Last night, I was able to join in celebrating the fantastic fundraising of Tom Coale of HoCoRising for the homeless of Howard County. Second Chance Saloon hosted the party after the original location in Old Ellicott City was affected by the CSX train derailment.
Howard County boasts some very intelligent people engaged in the political process and inevitably, some of them were there to celebrate. I had the chance to ask Ellen Flynn Giles a few questions about her candidacy for Howard County's Board of Education.
She's an incumbent, and I initially went into the primary election with the thought that after the past few years of dealing with Allen Dyer & the very quick turnaround of the superintendent search, the incumbents in this cycle should be voted out. Before the vote, though, I had a discussion with a friend who advised that Ms. Giles was the one incumbent worth keeping.
Last night, though, I was able to confirm that friend's recommendation. I asked for more information about the fact that Howard County doesn't own their own school buses (with a couple of exceptions). Another candidate, whom I am absolutely NOT supporting for several other reasons, does advocate this. Coming from Montgomery County (although not a product of the public school system), I was generally in favor of their ownership of their school buses. My other reason had been that the Howard County system closed on the first day of school last year due to a hurricane. Montgomery was able to open the majority of their schools, which one school official indicated was because they have their own bus fleet.
Ms. Giles presented her opposition to county ownership in a reasoned way - growth of personnel costs without the more competitive bid process currently in place, the real estate problem of depots & the administrative effort that would detract from the County's maintenance of effort on a per student basis (I have a basic understanding of this).
I also expressed my concerns with the superintendent search (although I think they made the correct decision). It happened very quickly. I now understand the inclusion of a candidate from Texas, a state with below average educational success. Teachers in both Howard County & Montgomery County have told me that kids coming from Texas are about a year behind their cohorts here. I hope it works out for Baltimore County, but I'm glad we got Dr. Foose.
We constantly hear about STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics - and how America is falling behind. I get that completely. However, literature & history should not be ignored - studying the liberal arts encourages critical thinking, which is crucial to STEM! I majored in Accounting & Medieval History - two completely different disciplines, but my writing skills helped me in the Accounting field in which I worked. But I remember taking Honors Chemistry my freshman year in school and consistently getting A's in the class. My classmates thought I was crazy to take it since I wasn't majoring in Science. I didn't care. I loved chemistry! My point is that math & science are important, but don't leave out the liberal arts. Yes, I got a job in Accounting, not History, but that doesn't mean my studies are wasted.
Turns out that Ms. Giles is also a medievalist! She appreciates the need for well-rounded students. Luckily, my daughter is able to participate in some of the Gifted & Talented Curriculum Extension Units at her elementary school. Last year, she came home & said I had to sign a paper for "arch-a-lol-ligy" - the CEU's name was "Let's Dig It" & it was archaeology, but it was difficult to say. She loved the class - it was science, history & critical thinking rolled into one "outside-the-box" program. I told Ms. Giles how important those classes are & how much my daughter has loved them. She seems to agree that education should encompass more than just STEM. And given that she herself enjoys both history and science makes that campaign promise believable.
Now if I could just figure out who the other two candidates I'll be voting for are - but we've got a couple months to go!