Board of Ed Candidates on Defunding Transportation Positions

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 APat Staff Note: Anne Arundel County Council voted down the School Board measure to transfer $745,100 of the Transportation Administrative department to support a stronger Mental Health program in a hearing Monday, July 6th.

In Anne Arundel County, voters in Council districts 2, 3 and 6 will have many important choices to make on Election Day. Among these choices will be new races, for seats on the County Board of Education, as it transitions from an appointed to an elected body.

In an effort to help voters know their candidates and how they stand on the issues, the Arundel Patriot has graciously allowed space for periodic columns about the Board of Education candidates, and where they stand on issues or recent policy decisions.

I recently sent emails or other electronic communications June 24th to the following candidates, which included this text:

“The intent of this is to provide candidates an opportunity to reply, as to how they would have voted on particularly difficult issues, or on thorny social matters, so that we voters can better get to know them.
To that end, I’m sure you’re aware of the recent Board of Education debate and vote, which led to removing seven transportation positions to fund mental health and climate education positions.

My questions are:
How would you have approached the matter?

How, ultimately, would you have voted, and why?


In the interest of space, I’ve summarized the candidates’ replies below, to hopefully convey their positions sufficiently.



District 2


Robert Silkworth:
“How would I have approached the matter? First of all, I would have known in advance that it was coming and I would have researched the impact that it would have both on the transportation side and the mental health side. I do understand that there is also a mental health component to the transportation issue. There must be EQUITY in regards to transportation. NO student or family should be stressed or negatively impacted based upon where they live. In my example about students crossing Ritchie  Highway twice a day because they live on the east side but they still live within a certain distance of the school which disqualifies them for riding the bus, better decisions must be made to guarantee safety and equity. I am willing to make those decisions.
          It is difficult to say at this time how I might have voted because I do not have all of the facts. I believe that since I am running for the kids, I very well might have voted in favor of the amendment due to what I know about the great concerns we have for students in crisis because of mental health issues. I might have also voted to find a better source for the revenue.”
 


Raleigh Turnage Jr: No reply.

District 3


Ken Baughman:
How would you have approached the matter?

“Our students’ well-being relies not only on access to physical health, but also mental health resources. There is a high demand for mental health services to provide a consistent resource for students to manage challenging situations — bullying, moving grades, social dynamics. The recent pandemic has globally accelerated the need for mental health professionals. These trained counselors can provide the level and quality of care to each student.
Unfortunately, the transportation initiative is also underfunded. We have the responsibility to safely and reliably get our students to school, and we should ensure that students have equal access to education without significant obstacles, regardless of where they live.

These priorities are equally important. I would have asked the board to determine other sources of funding for mental health positions.”

How, ultimately, would you have voted, and why?

“I strongly believe we need additional mental health services in our school system, but I also see the need for reliable, timely transportation for all students. The transportation cuts were majorly administrative, and I would have voted to seek funding from elsewhere in the budget. If forced to vote without any other viable funding options, and based on our current health crisis, I would have likely voted in favor of the mental health positions as proposed.”


Corine Frank: No response.



District 6:


India L. Ochs: No Response.
Update, 07/08/20: “It’s beyond outrageous to put transportation needs against mental health, just as it was an insult to the public to introduce such an amendment with no opportunity for public input.  Yes, the mental health staff would have supported a few thousand kids, but implementing an equitable, safe, reliable transportation system will impact all 85000+ students given the fact all our kids feel the mental, emotional, and physical consequences their peers face on a daily basis who walk to school or ride the bus in the current haphazard transportation climate.


Joanna Bache Tobin:
Ms. Tobin referred me to a letter to the editor she submitted to the Capital Gazette.
I believe the following quote summarizes her position:

“School leadership still fails to recognize that providing reliable, safe, and properly managed transportation is essential to educating all children and closing all gaps. Holding the superintendent and his staff accountable for competent management of the transportation department is critical for meeting the physical and mental health needs of students. I implore the school board to do so.”
-Capital Gazette Letters, Jun 24, 2020

We at The Arundel Patriot recognize this developing issue is continuing to change on a daily basis. APat would like to open our site to further statements from Board of Education Members, County Officials, and their constituents alike. Please email your contributions to editor@arundelpatriot.org or comment on our Related

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