Activist

The Baltimore Sun chose Brian as a Maryland “Earthly Angel”.  The Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Society of Military Comptrollers, and local county governments have awarded Brian for his volunteer service and commitment to children.

 But more than any award or elected office, Brian just likes helping others. Life experiences have shaped Brian’s commitment to service.  His commitment to public service began over 25 years ago. At only 13 years of age, Brian witnessed the tragic death of a friend who was hit by a vehicle while riding his bicycle in front of Brian’s home.

 Following this tragedy, Brian realized that life was truly a gift, a community could come together during a difficult time, and anyone could make a difference.  As a student at Glenwood Middle School, Brian led the legislative committee of a student project to pass the nation’s first bicycle helmet law for children under 16 years of age in Howard County. This experience ignited Brian’s passion for making a difference.

 

A defining moment in my life was the death of an amazing young man, my friend Chris Kelley.  Seeing him on the side of the road in front of my home where I would stand for the bus every morning is an image I will never forget.  Lobbying for the nation’s 1st bicycle helmet law for children was an effort that I’ll never forget. Holding Chris’ mom’s hand as the vote was taken and it passed 3-2 is a feeling that I’ll never forget.  In those tender moments at age 13, I learned that anyone – no matter how young or old, poor or rich, could make a difference in our community.”   
In 1992, the Baltimore Sun chose him as a Maryland “Earthly Angel” for his efforts to pass the Howard County bicycle helmet law and his community service “fighting prejudice, hunger, homelessness, domestic violence and cancer.” In 1993, Brian was featured in the book, No Kidding Around: America’s Young Activists Are Changing Our World and You Can Too! by author, Wendy Lesko, founder of the ACTIVISM 2000 Project and School Girls Unite. Brian still believes in our community’s ability to come together during difficult times to solve problems.

Now as a father of three young children, his commitment is deeper than ever.  In 2013, Brian was honored by the Maryland Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as one of Howard County’s Finest Under 39.  In 2010, the Howard County Government selected Brian as its Celebrating Successes for Children Award winner in the Elementary School category.  He has been PTA President at his kids school– the nation’s first CarbonFree Green PTA – where he accepted the 2010 Healthy School Innovation Award in the Elementary School Environmental Health category. Brian has served on numerous other school committees, and local non-profit boards for the American Red Cross, local arts festival, and a youth coach.

In 2010, the voters of Howard County, Maryland elected Brian as a member of their countywide school board. He was the youngest person ever elected to the School Board and the first school board member of Asian-American decent ever elected.  Brian was elected by his peers to Chair the Policy Committee and he was also selected by his peers to serve as Vice-Chairman.  As one of the most effective School Board members to ever serve the citizens of Howard County, Brian was able to lead substantial change and innovation as a School Board member.

“It was such an honor and privilege to serve the school system that I grew up attending.  I’ll always remember the chill I felt as I raised my hand and took the oath of office.  I pray that I upheld that oath.  You see, I’ve never really saw myself as a School Board member Brian Meshkin.  I was just Brian Meshkin, a temporary occupant of an elected office that belonged to the people of Howard County.”
 

Digital Education

  • Proposed and gained approval for the creation of the Digital Education Program with a Digital Education coordinator, online classes, new devices, and other programs;
  • Pioneered remote participation technology at our Board meetings using teleconference and video conference technologies, and now the system will offer its first distance learning/video conferencing class for students taking Differential Equations in High School starting this school year;
  • Advocated for wireless Internet connectivity in all of our schools and changed Board policies to allow for students and staff to bring their own devices (BYOD) and computers to school and use them, and now schools are starting to allow BYOD at school and for educational uses in class ;
  • Introduced new technology policy changes including a new Social Media policy to protect students and inspire connectivity, collaboration, and communication;

Fiscal Responsibility

  • Proposed and enacted a Continuous Improvement Coordinator position to bring proven business principles of Six-Sigma process excellence throughout the school system, where pilots have already reduced millions of dollars in spending and the expansion is now projected to save between 2% and 4% of operating costs – up to $32M per year;
  • Proposed Programmatic Evaluations and Zero-Based Budgeting to evaluate programs and now the system is starting it for the upcoming FY 2014-15 budget;
  • Proposed the Chief Accountability Officer position, and the new Superintendent moved forward with creating it to measure educational programs;
  • Proposed and enacted more detailed and transparent monthly Operating Budget Reports to the public;
  • Opposed the current process of redistricting, and the process of providing the County Council with dated projections on school capacity which results in avoidable overcrowding, unnecessary redistricting, and expensive school construction and renovations;

Wellness

  • Championed the efforts of staff to create an Employee Wellness program to provide incentives to employees to live healthier lives and reduce health costs (which are the single largest increase in the budget annually) – now producing a 2.5:1 positive return on investment (ROI);
  • Brought to the school system’s attention that Howard County ranked 24 out of 24 – the very bottom – of all Maryland jurisdictions in providing breakfast to students in need.  Recently, the Board approved a self-sustaining program to provide breakfast in all schools starting this school year;
  • Proposed changes in the Wellness policy which is currently under revision that will improve the quality of school lunches, vending machine offerings, and snacks at school – without restricting our PTA and Booster partners;
  • Eliminated the practice of taking away recess as a punishment for students;
  • Co-introduced the idea and gained approval for the creation of a new Sustainability Policy;
  • Proposed and gained approval of a Student Mental Health Task Force to evaluate school start times, homework load over breaks and weekends, bullying and cyber-bullying, and overuse of standardized tests - the task force is currently meeting and will provide recommended changes in the fall of 2013;

Public Input

  • Proposed and gained approval to post citizen committee reports online, such as the Citizens Advisory Council and Operating Budget Review Committee reports;
  • Proposed and gained approval for a General Citizen representative on policy review committees, a balance between central office staff and non-central office personnel and the public, and the ability to have a minority report on policy review committee recommendations;
  • Proposed and gained approval of adding relevant data sources and evaluations of Board policies – you can’t manage what you can’t measure;
  • Proposed and gained approval of expanding access to proposed instructional materials by placing them in public libraries for public review, and not just at central office during business hours;
  • Stood up for local control of schools by proposing a withdrawal from the Federal Government’s Race to the Top initiative that expands Federal control over schools, imposes the “Common Core”, and makes a yet-to-be-determined new set of standardized tests the largest single component of teacher and principal evaluations;
  • Vehemently opposed the County Executive’s attempt to take away the voting rights of Howard County citizens to elect the members of their School Board;

Opportunity

  • Proposed and gained approval to provide bus service for evening and weekend students who were walking over 1.2 miles from the Harpers Choice Village Center to the Homewood Center for credit recovery courses, and gained County Government support for a new public bus stop at the Central Office campus to expand the access of parents and citizens to ARL, Homewood, and School Board
  • Proposed and gained approval of over 12 amendments to the new Homeless student policy to support students and their families. Today, the number of homeless students has dropped by 50%
  • Proposed and gained approval to receive a report on vocational training and career academies in 2013. Proposed expansion of vocational and entrepreneurship training for students, such as expansion of Computer Science, Business, and Biotechnology certifications – currently there are none offered
  • Gained approval for expanding Middle School extra-curricular activities, like student government

World Language

  • Supported the Board’s effort to expand world language in elementary and Middle School with the addition of Mandarin Chinese and Spanish in elementary school through a pilot in two schools
  • Proposed that the Superintendent’s strategic plan, Vision 2018, identify multi-lingual fluency as a key goal for every graduate of the school system
More than these achievements, Brian’s single most important accomplishment was recruiting and keeping the School System’s new Superintendent, Dr. Renee Foose.  With over 50 candidates applying from all over America, the process came down to two finalists. On numerous occasions, Ray & Associates, the nation’s oldest and most well-respected Superintendent search firm that conducted our search, reached out to Brian  to ensure that Howard County would not lose its candidates due to the behavior of other School Board members.

Gary Ray, principal of Ray & Associates has said, “When the search process was in its most tenuous moments, we called on Brian Meshkin because of his business experience, professionalism, and the stated respect these candidates had for him.  We asked Brian to step-in and speak with the candidates on numerous occasions to ensure that Howard County would successfully complete this important process.” 

Here’s a copy of a letter written by Gary Ray: