Editorial board questionnaires   

Portrait of Arthur Kaff

Arthur Kaff

Non-Partisan candidate for Maryland Board of Education

Arthur Kaff

Non-Partisan candidate for Maryland Board of Education

Portrait of Arthur Kaff

Education: I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the State University of New York at New Paltz, a law degree from the University of Bridgeport School of Law (now Quinnipiac University School of Law), and a masters degree from the U.S. Army War College. I have also received school board member training by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education. My educational experience has taught me to be a leader, to think strategically and critically at high levels, and to work collaboratively while also being a strong advocate for education.

Occupation: I am a current member of the Harford County Board of Education. I am the only member from District E (Aberdeen/Churchville/Fountain Green/areas east of Bel Air). I work for the Federal Government and I am also a Lieutenant Colonel (promotable), U.S. Army Reserve. I was mobilized in 2011 and served in Afghanistan. My background has developed me to be a strong leader, a careful listener, with the ability to work cooperatively with all. Note: Use of military background does not imply endorsement by the Department of Defense or the Army.

Home: My wife Cheryl and I live with our children in the Fountain Green area east of Bel Air.

Age: 50

Previous Political Experience: I have served on the Board of Education for one year and six months. By the beginning of next year, I will have over two years of valuable experience for District E in a number of educational subject areas, including policy, the budget process, Common Core, the PARCC Assessments, school operations, Special Education, and intervention. I have also served on a number of Committees in Harford County Public Schools as part of duties, such as the Policy Committee and the Curriculum Committee. I will be able to hit the ground running with my experience, which is needed by District E at this critical time. I have a deep understanding of educational issues. In addition, I have been involved in the Fountain Green PTA and have been involved in PTAs in my district and the schools of my children. Most importantly, my wife and I have two children that currently attend Harford County Public Schools. This gives me the perspective of a current key stakeholder. I have also worked closely with municipal leaders in the City of Aberdeen so that the interests of the residents of Aberdeen are fully represented. I have an understanding of the issues faced by Title 1 schools. I also communicate with PTA and PTO leaders in order to ensure I am aware of their concerns.

Responses to our questionnaire

Q: How will you address the budget issues that each year leave Harford County Public Schools millions of dollars short of what school system officials say they need to operate?

I will first serve as a strong advocate for education who will continue to work collaboratively with the County Executive, the County Council, the delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, and other leaders in order to secure additional funding in the upcoming year and in future years for Harford County Public Schools. In addition, I will serve to protect the classroom as a current Board member while carefully managing a very tight budget. More specifically, this means we must strive to avoid losing teachers and advocate to protect key programs, such as instructional support in the core subjects of math, language arts, science and social studies; as well as special education, intervention, gifted and talented, the fine and performing arts, foreign languages, vocational education, and Harford Glen. We must also work hard with the goal of getting teachers and staff their steps and salary increases. I will also listen very carefully to PTA and PTO leaders, parents, teachers, staff, students, and other key stakeholders before working with other board members to decide how to balance the budget this year.

Q: In the wake of years of tragedies committed in schools across the country, please explain your position on school safety and security and what, if anything, should be done in Harford County Public Schools.

The need to keep our schools safe and secure is a subject of the utmost concern to me as the parent of two current students in Harford County Public Schools, especially in light of tragic events that have occurred in schools such as Sandy Hook Elementary School. Cameras and card scanning equipment need to be successfully installed in all schools. We need to eliminate open classrooms as these classrooms designs are no longer appropriate. In addition, we must work collaboratively with the Sheriff's Office and other law enforcement officials, listen to our security chief in Harford County Public Schools, and work with parents, students, and other key stakeholders to address security concerns and initiate improvements. Full funding for our schools will serve to address safety and security concerns, I am also working on improving the anti-bullying policy and addressing concerns about bullying, which is also related to the issue of safety and security in our schools.

Q: What is your position on two controversial cost savings measures – ending bus transportation waivers for students who live close to school and having tiered schedules in elementary schools to save on the number of buses needed.

I am unhappy with these measures and I fully understand that they have caused hardships. However, we were forced to make tough decisions in 2013 in order to address a steep budget shortfall. We did not want to hurt the classroom further by laying off massive numbers of teachers. The Board of Education is essentially where the rubber meets the road. We have no authority to generate revenue through taxes and must rely on what the county, state and Federal Government allocates to us. The bottom line is that we must receive full funding in order to restore bus transportation cuts and eliminate the fourth tier for elementary school bus routes. I note that that these subjects show that I have the capacity to make difficult decisions.

Q: How will you address student achievement in all ages in the various testing programs?

The results of various testing programs such as the PARCC assessments need to be thoroughly examined so that the data can be used to inform teachers and staff about any deficiencies in student achievement and in order to implement any necessary interventions. We need to look carefully at how our high and low performing students are doing on the PARCC assessments so that the needs of all our students are addressed. Again, we must secure additional funding to implement interventions in order to assist all our struggling students.

Q: How has HCPSS performed in implementing the Common Core state standards? Should anything be done differently as the school system continues its implementation?

The results so far appear to be mixed, as Harford County still needs to secure full funding for education in order to successfully implement the Common Core. The school system so far has not received adequate funding for education. Additional funds and resources need to be provided for Common Core so that our teachers can be properly trained in its implementation. Problems with the implementation of Common Core must be addressed. In addition, adequate technology must be placed in our schools, such as the best computers and electronic devices, in order to successfully administer the PARCC assessments.

Maryland Board of Education