Q&A: Zipporah Miller, School Board District 5 candidate, pushed for STEM charter school in Bowie, keeping Pointer Ridge open


Photo courtesy of Zipporah Miller

Zipporah Miller

Residency: Bowie, Maryland

Occupation: Director of Organizational Learning, Anne Arundel County Public School

Briefly state your political experience, leadership or community service:

Current Board Member for District 5: I have been serving in this role since 2022. In that short time, I quickly initiated impactful efforts, achieving numerous accomplishments that have reshaped educational policy and fostered a more inclusive and enriching learning environment.

School Board's Academic Achievement Committee: During my first few weeks on the school board, I was appointed as the Chair of the Academic Achievement Committee on the School Board. In this capacity, I led a significant initiative focused on mathematics, equity, and school culture. Our work plan involved exploring the theoretical framework of each area from a central office perspective, followed by discussions on implementation and impact at the school level with teachers and principals. As we wrap up the school year, we are discussing policy recommendations in these key areas.

    Other achievements on the school board:

    • Pointer Ridge Elementary School: I played a crucial role in ensuring the continuous operation of Pointer Ridge Elementary School.
    • Friendship Public Charter STEM School: I successfully advocated for the establishment of a groundbreaking STEM charter school in District 5, underscoring my unwavering commitment to innovative education.
    • School safety: I successfully advocated for the the installation of alarms at Bowie High and ensuring the functionality of all security equipment.
    • Student Initiatives: Collaborating closely with the Student Government Association, I facilitated the implementation of student-led initiatives through advocacy that resulted in the installation of water stations, thereby enhancing the overall well-being of students. I continue to collaborate with the Student Government to ensure I amplify student voice.
    • Bullying Interventions: I successfully advocated for funding to expand anti-bullying initiatives, providing crucial resources to assist both students who have been bullied and those who have engaged in bullying behaviors. Additionally, I took the initiative to review the bullying policy, to make changes to enhance its effectiveness. By strengthening the language, we are ensuring the maintenance of psychologically safe learning environments for all students.
    • Calming rooms in all elementary and middle schools: Recognizing the paramount importance of mental health support, I passionately advocated for the establishment of calming rooms in elementary and middle schools, providing students with a sanctuary to alleviate stress and refocus.
    • Teacher recruitment and retention: In a concerted effort to bolster teacher recruitment and retention, I tirelessly lobbied for funding to expand the resident teacher program, expediting the licensure process for aspiring educators.
    • Students rights and responsibilities: Looking ahead, I am resolutely dedicated to revisiting and refining the Students Rights and Responsibilities framework in collaboration with stakeholders from District 5, ensuring that policies are responsive to the evolving needs and values of the student body.
    • Educational excellence and equity: Through my unwavering dedication and relentless advocacy, I have made significant strides in advancing educational excellence and equity. I am steadfast in my determination to continue along this trajectory of positive change for the betterment of schools and the community.

    Other leadership roles:

    • Science Supervisor for Prince Georges County public Schools: In that role I spearheaded a comprehensive revamp of the K-12 science program. Led teams in adopting research-based science programs, instituted ongoing professional development, and addressed low achievement scores in biology, witnessing a consistent increase in student achievement scores every year during her three-year tenure.
    • Associate Executive Director for Professional Development Programs, National Science Teachers Association: I played a pivotal role in overseeing professional development programs and actively participated in the review and training of teachers on the Next Generation Science Standards. My reputation for excellence in leading science teaching and learning resulted in recognition in the STEM arena, leading to my engagement in supporting districts across the country. One of my notable contributions was addressing STEM education in urban districts through my leadership in the Urban Science Education Leadership program.
    • Science programs: While sought out by several companies, I collaborated with Pearson (now known as Savvas) as a lead author for two K-8 science programs: Interactive Science and Elevate Science. These programs have been widely adopted across the United States in various school districts and internationally. In this capacity, I not only served as an author but also worked collaboratively with teachers, school leaders, and central office staff to successfully implement the programs once adopted at the district or school level. My commitment to advancing science education transcends borders, leaving a lasting impact on curriculum development and teaching practices.

    Why did you decide to run for school board?

    Education is rooted in my core values: My decision to run for school board was an intentional decision that is guided by my core values and my commitment to educational excellence. My holistic approach to education is rooted in my core values of family, faith, and fostering lifelong learning and strong communities.

    Education can transform lives, communities: I believe in the transformative power of education to shape individuals and communities for the better, instilling values of curiosity, resilience, and collaboration. I am dedicated to ensuring that every individual has the opportunity to access quality education and thrive in a supportive environment. As a wife and mother, I understand the importance of nurturing future generations and empowering students to thrive academically, personally, and professionally. Joining the school board for me, is a calling—an opportunity to contribute to building a better community.

    What are the top two issues facing schools in the Bowie area, and what could you as a school board member do to address those issues if elected?

    As the Bowie community and a school system, we face several issues impacting our schools. These include teacher shortages, school safety concerns, the social-emotional well-being of both staff and students, the need to expand educational opportunities for our students, and addressing aging infrastructure in our buildings. While it may be hard to separate these issues to the top two, I would say teacher shortages equate to the shortage of a quality education for our students and maintaining the physical and psychological safety of students and staff.

    As your district 5 school board member, I have already begun addressing the following issues:

    • Teacher shortage: This year, I successfully advocated for the expansion of the Resident Teacher Program. This effort enables us to increase the number of teachers who will receive support as they pursue their Maryland State certification. I will continue advocating for increased teacher compensation and funding, as well as for aggressive recruitment efforts and partnerships with higher education, business, and industry.
    • School safety: This past fall I successfully advocated for the installation of alarms at Bowie High School. I continue to advocate for comprehensive school safety measures at all schools, including training and resources for staff and students.
    • Anti-bullying initiatives: Due to the increase in calls and inquiries about bullying, I advocated for additional funding to expand anti-bullying initiatives. Additionally, I took the initiative to review the bullying policy and implemented necessary changes to enhance its effectiveness.
    • Mental health forum: I have collaborated with health partners and am currently organizing a mental health forum for parents. This forum aims to help parents recognize signs indicating when their children may need professional help. We will also feature available mental health resources within our community.
    • Counseling services: Equally important, I will continue to champion the social-emotional well-being of our staff and school community by providing counseling services and access to mental health resources.
    • New charter school: This academic year I successfully advocated for the establishment of a groundbreaking STEM charter school in District 5. I will continue to champion for the expansion of educational opportunities by promoting innovative programs and partnerships with community organizations.
    • School modernization: Finally, I will continue to advocate relentlessly for the modernization of our school facilities and upkeep.

    How concerned are you about student mental health across the county? How could the school board help address this issue?

    Mental health funding: As an educator and school board member, I am extremely concerned about the mental health crisis children are facing across the country, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Addressing this crisis remains a priority for me as I advocate for increased funding to support both students and staff.

    Mental health forum: Additionally, I am in the process of planning a community forum focused on identifying signs that indicate when students need help. This proactive approach will empower parents and staff to seek support promptly. Furthermore, the forum will inform community members about the resources available to them locally.

    Removing the stigma: Finally, it is crucial that we work to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health. By doing so, students, staff, and community members will feel more comfortable seeking help early when needed.

    Are you aware of specific needs at Bowie High School and Bowie area middle and elementary schools? How would you advocate for additional resources specifically at Bowie area schools?

    Aging school buildings: In addition to the teacher shortage and school safety issues, one significant issue is the aging school buildings. It is crucial that all students have access to quality learning environments. Therefore, I not only champion this initiative locally but I am committed to continuing these efforts at all levels of government.

    Addressing learning needs: Additionally, we continue to strive to ensure we address the diverse learning needs of our students.

    Do you believe the Board of Education needs further reforms? Please explain why or why not?

    I don’t believe the Board of Education needs further reforms. The role of a school board member is profoundly important, as it directly impacts the success and well-being of our school districts and, ultimately, the future of our children.

    While the structure of school boards may vary, whether elected, appointed, or a hybrid model, what truly matters is electing individuals with the requisite knowledge and experience in governing school systems.

    The responsibilities of a school board member are multifaceted and critical. They include policy making, budget oversight, strategic planning, advocacy, and legal oversight. These duties demand expertise and a proven track record of success in these areas to effectively serve the interests of students, families, and the broader community.

    Choosing to have an all-elected school board underscores the importance of informed community participation. As citizens, it is imperative that we take the time to understand the backgrounds, qualifications, and priorities of those seeking to serve in this role.

    Electing school board members who possess the necessary experience and commitment is essential for maintaining and enhancing the quality of education and ensuring accountability within our school systems.

    Therefore, rather than seeking reform of the school board structure, the focus should be on elevating the caliber of individuals elected to these positions. This approach will contribute to the continued improvement and success of our schools, fostering environments where every child has the opportunity to thrive and succeed.

    How often do you plan to be a presence in the Bowie area if elected? Do you have a plan for outreach to your constituents?

    Community events: As your school board member, I believe my presence and engagement with the community are crucial, and I have made it a priority to actively participate and connect with stakeholders. I ensure that I dedicate time to attend community events and engage with parents, homeowners associations, and local businesses regularly.

    Listening sessions: Additionally, I have organized listening sessions and forums to actively seek input from parents and community members.

    Open dialogue: Through these interactions, I gain valuable insights into the needs, concerns, and aspirations of our community. This firsthand engagement enables me to better advocate for policies and initiatives that align with the best interests of our students, families, and educators. I am committed to maintaining this approach, as I believe it is essential for informed decision-making and effective representation on the school board. By fostering open dialogue and building strong relationships within the community, we can work together to enhance educational opportunities and outcomes for all our children.

    The Q&A responses have been edited lightly for style and formatting without changing the meaning or context. All District 5 school board candidates were contacted by email and phone asking them to complete the Q&A by April 30; two provided their responses as of that date.

    More News from Bowie
    I'm interested
    I disagree with this
    This is unverified