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Marcus Alzona

Where you live: Bethesda

Date of birth: 1971

Current occupation and employer:

Computer scientist, technologist, keys.com

Political experience:

Candidate for state Senate (2018)

Website: https://MarcusAlzona.com

Email: vote@MarcusAlzona.com

Facebook: https://facebook.com/MarcusAlzona4MD

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarcusAlzona

Instagram: https://instagram.com/MarcusAlzona4MD

Why are you running for this office?

As an MCPS parent and computer scientist, I am running for the Board of Education in order to be a common-sense voice for parents. We need to keep our schools both safe and open, providing all our children with the great education they deserve. A product of Montgomery County Public Schools, I was enrolled in MCPS’ Head Start Program for disadvantaged children and the first graduating class of the Montgomery County Math/Science/Computer Science Magnet Program at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring. I believe we need technology experts on the board to address STEM in education, as well as to direct and oversee the largest county public education IT system in the state.

What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it?

It is critical that we keep our schools open and safe.

We must follow the overwhelming number of studies and data from the past two years showing schools should remain open, and not reflexively close schools, causing our kids to fall farther behind in their education.

We must listen to our principals, who unanimously want school resources officers in MCPS schools. The board must stop portraying police as a problem and return to viewing the police as a partner in keeping our schools safe.

Teachers are essential workers, yet the board gave them only a 3.35% cost of living raise, while giving the superintendent a $368,000 compensation package (a $73,000 increase). To keep schools open, we need to fund teachers, not executives.

What is one major issue that has been handled poorly and what would you have done differently?

Schools across the state, across the country, and across the world re-opened in the fall of 2020. Studies and data showed time and time again that schools could be safely reopened, yet a year later MCPS was one of the last to do so. The effect on our students was severe, hurting poor and minority children the most.

Last year, MCPS voted to strip funding for school resource officers – i.e. they voted to defund the police in Montgomery County Public Schools, putting our students at risk in order to virtue signal. Furthermore, this again had a disproportionate negative impact on the poor and minority communities they purport to help, who deserve safe schools.

Montgomery County needs a school board member that will push back on reflexive school closures not backed by the science, and who will listen to the MCPS principals who unanimously want SROs.

What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office?

With over 160,000 students and nearly 19,000 staff, Montgomery County Public Schools implements and manages the largest local information technology infrastructure in the entire state of Maryland. We need a board member that understands both the potential and the limitations of technology, who can provide proper guidance and oversight for STEM education and school infrastructure.

I received computer science and information networking undergraduate and graduate degrees from Carnegie Mellon, with a career in science and technology research and development for multiple federal agencies and startups in cybersecurity, mobile app and cloud development, geospatial, Smart Cities, and connected and autonomous vehicles. In addition, I am a livestream director for multiple non-profit organizations (education, student sports, religious, community), producing hundreds of livestreams during the pandemic.

Scott Joftus

Where you live: Bethesda

Date of birth: May 24, 1968

Current occupation and employer:

Founder and president (since 2004), FourPoint Education Partners, a small business that advises superintendents and school boards on issues such as equity, strategic planning, and school improvement

Adjunct professor (since 2010), George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education, where I teach Education Leadership (Fall) and Program Evaluation (Spring) to students seeking their master’s of education in policy and leadership

Former elementary school teacher, researcher, and public school advocate

Father of an MCPS graduate and an MCPS high school junior

Political experience:

Current Montgomery County Board of Education (District 3) member after being selected unanimously by the board to complete the term of Pat O’Neill

No previous political campaigns 

Website: https://Joftus4BoE.com

Email: Scott@Joftus4BoE.com 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joftusforb

Twitter:  @ScottJoftus

Why are you running for this office?

MCPS is at a crossroads due to the pandemic and transition to a new permanent superintendent. I was recently appointed unanimously by the board to complete the term of Pat O’Neill and this experience–along with my professional experience–are important as we regain the trust of the community, address the mental health crisis, and return to equitable teaching and learning. Many community leaders are supporting my candidacy. According to Jamie Raskin: “We are benefiting from Scott’s work with school districts across the country and his significant insight as a professor of educational leadership. We’re lucky to have him where he is using his expertise on behalf of our students and schools.”

What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it? 

I believe the mental health crisis among students and staff is the most important issue. There is not one single solution to this problem, but some things that I have done while on the board for the last five months include:

Investing in virtual mental health so that all students have access to supports at all times;

Working with the county council and administration to establish wellness centers at all high schools;

Investing in social workers, which will be present in every high school next year;

Establishing a working group to address the shortage of school psychologists and counselors;

Expanding wrap around supports for students and families at schools serving the highest percentage of low-income students;

Increasing salaries for teachers and staff to ensure MCPS can recruit and retain the most talented workforce in the country.

What is one criticism you have received while in office and what is your response?

Covid response and related communications have been the biggest criticism I have received on the board. My response:

–Yes, the response could have been much better. There were external factors in addition to internal factors that made response and communications very difficult. We have taken significant strides to improve, including hiring a chief medical officer, reorganizing the central office with some new staff, and improving coordination between the board and superintendent.

I believe that Covid response and many other issues can be improved by working with the superintendent to improve coordination between the board and administration and helping to align strategy, systems, and processes with goals. This district has been misaligned for years, which has prevented us from being as effective as possible. My work with districts across the country and teaching at GW will serve the system well in fostering coherence and accountability. 

What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office?

I believe I am uniquely qualified to be on the board of education. In addition to teaching, I founded and have been running a small business for 18 years that is dedicated to advising school boards and superintendents on how to improve student outcomes. For 12 years, I have served as an adjunct professor at GW’s Graduate School of Education, where I teach Leadership and Program Evaluation. And for the last 5 months, I have been working and learning on the board, establishing strong working relationships with my fellow board members and the superintendent. I understand what it takes to move this great school system forward.

According to former Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett: “Scott is the leader we need on the Board of Education right now. His knowledge of school systems, commitment to equity, and ability to translate community concerns into action set him apart. He has my full support.”

Julie Yang

Where you live: Potomac

Date of birth: July 12, 1970

Current occupation and employer:

My work experience includes nearly 20 years in education. I spent seven years as a classroom teacher. My previous employer was Montgomery County Public Schools, where I served as a data analyst and college and career counselor for 11 years.

Political experience:

Co-chair, MCPS Asian Pacific American Student Achievement Action Group (3 years)
Founder, Village Initiative (5 years)
Founder and leader, Potomac 4H Community Service Club (6 years)
Cluster coordinator, MCCPTA (2 years)
Reflections Art Committee Chair, Eastern Middle School PTSA (3 years)
Geography Bowl Committee Chair, Farmland Elementary School PTSA (3 years)
Troop 4848 Leader, Girl Scout Council of Nation’s Capital, Maryland (7 years)

Website: https://www.julieyang.org

Email: yang4education@gmail.com

Facebook: /JulieYang4BOE

Twitter: @JulieYangMoCo

Instagram: julieyang4boe

Why are you running for this office?

I want every student to have a chance to succeed in the future, no matter their path or background. My vision is to empower all students, parents, and staff, restore trust between the community and the public school system, and lead efforts that ensure all students are college or career ready. I know that I can make a difference given my extensive background directly serving students and their families in the public school system.

What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it?

Mental health and the well-being of students and staff are a priority. We need long-term, proactive solutions instead of patchwork solutions such as last-minute budget requests for mental health resources. My plan includes the following actions: incorporating mental health issues as part of the Board of Education’s Special Population Committee scope of work; adopting mental health as a permanent Board of Education agenda item to evaluate policies, guidelines, and budget through a mental health lens; and to proactively seek student input on the current social-emotional curriculum and activities to achieve student-centered mental health solutions.

What is one major issue that has been handled poorly and what would you have done differently?

We need better community engagement to ensure that we don’t use one-size-fits-all approaches to help students succeed. My goal is to provide constituent services by devoting myself full-time to the Board of Education. I will meet the community stakeholders, rather than wait for them to come to the Board. My plan includes the following actions: Conduct cluster conversations with students and parents; arrange focus group conversations with educators; and seek feedback and input from community partners. By going to where the community is at, we can hear their concerns and suggestions to improve our school system. We can achieve community “buy-in” for strategic plans focused on expanding equitable access to opportunities and improving the academic outcomes for all students.

What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office?

As a former teacher, data analyst, and college and career counselor, my track record include serving three MCPS school clusters, removing barriers for students to access college and career opportunities, working in high-poverty level schools, and increasing engagement between immigrant families and schools. In my decade of advocating for students, I served in numerous leadership roles as a PTSA activist for the Churchill Cluster, co-chaired the Asian Pacific American Student Achievement Action Group, and founded the Village Initiative, which serves special education families. I will bring my bridge-building approach to diverse stakeholders and the school district to ensure student success.