Clairelise Rodriguez is a past member of the 50CAN team. 

This week I spoke with Curtis Valentine, founding executive director of MarylandCAN. MarylandCAN is set to launch in January, but Curtis is already at work meeting with Marylanders and getting their take on the challenges and opportunities facing Maryland public schools.

MarylandCAN launch is a few months away. What are you doing now to prepare?
We’re rolling out MarylandCAN in retail fashion, meeting one-on-one with those already in the education reform space, but also with those who we think should be at the table but aren’t. I’m also preparing to organize larger gatherings of students and parents (get in touch if you’d like to get involved!). MarylandCAN will be propelled by a movement of Marylanders, so I’m working to get members of that movement engaged and involved now.

As you’re meeting with people, what are they telling you?
Marylanders are proud of the great schools our state already has, but they’re eager to fix the ones that aren’t. They know we have a ways to go before our students are internationally competitive.

What do the Marylanders who you’re speaking with consider to be the biggest issues with the state’s education system?
School funding is a big concern. In the age of massive budget cuts people want to make sure we don’t forget about the needs of our schools. People also think the state’s charter school law needs to expand and that teacher quality should be at the forefront of any policy.

What are you most looking forward to?
I’m most excited about speaking to Maryland parents, students and teachers who I believe will have a platform through MarylandCAN to speak about what they’ve seen as the shortfalls in education in Maryland.

What do you think will be MarylandCAN’s biggest challenge in its first year?
We must break out of the gate early. When we launch in January we’re not only launching as an organization, we’ll also launching our first-ever legislative campaign.  The great news is that people across the state are already looking to MarylandCAN to be a huge asset during Maryland’s 2012 legislative session. But that also means that my team will have to work hard and fast to live up to those expectations early on.

What do you see as MarylandCAN’s biggest opportunity?
We have a lot of students doing well and so we know what the formula to success looks. We don’t have to invent the wheel, we just have to figure out how to apply it to the schools that are currently struggling so that every Maryland child has a great school.


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