For many months, I have felt a growing need to be a bigger part of positive change in our public schools. When I first learned that Anne Arundel County will finally transition to an elected board, I knew that was my answer. That is why I became the first candidate to file to run in the first election for a seat on the Anne Arundel County Board of education. My name is Melissa Ellis, and I hope to represent the citizens of Councilmanic District 4 on our school board.
The recent focus on testing in an attempt make our schools more competitive in the world arena has caused our schools to get off track in developing the minds and character of our children. This problem is not unique to Anne Arundel County, but we must do the work locally to change course for our students. After years of growing the administration, it is time to bring our resources back into the classroom, putting education back into the hands of those who know best what our children need day to day, our teachers.
I have a well-rounded background in private industry, government contracting, and volunteer work, with a lifelong passion for healthy child development and education that makes me an ideal candidate for our school board. I received a BA in Psychology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 1993. While at UMBC, the focus of my studies were in early childhood development and education, I assisted on two large studies on mother-infant attachment, and presented my own research to the American Psychological Association as a part of one of those studies. Right out of college, I took a position in retail management when I was invited into the management program for Giant Foods, Inc. As a functioning member of the management team, I was responsible for store accounting, employee management, and overall store management.
In 1995, I moved to Oxnard, CA with my husband, Chuck Ellis, and began working as a flight coordinator for a jet charter company in Van Nuys, CA. At Petersen Aviation. I was responsible for sales to high-profile clients for worldwide charter services, scheduling maintenance for the aircraft, and meeting the many detailed needs of clients. I was instrumental in the purchase and implementation of new flight scheduling software. In 1997, I began working as a logistician for a government contractor, working onsite at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Port Hueneme, CA, gaining experience in the processes involved in government contracting and material acquisition.
In 1998, we decided to return to Anne Arundel County, Maryland to start a family. After spending a year working with kids at a large equestrian facility, teaching riding, marketing, and helping develop the lesson program, I took on the position of Human Resources Generalist for a startup healthcare company, Americaid Maryland. I established the Human Resources department, overseeing growth from approximately 20 employees to over 60. As an HR generalist, I managed the recruitment, hiring, and training of new employees, benefits administration, employee relations, management counseling, and dispute resolution. During my time at Americaid, I managed a market analysis of employee compensation to ensure salaries remained equitable and competitive as the rapidly growing company was challenged with hiring nurses while Maryland was experiencing a nursing shortage. I managed employee relations issues and disputes with a sensitivity to, and compassion for, racial diversity, gender equality, and religious observances in a highly diverse work environment.
Our oldest daughter was born in the year 2000. Together Chuck and I made the decision that I would leave my position in human resources management and focus on raising our family. By 2006, we welcomed our fourth child. While our oldest children were in public elementary school, I volunteered in the classroom serving as “room mom” for our children’s classes, chaperoned field trips, and assisted in PTA-sponsored activities. While we were very happy with the teachers and family involvement at the school, we became frustrated with the administration and policies in our public schools. In January of 2009, I began homeschooling our four children. I found that focusing on the developmental stages of each child and channeling their innate drive to learn, largely following the Montessori Method of capturing children’s readiness to learn specific skills, made for a naturally harmonious classroom environment. I was able to teach many subjects to our children as a group, allowing each child to take from the lessons what was developmentally appropriate for him or her. The focus was on learning rather than performance. This method was devoid of any competition or comparisons and the children were able to learn from each other as well as the teacher and source materials. This method worked well for larger groups as well as I taught classes when we were part of the Creative Friends Homeschool Co-op. As they moved into the middle school years, our students’ work became much more independent while many subjects were still covered in a group discussion format. Our two oldest children have successfully transitioned into a magnet high school in Anne Arundel County, both maintaining a high GPA while engaging in numerous extra-curricular activities, taking on leadership roles, thriving socially, and are both gainfully employed. Our oldest daughter will be graduating in 2018. I strongly believe that the independence of thought and opportunity to develop their own interests fostered in a low-stress environment contributed greatly to the success our children are now enjoying in high school. However, our kids are increasingly feeling stressed by many of the conditions of their public school experience as their school has encountered significant teacher turnover, they are tested on material they have never been taught, their day begins well before what is recommended by all of the medical experts, and they have been subjected to multiple incidents as a result of an outdated, inefficient transportation system.
Currently I am president of the boosters club for our children’s high school drama company and chair two committees with a local community theater in which our whole family is involved. Working closely with teachers and other families, I am aware that many who are part of our public school system have the same desire, schools that are a safe, healthy, and nurturing environment in which our kids can develop and learn. I have a vision for how education should be for all children of Anne Arundel County, regardless of race, zip code, or other factors contributing to student differences. I find it troubling that our students, each challenged in varying degrees with their own personal circumstances, are expected to check their differences at the door and conform to this one-size-fits-all approach to education that is focused on numbers rather than individual students. Without sufficient staff within the walls of the school, working with these kids, we will never eliminate the achievement gap or accomplish the academic gains we desire for all of our students.
I continue to study best practices in education and parenting and believe that it is time for public schooling to leap into the present founded on research in the behavioral sciences. Every child deserves a developmentally appropriate education that takes into account that every child develops differently, and that a child’s physical and emotional needs must be met before he or she is ready to learn. When our teachers are supported, they will be better able to help children meet these needs. Our schools need to work with their communities, and our administration and board need to work with our county council to ensure our students have what they need to thrive. With this shift in focus, today’s children will be tomorrow’s innovators, artists, entrepreneurs, and leaders.
If you would like more information or to keep up with my campaign, please go to my website at www.votemelissaellis.com, follow my campaign page www.facebook.com/melissaellisboe/, or email me at [email protected].
Note: Melissa Ellis is a candidate for the Anne Arundel County Board of Education for District 4. We encourage all readers to learn all they can about the candidates that will appear on the ballot. Here is a link to Ellis’s website.