Q & A with Stephanie Hinton, District 8 Board of Education Candidate

20160227 Stephanie Hinton Portrait

Photo © David Sachs / Studio 20Seven Photography

This is part of a series of interviews with PGCPS Board of Education candidates. Stephanie Hinton is one of three candidates from District 8 (see district map here) whose names will be on the ballot in the April 26th primary election. Ms. Hinton answered questions generated by members of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools. 

Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools does not endorse or oppose Board of Education candidates.

Tell us about your background and why you are running for the Board of Education.

I am an educator with over 20 years of experience. I currently teach 34 fifth graders in southern Prince George’s County. I am the coordinator for the STEAM Robotics after-school program, as well as, the science chairperson. I also work as a student-parent advocate, with a focus in special education. I have partnered with a local church to form an after-school tutoring program. I am an original member of the My Brother’s Keeper organization in Prince George’s County.

I decided to run for the Board of Education because of my Magnificent 34. My class had a spell of incidents occur in which I had to fight for them. At one point, it seemed as if something happened weekly. Then, there was a major issue and I had to write to Dr. Maxwell’s office to handle it. It was at that point, that someone suggested I run for the Board of Education, so that I could champion for the rest of the students in this county the way I do for my own students.

Every Prince Georgian deserves the best education this county has to offer. I want to bring that to the students of District 8, and the rest of the county as a whole.

What are your top three goals for PGCPS, and how do you plan to accomplish them if elected?

I created an 8 point path that I feel with assist with bringing equality to District 8. Although all are important, I feel that the following three should definitely be the focus for making District 8 great, along with all of Prince George’s County.

  • Reduce class sizes
  • Create a parent resource center in southern Prince George’s County
  • Institute an anonymous tip line for teachers

I believe the way to accomplish all of my points is through community action. The citizens of District 8, and the rest of the county, have to join together to ensure that our voices are heard. We have to advocate for our students, educators, and community as a whole. If parents have a student in a class of 34, they must make calls daily, and show up to meetings to discuss their displeasure. To travel up to an hour and a half to two hours for assistance is utterly ridiculous.

The southern part of the county needs resources, just like the northern and central parts of the county. We have to unite to make things happen.

Educators must be given a chance to add to the changes being made without worrying about repercussions. When I spoke out about the issues that my class was having, many of my co-workers knew about it and were unhappy with me. No one should face alienation for standing up for their students.

What experience do you have working with parents or parent organizations, and how will you increase parent engagement with the system?

As a parent, I initially joined the board of Rose Valley Elementary School’s PTO as the secretary and then was the vice president. Since joining the staff at Forest Heights, I have been the faculty representative, as well as a paying member.

One of my 8 points is town hall meetings. I decided to do this, so parents are able to voice their concerns, share their accomplishments, and stay abreast of what is happening at the Board of Education, especially affecting District 8.

Current board policy states that daily recess for elementary school students must be from 15 to 30 minutes long (See Administrative Procedure 6130). Do you support changing the policy so that children get longer recess periods? If so, how would you revise the policy?

I actually think all students should receive 30 minutes of recess. This gives the kids extra time to burn off energy, stretch muscles, and socialize with one another without being told to focus on classwork. Think about it like this, young animals enjoy playing, so do our human babies. Plus, many adults get an hour for lunch to do as they please. It gives them the chance to get moving and take a break from being cramped up at their desks. We need to do that for our kids.

Do you support adding world languages to the elementary school curriculum for all schools? If so, how would you lead this initiative?

I think this is a fantastic idea! First and foremost, it is so much easier to learn a language as a young child. I was always excited as a child at the prospect of learning Spanish, and I see that in my classroom. Many times, I speak to my Latino students in Spanish and my black students are very engaged and interested. I love the fact that now, many of them are trying to learn the language. It is also a way to appreciate someone else’s culture.

Test scores show a significant achievement gap between girls and boys in the county. What can be done to boost achievement for boys and to make schools more boy-friendly?

This is a good question. As an educator, one thing I was taught my first year in the county is that all students are vastly different and just want to learn with freedom. I had a boy in 6th grade who was smart as a whip, but just did not show his true ability. We had lunch and discussed the problem. He told me that he did not like sitting down, and he would do his work if he could stand up. I moved his desk to the back of the room, where he could sand without impeding others’ views, and he was successful. I used this example, because many times students just want to stretch or move. Allowing this freedom makes a world of difference in classes. On any given day, you can come into my classroom and it looks like a slumber party, but the students are engaged and learning. This also speaks to my point of adding essential resources to classrooms.

Boys tend to learn kinesthetically, so let’s have more hands-on activities available to all students. I know my students all love doing labs in class, so let’s ensure they have necessary materials to complete labs.

What can the school system do to reduce teacher burnout and keep morale high? How should teachers be evaluated so that we can ensure a high-performing workforce for our schools?

I think the system should implement an avenue in which educators are able to add valuable input to make changes in the system. Teachers on the frontline have great ideas, as well as concerns, that should be heard. With that said, I would like to establish an anonymous tip line to ensure teachers have a voice.

As an educator, I have concerns about the way teachers are evaluated. I believe anyone working should have some type of criteria that should be met to ensure they are doing their job well. With that said, I do not believe there is one specific tool in which to measure a teacher. There should be several tools, like classroom observations, peer evaluations and testing scores. No matter what tool is used to measure, I would like to ensure that all teachers have a fair playing ground.

Do you have any additional comments?

I am grateful for the opportunity to work for the children of this county. Every day, I get to work with 34 future astronauts, lawyers, scientists, engineers, journalists and who knows what else.

Each of these kids, along with the other 123,000 that go to school in this county, should be given every resource we have to offer. I want to make sure that they all receive that. I want to make sure that every parent is heard. I want to make sure that every teacher is supported. I want to make sure that our community schools are serving our communities to the best of their ability. I want equality for District 8, and equality for every child in this county.

Learn more about Stephanie Hinton here:

Update: We have published a new set of questions and answers in advance of the general election. You may read Ms. Hinton’s responses to that questionnaire here.

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