I am honored to be the first candidate to file in the first election for a seat on the Anne Arundel County Board of Education. My name is Melissa Ellis, and I hope to represent the citizens of Council District 4 on our school board. The recent focus on testing in an attempt make our schools more competitive in the world arena has caused our schools to get off track in developing the minds and characters of our children. After years of growing the administration, it is time to bring our resources back into the classroom, putting education back into the hands of those who know best what our children need day to day – our teachers.
I received a BA in Psychology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 1993. While at UMBC, the focus of my studies was in early childhood development and education. I assisted on two large studies on mother-infant attachment and presented my own research to the American Psychological Association as a part of one of those studies. Right out of college, I took a position in retail management when I was invited into the management program for Giant Foods, Inc. As a functioning member of the management team, I was responsible for store accounting, employee management, and overall store management.
In 1995, I moved to Oxnard, CA with my husband, Chuck Ellis, and began working as a flight coordinator for a jet charter company in Van Nuys. At Petersen Aviation, I was responsible for sales to high-profile clients for worldwide charter services, scheduling maintenance for the aircraft, and meeting the many detailed needs of clients. I was also instrumental in the purchase and implementation of new flight scheduling software. In 1997, I began working as a logistician for a government contractor, working on-site at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Port Hueneme, gaining experience in the processes involved in government contracting and material acquisition.
In 1998, we decided to return to Anne Arundel County, Maryland to start a family. After spending a year working with kids at a large equestrian facility, teaching riding, marketing, and helping to develop the lesson program, I took on the position of Human Resources Generalist for a startup healthcare company, Americaid Maryland. I established the human resources department, overseeing growth from approximately 20 employees to over 60. As an HR generalist, I managed the recruitment, hiring, and training of new employees, benefits administration, employee relations, management counseling, and dispute resolution. During my time at Americaid, I managed a market analysis of employee compensation to ensure salaries remained equitable and competitive as the rapidly growing company was challenged with hiring nurses as Maryland experienced a nursing shortage. I managed employee relations issues and disputes with a sensitivity to and compassion for racial diversity, gender equality, and religious observances in a highly diverse work environment.
Our oldest daughter was born in the year 2000. Together, Chuck and I made the decision that I would leave my position in human resources management and focus on raising our family. By 2006, we welcomed our fourth child. While our oldest children were in public elementary school, I volunteered in the classroom serving as “room mom” for our children’s classes, chaperoned field trips, and assisted in PTA-sponsored activities. While we were very happy with the teachers and family involvement at the school, we became frustrated with the administration and policies in our public schools.
In January of 2009, I began homeschooling our four children. I found that focusing on the developmental stages of each child and channeling their innate drive to learn, largely following the Montessori Method of capturing children’s readiness to learn specific skills, made for a naturally harmonious classroom environment. I was able to teach many subjects to our children as a group, allowing each child to take from the lessons what was developmentally appropriate for him or her. The focus was on learning rather than performance. This method was devoid of any competition or comparisons, and the children were thus able to learn from each other, as well as from the teacher and source materials. This method worked well for larger groups as well; I taught classes when we were part of the Creative Friends Homeschool Co-op.
As they moved into the middle school years, our students’ work became much more independent, while many subjects were still covered in a group discussion format. Our two oldest children have successfully transitioned into a magnet high school in Anne Arundel County, both maintaining well above a 4.0 GPA while engaging in numerous extracurricular activities, taking on leadership roles, thriving socially, and becoming gainfully employed. Our oldest daughter will be graduating in 2018.
I strongly believe that the independence of thought and opportunity to develop their own interests fostered in a low-stress environment contributed greatly to the success our children are now enjoying in high school. However, our kids are increasingly feeling stressed by many of the conditions of their classroom experience as their school has encountered significant teacher turnover. Additionally, they are tested on material they have never been taught; their days begin well before what is recommended by many medical experts; and they have been subjected to multiple incidents as a result of an outdated, inefficient transportation system.
Currently, I am the president of the boosters club for our children’s high school drama company, and I chair two committees with a local community theater in which our whole family is involved. Working closely with teachers and other families, I am aware that many who are part of our public school system have the same desire for schools that are safe, healthy, and nurturing environments in which our kids can develop. I have a vision for how education should be for all children of Anne Arundel County.
I continue to study best practices in education and parenting and believe that it is time for public schooling to leap into the present, founded on research in the behavioral sciences. Every child deserves a developmentally appropriate education that takes into account that every child develops differently and that a child’s physical and emotional needs must be met before he or she is ready to learn. When our teachers are supported, they will be better able to help children meet these needs. Our schools need to work with their communities, and our administration needs to work with our county council to ensure our students have what they need to thrive. With this shift in focus, today’s children will be tomorrow’s innovators, artists, entrepreneurs, and leaders.
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