Melissa Ann Williams - BOE Candidates Q&A

October 20, 2012

Date of birth: May 19, 1950

Address: 11 W. Water St., Smithsburg

Education: B.A. in elementary education, Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, W.Va.; M.A. in reading, Hood College, Frederick, Md.; post-graduate studies in curriculum and instruction and reading, University of Maryland

Occupation: Retired educator; educational consultant

Party affiliation: Republican

Political experience: First run for political office

Q: What more should WCPS do to prevent bullying, including cyberbullying?
WCPS needs to keep accurate data on the incidences of all types of bullying, then review policies currently in place and revise them, if needed, based on an analysis of the data. Policies and curriculum regarding cyberbullying, in particular, need to be reviewed and updated to keep up with the expanding use of social media in the classroom.

Q: Is there a specific area in which WCPS needs to improve student outcomes? If so, identify the area and suggest a course of action.
Student outcomes in reading, math, and science need to be improved. This can be achieved by providing the necessary academic and non-academic resources and the classroom environments required for learning to occur. The significant and persistent achievement gap must be addressed.
Our most fragile students, those with special needs, those whose primary language is not English, and those who are living in poverty are not achieving at the rate nor proficiency levels they should and could be. Our system needs to make providing the resources needed to meet the academic and non-academic needs of these students a top priority.

Q: What can the school system do to improve literacy among elementary school students?
WCPS needs to: start efforts sooner by providing more early childhood programs; ensure the English Language Arts curriculum is understood and implemented effectively by all classroom teachers in all schools; provide reading specialists and intervention teachers trained and capable of assisting our most vulnerable students; engage parents and teach them how to support their children as they learn to read; provide additional non-academic resources to mitigate the effects of poverty in Title I schools.
Simply giving books to children is not the solution, nor is spending $500,000 on a summer school program attended by one-third of the targeted students. 

Q: In light of the increasing costs for school construction and advances in technology, do you want the school system to change direction in how the curriculum is delivered and how so?
The direction of curriculum delivery is already being changed by technology in today’s classrooms. However, we cannot realize technology’s full potential with the out-of-date and unreliable hardware currently in place. We must work to improve our technology, and that will cost money. Using distance learning and on-line courses in place of live teachers in front of our students in real time is not an option to save money or increase achievement. No form of technology can replace a teacher who can inspire, encourage, and guide a student’s learning. Technology and curriculum delivery are not areas for easy cost savings.

Q: What is one measure you would advocate to improve college readiness of graduates?
College readiness can be improved by effective daily instruction of a rigorous curriculum with high expectations and students motivated to learn. As a way to motivate students, I support a tuition assistance program like the one recently proposed by the Greater Hagerstown Committee Education Forum. By linking eligibility for the program to high school grade point average, course completion and passage of college placement tests, students may find the extra motivation they need. This valuable incentive would place a new level of responsibility for learning squarely on the shoulders of students.

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