HoCo School Interest Forum

Can you describe your current skills, experiences, and attributes that have prepared you for decision-making for our next chapter of education during and after this COVID-19 crisis?

As I write these responses I am listening to the Virtual Town Hall being held by the Howard County Executive and broadcast to us over WebEx. Digital and Distance Learning will remain with us even once the children can return to their classrooms. As a Technical Leader for Malware Research at Cisco, maker of WebEx, I study and respond to the threats that challenge tasks carried out over the Internet. Daily, I am presented with complex opaque problems that must be torn down to the very smallest details to identify patterns and allow me to deduce the big picture. I coordinate with numerous geographically dispersed teams to enable a web of cybersecurity products that handle millions of malicious events and attacks a day.

I have tutored through college, developed from scratch education courses for DHS, and mentored junior professionals into software analysis. Education was the key to my success, and I have worked to pass it along and boost others as well. Serving for HCPSS will be a continuation of the path that brought me to Howard County.

My proven approach to addressing problem solving, professionally, is rapid iterative prototyping. I find solutions and then use data and metrics to improve them. This approach to demonstrable progress toward success will be crucial in the lean budgetary and pedagogical times that will follow this crisis.

Our HCPSS students will be expected to survive and thrive in a world driven by technology and connection even more than their daily education is today. My skills, experiences, and education position me as the ideal candidate to address the challenges that will be posed by our future of technology. My leadership will demand a technologically literate student body and my support for the needs of all our students will never be “regrettable.”

On your website on the post announcing your candidacy you wrote, “I have been asked to serve on the Howard County Board of Education, so as of today I am filed as a candidate.” Who asked you to run for board of education and can you expound on any of your own reasons for running for board of education?

I have made it a priority to build a network that values promoting inclusivity, diversity, and respect in Howard County and Maryland. These friends contacted me in late 2019 about the lack of such priorities in the expected pool of Board of Education candidates. My spouse heard about the suggestion and summarized it to me as “You can’t not run.”

It appeared that if I didn’t run then I would be leaving my three children’s schooling to be directed by a Board Member with a history of verbal and written behavior which is intimidating, ridiculing, demeaning, and threatening to the staff. My wonderful daughter, as proud of being part of the LGBTQ+ community as anyone I’ve ever met, would continue to be in her school system whose leadership was sued for their homophobia. I desire a school system that values the same inclusivity, diversity, and respect that I do.

I am running to ensure that her school values her and values all of her friends. We are made stronger by having, and accepting, members of all racial, religious, ethnic groups as well as diversity of gender and sexual orientation. And so I run.

Please explain social media posts attributed to you that because a child was wearing a camo hat with an American flag you assumed that this child was a racist.

Picture it, West Friendship. August 2019. 92 degrees. Sweating in line for the Ferris Wheel.

I enjoy the fair, it feels like home for me. County fairs, camo clothes, and civic engagement… These phrases really make up a huge part of growing up. Every summer on the way to my Eagle Scout my troop was up before dawn to pull and replace trash bags at our local fair. As did my older brother on the way to his Eagle Scout, and my kid brother on the way to his too. Three Eagles growing up in rural Ohio, destined for service. One is a wounded Army combat medic, I joined the NSA, and my little brother: Fire and Rescue captain.

Three brothers committed to service

Long before a hot evening of standing under the Ferris Wheel, camo was associated with family and with the half empty classrooms on the first day of deer gun season. A decade ago, when the Department of Defense was moving me onto Fort Meade, camo was associated with one brother serving in the US Army and with the country clothes on my kid brother. Camo and the flag, right there on the MPs that greeted me every day when I drove back to my home.

These were my nostalgic memories as I looked out across the line in front of me. Right there at my eye level was a cap that wouldn’t have looked out of place at one of my own sporting events, at the evening races at my old fairgrounds, or even on the head of one of my brothers. Camo and the American flag, a classic pairing.

Camo and the flag

Sadly, it didn’t spark those nostalgic memories because it reminded me of a recent symbol I had seen. It reminded me of the re-election goods being sold to fund the Trump campaign. All of the positive associations of my past were tarnished in that moment as those colors of my childhood instead reminded me of airports full of protesters trying to protect their Muslim neighbors and friends. Those colors reminded me of my own Latinx countrymen being vilified from the President of the United States. That hat suggested to me that the wearer was okay with law enforcement being cheered on to commit acts of brutality against persons in custody. Those reminders, those suggestions saddened me. I know those colors do not actually represent that.

Then the wearer turned. I saw the front of the hat and learned that it was exactly the hat of which I was reminded. My sadness turned to frustration. Standing there, sweating in the 90’s, I was saddened and frustrated. And I shared that frustration with the people I could, all you folks out here. Had he graduated? Was he 29 like my kid brother? I don’t know, but I shouldn’t have been so ambiguous. I felt “kid” was a safe neutral way to refer to someone younger than me.

I have written at length about the intolerance and hate spread by the Trump campaign and presidency. Racism, hatred, and xenophobia have been the foundation of both since the very first speech. Material support given so that movement will continue funds racism, hatred, and xenophobia. The colors of my childhood shouldn’t imply that.

What will you do to balance capacity utilization, so that the schools attended by students from the 1st district are no more overcrowded than any other Howard County schools?

That is a great question. Based on the May 2020 APFO School Capacity projections, District 1 residents will attend just one of six high schools that are not at 114% capacity or more. District 1 students will attend just one of nine middle schools that are not at 102% capacity or more. To cap it off, District 1 will send elementary students to just three of fifteen schools that are not at 100.2% capacity or more.

Those projections are for the 2023 school year, which will be the same year that high school 13 opens. Since that attendance area has yet to be set, I will be on the board that determines the map. One priority I will have in assessing attendance models will be how is Elkridge impacted. Recent schools opened supporting Elkridge, Ducketts Lane Elementary and Thomas Viaduct Middle School, have already been projected for 106.2% and 119.4% respectively. This unsustainable pattern would have Elkridge parents sending their high schoolers to a building in Jessup that will be overcapacity by 2030. This is not okay.

I will work with the Council member from District 1 to coordinate the School System and Council priorities to protect our students. We should have algorithmic models that drive our attendance areas and support predictive modeling that zoning decision makers can use check impacts. This would allow regular rebalancing to guarantee the Centennial-Howard-Long Reach situation doesn’t return. Regular reviews will let us ensure students always finish at the school they started instead of having mid-attendance changes like our current crisis required.

Redistricting and careful zoning doesn’t solve our problems in the future though because we are out of seats, period. I recognize that the next Board will need to work on securing funding and land for additional schools. High school 13 is too far south to provide the support that District 1 requires, maybe we can locate the next within the district. 

As a parent I have experienced the whole gambit discussed here. Ducketts Lane cut pre-K services just as my daughter was starting her third year there, leaving my son to rely on Recreation & Parks. Once we moved it was into the overdue renovation of Dunloggin, a renovation that is looking unlikely to occur any time soon. District 1 needs a champion that has experienced the schools in Elkridge as well as Ellicott City.