Three candidates remain in the race for school board in District A, following the withdrawal of Pastor Tony McDonald earlier this month. Still in the running are Bob Frisch, a teacher in Baltimore County Public Schools; Jansen Robinson, a physical security specialist for the federal government; and Jerome Foster, who is also running for re-election to the Harford Democratic Central Committee.
Foster was expected to participate in a recent school board candidates’ forum hosted by the Harford County Council of PTA, but was unable to attend due to an accident.
In response to a request from The Dagger, Foster responded to the following series of questions via e-mail. The questions are similar to those originally posed at the PTA forum that Foster missed:
MSA and HSA scores indicate disparities between schools often by geographic locations. What do you believe is the Board’s role in closing the performance gap between these schools?
“I believe that the Board has a large role to play in closing the performance gap. I feel that the Board’s role should be a member of all interested parties to identify the reason for the gap, determine what is the most effective means of closing the gap and partnering with the Superintendent, teachers and administrators in implementing an effective plan to close the gap.”
Given the demands of NCLB and state mandated curricula, should all schools have the same course offerings and schedule or should schools be able to “tailor” instruction to the needs of their population?
“I believe that there has to be some mandated curricula that will provide students with courses that will be accepted by colleges. The course that the HC school system has adapted is an excellent example of tailored instruction that will provide the students of Aberdeen, Joppatown, and Edgewood High Schools with opportunities to gain knowledge in career fields of their preference. Also, provide the basics in career fields that are and will be in demand in the future.”
As of 2009-2010 Harford County teachers are ranked 20th out of 24 districts in starting salary. Teachers are presently at a contract impasse – in these difficult fiscal times, how does the county improve teacher salaries and compensation packages to make this an attractive place to teach?
“I think that at this time, all parties to contract negotiations should bargain in good faith with an understanding of the fiscal difficulties that face the county. But, preference should be given to providing a better compensation package to teachers. I feel that incentives in lieu of salary increases for now may be effective in keeping excellent teachers in our county.”
Maryland Law states that 50% of teacher evaluation be tied to student performance. Do you agree with this concept and how would you recommend this requirement be implemented in HCPS?
“I feel that the most important aspect of education is student performance. As to the percentage that is attached to a teacher’s evaluation, I wonder if 50% is enough. Implementation of the process to implement the process is, at this time, not in my possession. But, I do know that there are systems available to accomplish this task and I’m sure that the School System is in possession of it.”
Do you support school uniforms? Why or why not?
“I support uniforms because they allow students to focus on what they can learn and not on what the latest fashions are to wear to school.”
In 2010, PTA will be advocating to improve child health and wellness through the reauthorization of the child nutrition act. How can the school system address better nutrition and the issue of childhood obesity for our students?
“The school system can address better nutrition by providing healthier foods in the cafeterias. Eliminating sodas and providing juice, providing nutrition classes, and having foods that are healthy as well as good tasting.”
What is your position on charter schools? Are you generally in support or do you see them as competition for public schools?
“I generally support charter schools but question public funding of these institutions. I don’t look at them as competition for public schools but as institutions that can provide public schools with processes and procedures that may enhance pubic school’s ability to deliver a quality education to all students.”
Recently two board of education members resigned – citing the need to devote more time to their work/business and family. How do you plan to manage the balance between your BOE service, with other demands?
“My children are grown now and I am retired.”
Do you believe Harford County should offer universal pre-k for all students in Harford County?
“I do believe that we should offer universal pre-k for all students.”
How can the board manage technology, not knowing what that will look like for our incoming kindergarteners?
“Technology tends to manage itself. Through effective life cycle management, kindergartners can learn the basics of technology through legacy systems and as they matriculate through the system gain more knowledge and experience on systems that are more advance.”
What ideas do you have regarding the expansion of classes (or programs) for “advanced students” (i.e. Advanced Placement, Gifted and Talented). Would you support more money to pay teachers in these subjects?
“I believe in performance pay and qualification pay based on performance by students.”
What changes to the current system would you recommend in order to increase community involvement in HCPS? Specifically, how can the business and parent community make meaningful contributions to the decision making process?
“Community involvement can be increased by PTA’s, community organizations and businesses electing representatives to attend Board meeting.”
What are your thoughts on accommodating population growth and overcrowding, which directly affect classroom size?
“At this time the only way to compensation for population growth and overcrowding is to hire more teachers.”
And one final question from The Dagger:
The blended school board legislation provides for both appointed and elected members. You opposed school board elections and yet you have decided to run for a seat. Why did you decide to run, as opposed to seeking an appointment?
“I don’t believe in dropping out of the process because the process changes.”
In an earlier e-mail interview, Foster, 58, told The Dagger :
“I am running for a seat on the Board of Education because I want to help this county and Edgewood/Joppatown to become a world class education community. I feel that education is the key to success and that my service to the country can be used to help my county and community achieve this status of providing a world class education to our students. I believe that I can bring the concerns of the community to the Board of Education and the Board’s response to the community’s concerns in a transparent and honest way. Also, I feel that service to your community is a civic responsibility that cannot be ignored and as a member of the School Board I can continue to meet my responsibility for the greater good of the community.”
A retired army officer, Foster is the father of four children, two of whom attended Harford County Public Schools. Foster has both an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College in Columbia, MO. In addition to the Democratic Central Committee, Foster been involved locally in the NAACP, VFW, Prince Hall Masons, and the Edgewood Community Council.
From the other campaigns for school board in District A:
fifty-six years old
married 31 years (Carla)
two children (Tim and David)
Joppa resident for 47 years
Edgewood High School
Towson University, Bachelor of Science in Social Science
College of Notre Dame, teacher certification (Special Education and Social Studies)
36 Masters credits (nearing completion of Leadership in Teaching Masters Degree)
Baltimore County Public Schools (2002 – present)
Teacher (Advanced Professional Certification)
Special Education (Life Skills)
Social Studies (standard, direct serve, inclusion, and co-taught classes)
Student intern supervisor
Baltimore Police Department (1976 – 1996)
Unit Commander – Traffic Enforce Unit
Highway Safety Grant Coordinator
other administrative units
several instructor and train the trainer qualifications (developed several training programs)
Special Recognition and Duties:
National and court recognized expert (drunk and drugged driver enforcement)
Adjunct instructor U.S. Department of Transportation
Governor’s Executive Committee on Enforcement for Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Maryland Drug Evaluation and Classification Committee
Baltimore City Highway Safety Committee
Mothers Against Drunk Drivers
Provided testimony before the Maryland General Assembly on highway safety issues
Community Activism and Interests:
Parks and Recreations
Cub Scout and Boy Scout organizations
Member Salem United Methodist Church (33 years)
First let me acknowledge that a comparison of State data indicates that Harford County has one of the better school systems in Maryland. However, there is room for much improvement. With the right direction and leadership we have the capability to become a premier school system ranking alongside school systems found in Montgomery and Howard Counties.
Now that neighborhood communities will actually decide through the election process who should represent their interests on the school board it becomes even more vital that voters carefully research the candidates in order to choose the best qualified person to fill this most important position. Who among the candidates is best able to meet the demands of a school board member? Candidates should have a strong background in those areas most relevant to the responsibilities of board membership. These skills will be the foundation upon which board members depend when making critical decisions that will have a long term impact on the education of current and future Harford County students.
In my conversations with numerous members of the Edgewood, Joppatowne, and Joppa communities I have found a pattern of ideas and views consistent with my own when it comes to what they want the school board to do.
Parents want safe schools with environments as free as possible from outside pressures of harassment, bullying, crime, and disruptions caused by unruly students. When students and staff are worried about their safety they cannot fully focus to the business of education. I support the expanded utilization of the alternative education facility in Aberdeen to provide different programs that can offer supports for students whose needs cannot be met in a traditional school setting. Students whose actions continue to threaten the safety of other students, staff, damage to school property, interfere with the good order of the school environment or substantially detract from the educational opportunity of others need to be addressed immediately. Parents do not want the inappropriate actions of a few to interfere with the educational opportunities of the majority.
All proposals and policy recommendations must be viewed under the guiding principle, “How does this benefit the students in our classrooms and support the teachers who educate them?” Before instructional programs are put into place they must be demonstrated to improve student learning. Harford County students are not to be used as guinea pigs for unproven programs and curriculum.
Parents and associated groups want to do more than be trip chaperones and organize fundraisers. They want to be equal partners in their neighborhood schools and do more to help educate their children. Parents represent a valuable and frequently underutilized resource to provide access to community leaders, civic organizations, businesses, equipment, social, and financial services which can be used to enhance and support the education of our children. Parents also want to be informed in advance and be party to decisions regarding theatrical productions and policy decisions that may run contrary to their personal beliefs.
Aggressively examine every line item in the budget. At an operating budget of almost two hundred forty million dollars this year there are expenditures that could be put off or eliminated altogether. Fiscal responsibility and justification of expenditures must become the standard. We must move away from a practice of purchasing unnecessary wants and luxuries to one of what is actually needed and most likely to be used to maximum benefit for students. Revise current policy to require Board of Education approval on all expenditures of twenty thousand dollars or more in order to more carefully control spending. This is the same level of oversight the Federal government uses for BRAC purchases and related construction. The taxpayers deserve nothing less.
Return more authority and accountability to each school with mandatory and meaningful community input. This is the cornerstone of all successful schools, with parents, teachers, students, community leaders all having a place at the decision making table. This will help to ensure that individual schools are grounded in the needs and desires of the communities they serve. Open and honest communication builds trust and cooperation.
Examine current course offerings, requirements, for promotion and graduation to ensure that students are getting the kind of instruction that will prepare them for the demands of higher education and the foundation necessary to enter the work force beyond minimum wage jobs.
Reinstitute technical and trade programs in all high schools to train and assist students who choose not to attend college so that they enter the workforce with skills employers want and need.
The single greatest influence on student achievement is parents and then the classroom teacher. The Board must find ways to attract and retain the best qualified classroom teachers. You get what you pay for. The Board needs to show leadership in this regard. To continue down the road of recent decisions concerning adequate staff compensation presents the real risk that Harford County schools will not be able to recruit the best and will lose quality teachers to other jurisdictions. Doing nothing leaves us with the potential that we do not improve as a system but fall farther behind other counties in the quality of education offered to our children.
Why vote for me?
I am not a politician and I have no political ambitions beyond the Board of Education. I do not come to this election with any political agenda or ulterior motive than to help make Harford County Public Schools even better than they already are. I have the skills and commitment to do the work necessary to accomplish that goal.
I came to the decision to run for the Board of Education because I am a true believer in the concept of ordinary citizens volunteering to help their communities, that we can do a better job than political appointees and career politicians. I was not recruited by any group or elected official in order to be their surrogate or mouthpiece on the Board. I decided to volunteer because our community needed a voice. I am here to listen first and then speak for you.
I am an experienced teacher that will bring a much needed classroom perspective to the Board. Throughout my law enforcement and teaching careers I have developed the ability to work with all kinds of people under some of the most difficult circumstances. While in positions of power and authority I never lost sight of or respect for those that were actually doing the real work and always considered my primary responsibility to help them meet theirs.
I will be a visible member of the school community. I will meet with all stakeholders on a regular basis, attend as many school related functions as reasonably possible, and be available to answer and assist those in need of help as necessary.
I will work to improve and maintain a cordial and positive relationship with the County Executive and County Council through the Board and Superintendent to serve the best interests of students, parents, staff, and taxpayers.
Intelligence, experience, commitment, integrity, and character are the core of real leadership. Together we can do what is right for our children, the parents who support them, the teachers who are actually doing the work in our classrooms, and taxpayers who deserve to know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely. I look forward to working with you and thank you for your support.
“From the Community and For the Community”
I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you why I believe that I am the right person to represent our District on the Harford County Board of Education. Let me briefly share with you some back-ground information.
A resident of Edgewood and a Viet-Nam-Era Veteran, I have been married to my wife Bertha M. Robinson for 34 years. We have three daughters, all of whom were educated in the Harford County Public School System.
I possess a Master’s Degree in Public Administration; and a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Criminal Justice; from Brenau College (Gainesville, Ga). I also possess an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Criminal Justice, from the Georgia Military College (Milledgeville, Ga). I am the holder of numerous professional certifications, to include the Board Certified “C.P.P. designation. I am a member of several professional and civic organizations; and have authored articles for trade magazines. In addition, my position on subject matters from crime to education are well documented, as I have written numerous Letters to the Editor of our local newspaper-The Aegis.
For over three decades, I have been engaged in efforts to provide and enhance the safety and security posture for a wide range of organizations including, but not limited to; public housing, education, nuclear power, nuclear weapons, and a host of commercial and government facilities. I am currently the owner/president of Landmark Physical Security Services, a small veteran-owned security firm headquartered in Edgewood Maryland. My firm provides Cutting Edge Security Solutions in Complex Security Environments.
Currently, I serve as a Physical Security Specialist and Anti-Terrorism Officer for the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) located on the Aberdeen Proving Grounds.
I have held public safety positions ranging from entry level to senior management to include: Chief of School Police, for the Baltimore City Public System; Director of Public Safety and Security for Lincoln University; Security Coordinator-Annapolis Housing Authority; Director of Safety & Security/Assistant Superintendent-District of Columbia Public Schools; and, Contract Security Manager-Peach Bottom Atomic Bower Plant.
I submit to you that I have demonstrated my ability to identify and undertake reasonable and necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of people, property, and facilities; exercise fiscal responsibility; and, protect the image of the organization’s for which I have served. I call this my “Personal Standard of Care” Policy. And I will do the same as your representative on the Harford County Board of Education. CIVIC/COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
Currently, I serve as the Chair of the Edgewood Community Council; and Commissioner with the Harford County Human Relations Commission. I was nominated for the 2009 Harford County’s Most Beautiful People award for my dedication and voluntary services to my community. And, I am the co-founder of the Edge-wood/Joppa/Joppatowne Independence Day Celebration Parade.
During my tenure as Chair of the Edgewood Community Council, I have worked tirelessly to identify and recommend reasonable and necessary measures to help improve the quality of life in the Edgewood community.
Schools are a reflection of the community. So then both the school and the community have a shared responsibility for the welfare and development of it’s’ students; however, the primary responsibility remains with the home. Our students, assisted by this partnership in learning, can strive for excellence and emerge with a life-long zest for learning.
My personal efforts for my own children has been to identify and provide them with every opportunity avail-able to me to help them realize their dreams and to be successful and positive contributors to our society. And as your School Board representative I will work with my colleagues, the administration and my community to identify and implement strategies that will afford every child opportunities to become successful and positive-contributors to our society.
This process starts with providing our children with a “World-Class”-Education. To provide our children with World-Class learning opportunities, working with all stakeholders, I will pursue innovative strategies to attract and retain highly qualified and dedicated teachers, and support staff.
I will work with my colleagues, the administration and my community to identify and implement strategies to foster and strengthen the relationship between schools and the community and to help find solutions to some of our most challenging issues and concerns (redistricting, overcrowding, building schools, and budget issues).
I will work with my colleagues, the administration and the community to create a more open, transparent and inviting School System. The tax payers must have confidence that their tax dollars are being spent wisely.
I believe that all students can learn in an environment where the dignity, worth and uniqueness of each student is continuously recognized. I also recognize that our children have varying learning challenges, styles and interests. So I will work with my colleagues, the administration and my community to pursue opportunities to establish and enhance vocational educational opportunities for children, whom college may not be an option.
I supported the election of school board members from the very beginning, even when my competitors, special interest groups, former and current school board members and some elected officials with whom I may share other interests opposed this concept. So I will work with my colleagues, the administration and my community to help ensure that this new concept of electing school board members is successful.
“If we always do what we have always done-we will always get what we have always gotten” Author: Unknown
PERSONAL SPIRITUAL BELIEF
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?
Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. The Book of James .