Democratic Central Committee Decides Not to Endorse BOE Candidates

By Tommi Makila

At a rather contentious and chaotic meeting on September 20, 2016, the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee voted against making endorsements in the general election races for the Board of Education (BOE).

At the previous Central Committee meeting—held on July 19, 2016—the school board endorsements had been on the agenda. The Committee had voted on the Democratic “sample ballot” as a whole, including candidates for congressional and BOE races as well as ballot questions. At the July meeting, sixteen Central Committee members voted for the sample ballot and eleven voted against it. Apparently Central Committee members had left the July meeting thinking that the sample ballot, including the BOE endorsements, had been approved. However, someone realized only after the meeting that the sample ballot approval required a two-thirds majority. Thus, it was determined that the vote on the sample ballot had failed.

At the September 20 meeting of the Central Committee, a motion was made to reconsider the July 19 vote on the sample ballot. The motion to reconsider failed. After this, two new motions related to sample ballots were made, but the Committee Chair ruled the motions out of order.

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Head Start: Eight Things We’ve Learned from the Latest Documents

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

report from WUSA 9 has uncovered new details about the Head Start situation. The news outlet has gained access to two new documents:

  • an email dated January 19, 2016 from the mother of the three-year-old who was allegedly forced to mop his own urine, addressed to seven PGCPS employees, including CEO Kevin Maxwell, Head Start Supervisor Sandra Kee, and Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Gladys Whitehead
  • an email dated April 7, 2016 from Chief of Staff George Margolies, addressed to Gladys Whitehead, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and Shawn Joseph, who was then serving as Deputy Superintendent

Here’s what we learn from the email written by the mother of the alleged victim:

  • CEO Maxwell was informed of the alleged abuse as early as January 19. He received an email that detailed the Head Start teacher’s treatment of the alleged victim and the aftermath.
  • This was not an isolated incident. The mother of the alleged victim writes that she had previously spoken to the Head Start teacher when she learned that the teacher had swatted her son on the bottom. She writes, “After getting on her she swore to never do it again, we were cool so I gave her a chance but she kept crossing the line!”
  • Another child in the same class was also humiliated by the teacher under similar circumstances. According to the mother who wrote the email, another student was also required to mop up her own urine. The teacher “kept calling her a baby” and did not let her eat her breakfast with the other children.
  • After the abuse was reported, the Head Start teacher was not immediately removed from the classroom. As of January 19, according to the mother of the victim, the teacher was “allowed to come right back to work like nothing ever happened.” The mother first reported the incident on December 22, 2015.
  • The mother was told by several PGCPS employees not to “alert the media and seek legal action.”

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Notes on the Sept. 8th Board of Education Meeting, Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

by Laura Rammelsberg

To view the agenda for the September 8th Board of Education meeting in BoardDocs, go here. Video of the entire meeting is below.

See notes on the first portion of the meeting here.

AGENDA ITEMS, at 1:22:01.

4.1 Head Start Update / 11.2 Head Start Policy Council Minutes and Follow UP

CEO: On August 29, Head Start opened up for 2017 school year. Very few problems. Members of executive team visited every Head Start classroom in district and will continue to do so. In the summer, all Head Start staff received training on suspected child abuse and neglect and additional training for positive behavior techniques, which is requirement for Head Start. Trainings will continue throughout the year. Issues are being sent to Deputy Superintendents. Conducted several unannounced observations and will continue them throughout the school year. Discussions are underway with Administration for Children and Families, PGCPS administration, four school board members and members of the County Council. Special Section on PGCPS website with updates. Their priority is that Head Start children remain in school with no disruptions.

Questions, beginning at 1:24:34.

Mr. Blocker: What are next steps for Head Start Program? Clarity into the investigation. Internal investigation? How are you will inform the public? He is disappointed how the situation is being handled by administration.

CEO Response: We have been doing fact-finding and investigation, identified people who were a part of the original concerns. Also doing additional trainings and continuing conversation. There is an internal investigation. They will continue to update as additional information becomes available to them. Pieces of personnel investigations that can be public and others not. Taking action, but there are things that they cannot legally discuss in public about individual employees. There can be appeals to BOE (and some already have been appealed). “So I’m glad that you’re disappointed, Mr. Blocker, but you should wait until you have all the facts to be disappointed.”

Mr. Burroughs, at 1:28:50: What is being done to keep our students are safe? Original report from Federal Government mentioned there are cases that weren’t reported so what about the non-Head Start classes? Telling parents that policies have changed is not sufficient. Initial notice was sent to Administration in February. What actions were taken then? What corrective measures taken then?

CEO Response: We have been very clear publicly that we went through the entire process of retraining the staff over the past couple of months. Also, the Student Safety Task Force results are known, Board acted and changed policy. They have been evaluating the training since.

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Notes on the Sept. 8th Board of Education Meeting, Part 1

These notes cover the first hour and twenty minutes of the September 8th Prince George’s County Board of Education meeting, including the public comment portion of the meeting. Notes on the remainder of the meeting are here.

by Laura Rammelsberg

To view the agenda for the Board of Education meeting in BoardDocs, go here. Video of the entire meeting is below.

REPORT OF THE CHAIR, at 17:01 in the video

Attendance Awareness Month is September. Showing up is half the battle.

Buck Lodge Middle School Science Teacher Lazaro was selected for President Obama’s Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. She is among 212 educators from across the nation to win this award. She received a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation and a letter from President Obama.

Statement about Head Start Program, at 18:38: Board wants the Head Start students to continue to receive a high quality education and services this year and beyond. They recognize a close review and examination of what led to the situation must take place. Disciplinary actions were announced last week. This is a first step to keep students safe. They must provide full transparency into this situation. They must examine policies, procedures and actions, but also take stock at the underlying culture in the system and how it must be transformed. Dr. Maxwell and Administration have been asked to provide a full review and public written debriefing. He’s inviting the Federal Government’s Administration for Children and Families to address the Board of Education at an upcoming public meeting. Their external investigation shined light on an area in which we must clearly improve. The Board and Public should hear how they arrived at their conclusions and what solutions they offer.

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Join Us For an Advocacy Meeting on September 21st

pgcabsfliervertv49-21-16Board members Verjeana Jacobs (District 5) and Zabrina Epps (District 1) will co-host a meeting with Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools on Wednesday, September 21st, at the Bowie City Hall.

Parents, teachers, and other members of the community are welcome to join us for a discussion of how to advocate for positive change in the school system. Bring your concerns about school system policies and procedures, budget priorities, and state legislation, and connect with community advocates to learn how you can help move Prince George’s County Public Schools forward.

  • Wednesday, September 21st, at 6:30 pm
  • Bowie City Hall, 15901 Excalibur Road, Bowie, MD, 20716
  • Light refreshments will be served.

For more information, contact Genevieve Kelley at pgcabschools@gmail.com. Visit the Facebook event page here. Download the flier here.

Charter Schools vs. Traditional Public Schools: One Parent’s Experience

Prince George’s County has several publicly funded charter schools. Though charter schools administer the same statewide tests and are accountable to the Board of Education for student achievement, the curricula, instructional programs, and policies may be different than in traditional public schools. Each charter school has its own Board of Directors. Policies, procedures, philosophies, and approaches to education vary from school to school.

Here, one parent relates her experiences with a charter school and a traditional public school in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS).

by Khadija B.

IMG_6342Picture this: My husband and I wake up at 5 am to get our kids ready for their first day of school. One child attends a charter school more than 25 minutes away from home (in good traffic), and transportation is not provided. Our other child attends school a little closer, but she is in the Talented and Gifted (TAG) program. She is attending her dedicated TAG center, and transportation is provided.

I put my third grader on the private bus — that I pay out-of-pocket for — and I follow the bus to his school. Last year, he was left at this school by a different private bus company, so I hope that this will minimize the chances of a repeat of last year.

I follow the bus all the way to the charter school, only to get to the door and have the teacher say, “Students only, no parents allowed.”
“What?! I just drove twenty-five minutes, fought through traffic, took time off from work, just so that I could see and meet my child’s teacher and find out where his class will be, and you are telling me I can’t even come in the building?”

The teacher replies unapologetically, “Aww, so sorry, but you have to leave now. You can meet the teacher at Back to School Night in two weeks.”

I don’t even know how the classes are arranged. Will he be changing classes this year? Is there a PE uniform? And what about the fact that I was able to walk my son to class last year, on his first day? All of these concerns are running through my head.

Fortunately, I am not the only parent with this concern. Unfortunately, some parents are more outspoken than I am. I hear cursing. Some parents refuse to go.

I really do not want to leave without meeting his teacher and making sure she knows he wears glasses and needs to be in the front of the class, but I do not want to make a scene and embarrass him. After all, he has to see these teachers every day, not I. I decide to leave the school, but I can’t help but ask, “Excuse me, where was the email notification?” What I want to say is, “Where is your empathy for all of these parents who care and want to show their support and cheer their children on to class for their first day of school?”

Silence is what I receive, and also a shrug of the shoulder.

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Notes on the August 25th Board of Education Meeting

by Laura Rammelsberg

To view the agenda for the August 25th Board Meeting in BoardDocs, go here.

 

At 3:33 in the video. Student Board Member Juwan Blocker called for a Motion (Emergency Item) to discuss Head Start; Jacobs seconded the motion to discuss Head Start. Chairman Eubanks said it should be an Agenda Item so that the CEO and Board have time to prepare. Request was denied.

MOTION: At 9:15. Board Member Burroughs requested a Federal & State External Investigation into Head Start Case. Motion required 2/3 majority vote.
Yes – Anderson, Blocker, Burroughs, Epps, Jacobs
No –Boston ?, Eubanks, Hernandez, Quinteros-Grady, Valentine, Chairman Eubanks
Abstain – Roche, Wallace, Williams
Motion failed.

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