Only two candidates are running for the Harford County Board of Education in District A (Edgewood, Abingdon, Joppatowne, Magnolia), so the two will skip the June primary election and appear on the ballot in November, according to Harford County Election Director Kevin Keene. Nonetheless, both candidates accepted The Dagger’s invitation to answer the same three questions posed to the primary candidates in other districts. See the answers published below from District A candidates Fred A. Mullis and Jansen Robinson.
Because this also concludes The Dagger’s first round of questions for school board candidates, here are a few reminders about school board elections:
The elections are in-district, meaning that voters in each council district will vote for their representative on the school board. Be aware that redistricting may have changed your district. To find your current district, go here.
The elections are also non-partisan, so voters do not have to be affiliated with a political party to vote in the primary for school board. However, you must be registered to vote. The voter registration deadline for the primary election is Tuesday June 3, at 9 p.m.
Early voting for all offices in the primary election runs from June 12 – 19. Primary Election Day is Tuesday, June 24. Go here for more election information, including absentee ballots.
The two school board candidates in each district who get the most votes in their primaries will proceed to the November election. In the lead up to November, The Dagger will have more questions for the remaining two school board candidates in each district. Until then, feel free to send us your suggestions, either in the comment section below or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
For voters in District A, please consider the following Q & A as an introduction to your candidates for November.
Dagger: School board members often make decisions in areas where they may not have expertise, such as curriculum, facilities or the budget. Briefly describe the experience/skills you would bring to the school board and how you make decisions in areas outside your expertise.
Mullis: As a person that has Executive Management background, I have been involved in running multi-million dollar corporations. The school board is no different except the return on investment is our youth of today and their ability to grow in to the leadership positions of the future. As for curriculum, we need to look at the areas of Vocational Occupation as well as College Preparatory. We are not helping those who do not want to go to college but would rather get into vocation. HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical Etc.) Budgets, as MBA, Business Owner and Executive Manager; I deal with multi-million dollar budgets everyday. As someone who has built retail operations; I have worked with contractors and building of location from 20,000 to 1,000,000 Sq.Ft.
Robinson: I have lived in Harford County since 1991 and in Edgewood since 1995. I am married to my wife of 39 years, Bertha and we have three grown children, all of whom were educated in the Harford County Public School System.
I am a Viet-Nam-Era Veteran, and an accomplished Criminal Justice professional with extensive experience in both the public and private sectors. I possess a Master’s Degree in Public Administration; a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice; and an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice.
I have also earned numerous professional certifications, to include the Board Certified “C.P.P.”, designation, and am a member of several professional and civic organizations; and I have authored School Security Articles for trade magazines.
For the past three decades I have demonstrated my ability to make sound, ethical and fiscally responsible decisions; to identify and undertake reasonable, and necessary measures to serve the greatest number of people while protecting the image of the organizations for which I have worked.
I have also served in a number of senior level positions to include but not limited to k-12 and post secondary educational institutions. In these positions, I was directly responsible for managing appropriated funds in the tens of millions of dollars and for making tough budget decisions even-though some seemed unpopular at the time.
Currently, I work for the Dept of the Army’s Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center (ECBC) located on the Aberdeen Proving Grounds.
In addition, for the past eight years I have served my community as Chair of the Edgewood Community Council. In this position, I have demonstrated my ability to work with appointed and elected leaders, community-based groups and faith-based organizations to achieve results on behalf of my community. And I believe that the BOE would benefit from my vast and varied work experience and community involvement.
I have served my county and ask for your support to continue serving my community as your representative on the Harford County Board of Education.
Dagger: Please cite a previous decision by the Harford County Board of Education with which you either strongly agree or disagree, and why.
Mullis: The largest part of the Harford County School System is the payroll, I believe we need to pay our teachers a competitive wage so we attract professional teachers not baby sitters; therefore we need to look at positions that are duplications, non-essential or where we have two or more Vice-Principals.
Robinson: Because Harford County BOE members serve on a part-time basis, they almost exclusively rely on the school systems’ professional staff to provide them with the data that they use to help them make decisions.
For that reason the decision by the board to decline the county executive’s offer to have his staff work with the BOE’s staff to identify potential savings in their almost half billion dollar budget (that could have averted the Pay to Play and Modified Transportation policy decisions) is one decision with which I most strongly disagree.
Because the BOE did not have to agree with the recommendations of the county executive’s staff, but they would at the very least have additional data with which to use to challenge the data provided by the school system’s professional staff.
And then the Pay-to-Play policy was made even worse. The Board amended their initial policy change, to exempt children of school system employees (teachers and professional staff) who were most able to afford to pay the fee, but omitted the children of the people least likely to be able to pay (support staff). So the number of participants that they initially used to calculate savings was automatically reduced when they amended the initial policy change.
Modified Transportation Policy: This policy put children in harm’s way. The BOE failed to take into account the dangers (sex-offenders/pedophiles, unsafe walking conditions, scheduling issues and etc) posed to children affected by this policy. But to make matters worse, even when these issues were raised by parents, the BOE failed to take corrective action. You NEVER knowingly put any child in “Harms Way”.
Dagger: Maryland school boards are charged with certain responsibilities. Among them are: Hiring the superintendent, setting capital and operating budget priorities, determining school attendance boundaries, and formulating school policies. Looking ahead, what issues within the board’s purview are of specific interest or concern to you and why? Please cite two issues.
Mullis: The area we need the most work at the present is hiring of the superintendent and setting the budget. The budget need to be looked at from a Zero-base Budgeting process. We must operate the school system as a multilevel and multi-billion business. This is how we will give our youth and young adults the start they need to make a stronger future for themselves.
Robinson: 1. Budget: Working with stakeholders (parents, teachers, county leaders, taxpayer and the private sector) to help identify creative funding strategies to support our schools and our communities. For example; exploring the use of a hotel tax to support education; and exploring other opportunities (River Boat Gambling) that could bring additional revenue into the county to help fund priorities such as education & public safety. Raising Taxes/Fees of Any Kind Should Be The Last Resort.
But in addition to seeking an increase in school funding (whether warranted or not), the BOE should must demonstrate to the stakeholders that they are good stewards of the taxpayer’s investment in the school system. The board must engage all stakeholders in a frank discussion about options available (such as closing under-utilized schools) to conserve their financial investments while still providing World-Class Education opportunities to all Harford County children.
2. Closing the achievement gap between HCPS and the seven (7) schools that are ahead of us. Doing so should also result in closing the achievement gap between minority and non-minority students in Harford County. Expanding Vocational/Apprenticeship opportunities offered by HCPS is an important component in this effort, because not all children will go to college.
3. Rebuild trust/relationship with stakeholders (parents, teachers, elected officials, taxpayers and the private sector) by identifying more opportunities for engagement and inclusion at the decision-making table; identifying and formalizing a strategy to be more responsive to issues and concerns raised by parents.