This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2018 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Irene Holtzman is a candidate from District 3 (see district map here) running in the June 26 primary election. Ms. Holtzman 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 any candidate for the Board of Education.
Tell us about your background and your plans to move our school system forward. Why do you want to be on the Board of Education?
I was born in raised in Maryland, and have lived in Prince George’s County for over two decades. A proud graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, I’ve been working in public education for nearly twenty years – as a teacher, an administrator and an educational advocate. Prince George’s County schools are full of potential but the dynamics of power and politics are interfering with our ability to see that potential realized.
I am running for Board of Education because students, teachers, and parents deserve a board member who puts children at the center of their decision making.
What would be your top three priorities while serving on the board, if elected?
- Making Prince George’s County a world-class place to teach While there are a number of factors that contribute to student success, not one is more powerful than an excellent educator. How can we make Prince George’s County THE destination for amazing teachers in our region? We must make sure that compensation for teachers is competitive, that they have the resources they need in the classroom, and that their voice is heard, considered, and acted upon in their schools.
- Centering community voices in decision making Our school system’s direction must be informed by those closest to it – our students, parents, and teachers. The lines of communication must be open and accessible to all. Instituting better structures and processes to ensure that these voices are elevated will lead to a school system that is better equipped to ensure students are successful.
- Transparency and accountability Data regarding schools, school performance, finance, and anything else under the Board’s authority should be readily available in a format that is understandable by the general public. Only then will the community be able to independently assess the impact of their tax dollars on our County’s youth and hold the Board and leadership accountable.
What qualities do you believe are most important in a Chief Executive Officer?
The CEO must have a bold vision for the future of our County’s schools and a strategy for achieving that vision. This vision must be informed by the on-the-ground experiences of our students, parents, teachers, and administrators and the CEO must commit to transparent decision-making and data-informed course correction when necessary. The CEO must also have the practical skills of managing people, finances, and other resources to achieve the goals set out in the strategic plan. Most importantly, the CEO must have the ability to work across difference, balancing politics, pragmatics, and possibility across a wide range of stakeholders for the good of our students.
If you had the opportunity to chair one of the existing Board of Education committees, which would you choose and why?
If given the opportunity to chair one of the existing Board of Education committees, I would choose the Academic Achievement Committee. One, as a former teacher and administrator, it is the one where I have the most expertise. More importantly, academic achievement is the ultimate goal of our schools and the place where the board has an incredible responsibility to ensure that its policies are supporting schools in ensuring amazing outcomes for all students.
What are your impressions of the current level of parent engagement in our schools, and what ideas do you have for improving/encouraging parent and community engagement?
While there are many schools that enjoy high levels of parental engagement, we need to be mindful that our goal is for all parents to be engaged, not only in their child’s school, but in the vision setting and policy making for the County as a whole. Some ways to maximize that engagement include providing schools additional resources to engage their parents, holding board meetings at rotating locations throughout the County to facilitate parental participation, holding parent and community town hall meetings to allow an open forum for idea generation and exchange, and proactively surveying the community about what engagement opportunities are most meaningful and accessible to them.