Both the Democratic and Republican party conventions are now over. While the nation is in crisis, so is our education system. What can we do?
2 September 2020
The new school year has started and I hope those of you who are teachers or have students in MCPS are adjusting to the enormous challenges you face. I wish you patience with your students, with your teachers, your families, but also with yourself. We are often our own worst critics and cutting yourself some slack right now is as important as getting everything right.
On the political front, both the Democratic and Republican conventions are now over and we are in full election season. November cannot come fast enough for many of us. Our nation is in crisis and so is our education system. In Montgomery County, our public schools face the daunting task of recovering from the pandemic and school closure as we deal with budget cuts, unequal access, and the failure to reimagine a new future. While campaigning at the county's many farmer's markets and on zoom, I have offered proposals for improving distance learning and spoken about planning now if we want to open school buildings down the road. Read more on reopening in this oped I wrote in Maryland Matters.
To make distance learning really work we had to have teachers on board, trained, and ready to go early on, but instead we have a looming labor dispute at hand. Because of delayed decisions, students, teachers, and families are scrambling to figure out the complexities of virtual learning even as the school year has begun. We can fix this even now, but we need clear understanding of what online education is and what it is not.
Meanwhile, Governor Hogan has decided to bear down on school districts to reopen school buildings earlier than planned. Not only has he not offered the resources necessary to do this, but he is adding to the stress and anxiety of students, families, and teachers. To be able to reopen schools when the time comes, we need to know which families and teachers are willing to go back and under what conditions. Instead of running questionable surveys, we need a count--a census--now.
Going beyond Covid-19-related concerns, we have to reimagine what equity looks like in MCPS. Toward that end, I have proposed a school boundary plan which could help win back families critical of the process and enable rebalancing of resources in line with the changing population and demography.
I hope you have had the opportunity to listen to the New York Times podcast, Nice White Parents. Could Episode 2 be talking about Montgomery County?
We know what we must do. We have to provide equal access. For that we need anti-racism training, but also to diversify staff, and diversified staff need to see diversified curriculum. Walking back this thread leads us to how we allocate resources. If we cannot rebalance allocations over time, any progress we make with teachers, curriculum, and programs will erode. If you have thoughts or questions on this, please email me.
The safety of students has been on my mind for many weeks now. This summer saw an outpouring of student testimonies on sexual assault and racism and now we have the arrest of an MCPS teacher for inappropriate sexual contact with a student. School may be virtual, but we have to provide counseling and other support for affected students and teachers.
To push for these changes, I need to win the BOE seat and I need your help. The local politics blog, theseventhstate.com, analyzed recent fundraising reports to conclude that BOE candidates just did not have enough money to conduct effective campaigns. You can help by making a contribution here.
Please also consider introducing me to 10 friends, neighbors, and family members. You can do this simply by forwarding this message to them with some introductory text of your choosing. If you copy me, I will even follow up. Please forward this newsletter to neighborhood and community listservs and share it on social media.
Thank you and if you have your old yard signs, time to put them out now. The link to request a new yard sign is at the end of the message.
PS: Check out this awesome campaign video my son put together! https://twitter.com/CampbellWriter/status/1298350337364045827?s=2
MCPS needs leaders who bring vision, creativity, academic management experience, and stakeholder partnerships as it tries to meet some big challenges in the months and years ahead.
I have developed clear, realistic, and achievable plans on very difficult issues such as theboundary study, mental health support for students and staff, capital spending,climate change action, special education, and re-opening schools, and from the first day on the job, I will be there to support your students, your teachers, your staff, your school administrators, and you.
Reassert the BOE's leadership role: I am the only candidate who has spent 20 years in the classroom and over a decade in academic planning and management. I can and will work with other Board members and use my academic background to engage with MCPS staff to make clear, data-driven, and transparent decisions that renew and strengthen public education in the county.
Be that independent voice: The system needs to be challenged in constructive ways and I know how to transform without disrupting. From equity and academic performance to student welfare and labor relations, I am and will be an independent voice on behalf of students and families, and it is my hope to continue to build and engage a coalition that includes all parts of Montgomery County.
Ensure teachers and staff have the support they need to continue to educate our children: We need to make better use of our educators, teachers, and staff. I will push to reestablish collaborative decision-making that worked well for MCPS in past years. On key questions like how to fix distance learning, I know what needs to be done because I have spent years teaching online. This is why I have been endorsed with the Apple Ballot by the Montgomery County Education Association (the county teacher’s union), SEIU Local 500 (our support staff union), and the MCPS Retirees Association.
Bring diversity of thought and experience: As a first-generation immigrant, I will bring to the Board my experience managing diversity and overcoming discrimination. One-third of the county's population is foreign-born, and while our Student Members of the Board have been wonderfully diverse, we have elected just one Asian-American non-student member in the BOE's nearly 140-year history. If elected, I will be the second. Further, I represent a broad coalition of supporters from Takoma Park to Poolesville and from Bethesda to Germantown and I have been endorsed by CASA in Action, Maryland’s largest Latinx advocacy group, and Progressive Maryland, which has been one of the biggest defenders of equity in our state.
How Can You Help?
Make a Campaign Contribution: We need new yard signs and money for campaign advertising to reach tens of thousands of homes. I depend on individual contributions from supporters like you. Please consider a donation.
Ask for an Absentee/Mail-in Ballot now: The official form asks for personal information and you will need to have your driver’s license in hand. If you need help filling in the ballot request, please email us and we will set up a time to help you.
Make a 30-second video about why you chose to support me: Video is how we communicate these days and it is great for potential supporters to watch your endorsement of me. All you need is to shoot yourself talking to the camera. The video can be as short as 15 seconds or as long as 1 minute. Once you're ready, email it to me.
Invite your friends to a zoom call: It is easy. We do all the back-end work. You send out the invitations and we can even write text you can use. Please email us.
Volunteer your time/special skills: We need help with graphic design, photo/video, photo/video editing, or volunteer tracking, please sign up or email.
Display a yard sign: Ask for a sign if you need one or want a new one.
Sunil is endorsed by:
Montgomery County Education Association (the county teacher's union). Yes, the Apple Ballot.
SEIU500 Local (representing MCPS staff)
MCPS Retirees Association
CASA in Action
The Coalition of Asian Pacific Democrats of Maryland (CAPAD-MD)
Fair Access for Western Montgomery
United We Dream Action
Jud Ashman, Mayor of Gaithersburg
Sidney Katz, Montgomery County Council President
Eric Luedtke, Maryland House Majority Leader
Aruna Miller, Former Delegate, Maryland General Assembly
Mark Pierzchala, Rockville City Council Member
Hans Riemer, Montgomery County Councilmember
Jeffrey Slavin, Somerset Mayor
Susan Turnbull, Former Maryland Lt. Governor candidate
Sunil Dasgupta, Ph.D (he/him/his)
Candidate for Montgomery County Board of Education At-Large