” The PTA had to come up with the funds to reconfigure and construct classroom walls at Magnolia Middle School because someone bought into that failed concept. And I can definitely tell you that student learning actually suffered from that “experiment.” Another example of experimentation is the recent fiasco in Baltimore County with the “AIM” program where students and staff were to be used to gather data so a high ranking school system employee could market their pet program nationwide for personal profit. Only after getting the politicians involved was Superintendent Hairston summoned to Annapolis where he was read the riot act and the program supposedly shelved, only to resurface in the past few weeks and then permanently squashed when the politicians were again informed. That high ranking school system employee has suddenly decided to retire. It is this kind of nonsense that I mean by “experimentation” and one of the reasons I have decided to run for the Board of Education. We and our children cannot afford to risk limited resources on unnecessary and unproven programs.
Oh god…open classrooms…when I first moved to the East coast my elementary school had those and it was terrible. The teacher in the next “room” over had no control over her class and usually at least once a day someone would slam the movable wall (which was on wheels) and almost knock it over (and usually knocked something off it.) I remember one time a fight broke out in the hallway and the kids involved actually knocked a wall completely over and fell into a room. Add to that constantly hearing what was going on in every other classroom in the area and I don’t think anyone learned much. Thankfully I was only in that school for 1/2 a year (though the next school wasn’t much better, but at least it had regular rooms.)
I can agree with that. I can also tell you open classrooms where big all over at that time. That said I can understanding not being first on the bandwagon. But don’t say that we should not try new things because otherwise how will we find better ways. If a teacher has a new method that might work for a particular segement we should not be unwilling to explore it.
I understand teachers “experimenting” with the delivery of information in their classroom. I am constantly looking for ways to make my lessons interesting and relevant for students. This is to be expected and encouraged at the classroom or even individual school level consistent with the needs of their student populations. My concerns are for system wide experimentation which have the potential for significant negative achievement and cost risk factors.
That I can see but there are times you simply wont know until you try it and then you piolit it in one school.