Brad Young is an incumbent candidate on the Frederick County Board of Education seeking a third term. The primary is June 26.
What is your vision for Frederick County Public Schools over the next four years?
My vision for Frederick County Public Schools is to continue doing the great things that we are doing while always working to improve. We are very blessed with a great school system, but greatness only stays at greatness through fixing what isn’t working and reinforcing what is working. Our system’s needs have been stretched through limited budgets and ever-increasing needs. We need to make sure that all students are getting the resources that they need to succeed. We know we have gaps and will work to eliminate them. I would also like to see more opportunities for our students through career programs at our Career and Technology Center. We have many great programs there and have more need than ever. We need to find ways of expanding those opportunities to even more students!
Do you think Frederick County Public Schools have effectively used resources to keep schools safe? What do you think needs to happen to make schools more safe?
I believe that FCPS has worked effectively to keep our schools safe. A number of things have been done, which include building secured entrances into each school. Every school should be complete by next year. We have also increased the training done with staff and students in regard to what they should do when an event occurs. We are using the Avoid, Deny, and Defend strategy. This has been given to staff and students to prepare them. We have also held public meetings throughout the community to inform parents what their children are being told to do. We work very closely with local law enforcement agencies, including our Sheriff’s department, as they have a School Resource Officer in each high school feeder pattern. Having these SRO’s has been an extremely effective way of getting students to trust and work with law enforcement. I also believe that mental health plays a big part in school safety. I have worked hard to increase the number of psychologists and social workers in our schools. We need to continue to increase mental health resources. In the end, school safety is a community problem that we have to solve together!
Do you think FCPS is effective in curbing bullying in schools, and reacts to instances of bullying in an effective manner? Why or why not?
I know that curbing bullying in school is a very serious issue in FCPS and every other school system. We need to treat every incident seriously and take appropriate action. Today’s world is very different from just 10 years ago. Social media and the internet have changed everything. This is not an FCPS problem; it is a community problem. FCPS cannot fix this one alone; we need help from parents, the community and law enforcement. There are many programs that are being offered to our students to deal with bullying and why it happens and how to identify and stop it. We need everyone to help in that effort, as kids learn from the actions of their parents and other adults. We all need to be good examples to them – and when we are not, to own it and fix it! I take it very seriously!
FCPS still has some inequities with certain student groups being suspended at disproportionate rates. Do you see this as an issue, and what could be done to keep student groups from being suspended more often than others? Why or why not?
I trust our teachers and administrators to make the right decisions. I personally think we are trying too hard to not discipline some kids at the expense of many more. Kids screw up just like adults, and there have to be consequences. The premise behind not suspending students is that you are putting them at home, where they can get in more trouble, instead pf at school, where they need to be. If they are here in school but suspended, we have to have additional resources to be able to handle them while they are here. I also believe we need many more community partnerships to work with the children who are getting in trouble and show them there are people who care about them – and that they can choose a different path. I’m proud to have worked to help bring a partnership with FCPS and the Boys & Girls Club to our school system.
Frederick’s land terrain has presented challenges and increased costs in school construction, what could the Board of Education do to ensure that sites identified as future schools would be less costly to build on?
When FCPS needs new properties for future school sites, there are two ways that we can get them. We can purchase them, or they can be given to us by developers. The first is obviously easier but more expensive. When we purchase a site, we would make sure that it met our building standards is possible. There are parts of the county where there are not many parcels of land left that would meet our criteria. The second situation, where developers provide the land, is not controlled by us. The county and municipalities though their zoning processes require developers to proffer land for schools, parks, and roads. We have worked and are continuing to work with them to set standards for properties that we want to accept. These standards would include size, topography and location. By selecting properties that meet these specifications, we will reduce not only construction costs, but long-term maintenance costs and transportation costs.
Do you feel like FCPS is adequately prepared to address overcrowding and provide a seat to every student in the county? If not, what needs to be done to ensure that it is?
FCPS has done everything that it can to prepare for new students as they arrive. That being said, we do not control growth in the county, and thus we have areas where schools are overcrowded. As a board, we have advocated to the county and the city to not continue to allow growth in areas where we are already overcrowded. We are currently building two new elementary schools in Frederick and Urbana. Both of these schools are to relieve schools that have over 150% of their rated capacity. Even when they open, the schools in those areas will already be full, with more growth to come! Our board and the community need to let our elected officials who control these decisions know that this is not acceptable. We need to enforce adequate public facility ordinances and make sure we are prepared before the overcrowding occurs. Redistricting will also have to be explored to maximize seat usage throughout the county.
Is a countywide redistricting needed to combat the overcrowding in schools in specific parts of the county. Why or why not?
I do believe that we are going to need countywide school redistricting in the near future. We currently have excess capacity, particularly in the northern part of the county. The majority of new growth (and thus new students) is coming in isolated parts of the county, which include the Urbana/Monrovia area, the west end of Frederick city, and soon on the north end of Frederick city. As these additional students enter our school system, it is going to be tough to keep up with the new seats required. Therefore, redistricting will be an unpopular but necessary option.
Is the PARCC, or any other standardized test, an effective measure of achievement or growth in schools? Why or why not?
Personally, I do not believe that it is the best assessment. I believe in letting our teachers teach, and they best know how to reach each child. We spend way too much time and money on these assessments. That being said, they are required to be administered as our funding authorities require them. We need to continue to advocate at the national and state level to cut back these tests!
The current BOE committed to increasing teacher salaries through a four-year scale, and has received funding support from the county. Are you committed to continuing to implement that scale, and is Frederick County currently paying its teachers what it should be in relation to the rest of the state?
Absolutely 100%! I was very involved with the development and implementation of this new salary schedule. It is critical that we finish the transition and get back on a regular step process. We have to be competitive in our compensation, not only to attract great new teachers but to retain those great teachers that we already have. We need to be in the top quartile of school systems in the state for what we pay. The cost of living and average median income in Frederick County are in that range, and our teachers’ pay should be so as well!
What, if anything, should FCPS and the BOE do to address the teacher shortage, in particular among minority teachers?
The first thing we have to do is make sure that our compensation and benefit package is competitive! Our county slipped to the bottom of the state in starting teacher pay. We have worked to move FCPS back up into the upper third of school districts in the state for starting pay. We also offer an outstanding benefit package. One of the problems that we face, though, is that not enough young people are going into teaching. Maryland schools do not graduate enough teachers for Maryland’s needs. We have to recruit outside MD to get teachers. We have been discussing the implementation of a teacher’s apprenticeship program to help develop some of our teachers internally. Hiring minority teachers is also a problem for most school systems. We have the same issue of not graduating enough minority teachers for all the systems that want to hire them. We have to encourage young minorities to consider teaching as a profession.
Do you think FCPS has adequately provided funding for its charter schools, and holding them accountable to the charters they signed?
I will first state that I am a big supporter of public charter schools. Frederick County was the first county in the state to have a public charter school; we now have three. I believe that we are providing appropriate funding for each school’s operational needs. I do think that the state should make changes to the charter school laws that would make it easier for the schools to get capital funding for their facility needs. Currently, the rules force them to sign shorter leases and thus pay higher rents. Since the cost of the rent is deducted from their funding, it lessens what they have for educational purposes. As far as accountability, we are holding the charter schools accountable to meet the same standards as every other school in Frederick County. We have also allowed some amendments to the original charters signed to accommodate circumstances out of their control.
Parents over the last year have raised concerns over the IEP process and the services students with disabilities have received. Does FCPS need to improve its special education practices or programs? If so, how?
FCPS does a lot of great things with special education. Special education, however, is a very large area, and there are parts that need improvement. I hear many great success stories every day. I cannot say enough great things about our staff and programs at Rock Creek School and our Success program. Both of these programs serve some of our most vulnerable students, and they do an outstanding job and do it with compassion! That being said, the board has seen this year that we need to improve how we have been handling Dyslexia as a school system. The board has made this a priority and allocated funds in the upcoming budget to start to address it. We also have to look at the number of out-placements that we have and how effective our in-house programs like pyramid are doing for our students. We are putting together a group of community members, including those who are using special education services, to evaluate what is working and what needs improvement. I have great confidence that this will lead to more improvement.