Kathleen Causey’s priorities include educating, nurturing, and preparing our young people to fulfill their potential and to lead our neighborhoods, county, and country to a safer, more equitable, and prosperous future.
The physical, mental, emotional health and safety of our students must be the priority. Order comes before learning. This will be accomplished with a vigilant focus on the right experts “hardening the target” with secure facilities, students inside - not in relocatables, locked and monitored building access, School Resource Officers, security specialists, camera systems, training for adverse events: fire, shooters, violence, Lockdown, A.L.I.C.E., etc.
Student physical, academic, mental and emotional needs must be understood, identified and addressed with appropriate programs and engaging instruction. Need improved processes for Special Education issues identification, IEP development, adherence and access to appropriate programs and supports. All students need sufficient nutrition and exercise. Need additional teachers to reduce class size, only way to “personalize learning.” Additional staffing is needed in student support services to address rising special needs, poverty impacts, mental illnesses, bullying, suicides, etc.
Board and BCPS evaluation of discipline policies, procedures, adherence and trends should guide modifications for improvements. Positive School climate programs also need to be evaluated. Analyze impact of Federal, State and County mandates on discipline and consequences, determine if need to advocate for changes, and/or utilize ESSA for greater autonomy. More consistent effective communication of preceding plus behavior incident trends to community to raise awareness and build trust.
The Board of Ed must be proactive and diligent for proper oversight of 1.7 BILLION DOLLAR annual budget! There are clouds of ethical breaches, improper vendor interactions and non-competitive procurement over hundreds of millions of contracts. Trust of parents, employees, tax payers and elected officials (funding sources) must be restored. Kathleen called for independent audit of ethics and procurement compliance, it was approved in May 2018 and is underway.
Equitable, effective technology is beneficial for teaching and learning, however BCPS is spending too much on Dr. Dance STAT Technology initiative. $51 million dollars per year for leasing laptops for students K- 12 and staff, is just one example, with BCPS paying more than double what is recommended, with lackluster results.
All other areas of budget have been “re-aligned” to support STAT. Budget must be balanced for basic needs before unproven trends. Focus needs to shift to equitable facilities, more teachers for smaller class size, in-school student support positions, nutrition, special education, transportation, gifted, school-based budgets for principal decisions, and staffing for sufficient athletics, recess and outdoor time, etc.
Research concludes the single most important factor in student achievement is dedicated, quality teachers. Fortunately, BCPS has thousands and thousands of outstanding, caring professionals. However, BCPS has a negative trend in teacher retention relative to other districts statewide. To improve recruitment and retention, we need to empower and entrust our teachers. In order to increase salaries, planning and instruction time to be comparable statewide, Kathleen led the Board’s direction to BCPS Administration to explore options.
Additional staffing to reduce class size and workload.
Improve school climate, discipline and safety to ensure orderly classrooms.
Improve the Grading and Reporting procedures, to encourage student attendance, attention, accountability and reduce counter-productive teacher workload. Grading policy states: rigorous, consistent, fair and meaningful. Receiving a “Low Score of 50” for work below that standard is “None of The Above”, and counter-productive for teachers, students and system.
The board needs to solicit direct, anonymous, and comprehensive teacher and staff input on State and County mandates and initiatives. Understanding impacts, concerns and suggestions, the Board can reduce disruption to teacher workflow, implement best practices with teacher buy-in and improve student academic achievement. Data collection and PARCC testing should be evaluated to minimize lost instruction time and replaced by an established, non-computer test to truly show what a student knows.
Current ethics policies, rules, procedures need to be strengthened, consistently applied and employees trained – starting at the top. The independent audit should provide recommendations as well as input from Maryland Association of Boards of Education. The current process of the Ethics Review Panel and use of the financial disclosure form need to be drastically improved to provide proper oversight of Ethics Policies, Rules and Procedures.
As a member of the Board of Education (BOE) Policy Review Committee, Kathleen realized almost all policy development was Superintendent and administration directed with little BOE or community input. Many Internal Board Operation Policies and others need to be updated, the Superintendent needs to update the system’s rules and procedures to align and implement them as directed by the BOE. Then the BOE needs to monitor for adherence and effectiveness.
The newly elected BOE needs to do a proper executive search for a permanent Superintendent, with the assistance of a quality search company. A well conducted system needs evaluation and superintendent search can be a great team-building experience for a Board. Given current circumstances and need to rebuild trust throughout BCPS system, community and state; ethical violations should disqualify any candidate. The Board should work collaboratively towards broad consensus for a new superintendent, again with direct, anonymous and comprehensive input from staff and community, as well as more open town halls.
EXPERIENCE & effective service
Kathleen’s experience and institutional knowledge will be crucial, with few returning members. Kathleen knows how things work and how things don’t work. How they can break down and fail to optimally serve our students, families, and faculty. She knows the effort, knowledge, and courage it takes to serve. Kathleen also has recent graduates and a current student in BCPS, so she sees the daily, direct impact of Board and BCPS decisions.
Kathleen strives to make principled decisions for right reasons, regardless of adversity and pressure. For example, she didn’t have many allies when she voted against the 2016 re-appointment of previous superintendent or his lavish contract. She knows the content of open and closed session meetings over the past three years, during Superintendent transitions, ethics and criminal investigations, and major initiatives.
Kathleen has an understanding of the layers of government, administration and community involved in public education. She has developed positive, trusted, working relationships at all levels: students, teachers, administrators, bus drivers, student support staff, community organizations, MABE, local and state elected officials, including County Council, State Delegates and Senators, MSDE, IAC, up to the Comptroller and Governor. Additionally, Kathleen has pursued professional development specifically for highly effective Board of Education governance, oversight and leadership.
Kathleen has aggressively advocated for equitable safe, healthy, climate-controlled and modern schools to positively impact teaching and learning environments for highest student achievement. Her efforts resulted in more rapid installation of Air conditioning for thousands of students county-wide and adding Dulaney and Towson High schools as priorities for Replacement.
In a system as large as BCPS, with increasing enrollment and aging infrastructure, it is challenging to equitably set priorities for school construction and renovation. Kathleen has advocated for a best practice approach to a 10-year master plan (AACPS), that includes true collaboration between the Board of Ed, County Executive, County Council, Superintendent’s administration and the school communities.
The County and State are providing a large amount of funding, but there continue to be unmet needs. There are many needs that the County and State have to balance across all resident needs. It is vital the Board of Education assures we are using every dollar wisely and effectively, so that our funding partners can be encouraged we will properly use all funds provided.