PGCPS Parents: Speak Up About Next Year’s Budget

by Lori Morrow

Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) have started soliciting public input for the Fiscal Year 2019 Operating Budget. CEO Kevin Maxwell hosted a forum on Monday, November 13th to hear from members of the public about budget priorities. He was joined by Chief Operating Officer Wesley Watts, Budget Director John Pfister, Board of Education Chair Segun Eubanks, Board of Education Vice Chair Carolyn Boston, and Board of Education Member Sonya Williams.

The short meeting started with an overview of the budget process by Mr. Pfister.  Seven registered speakers shared their feedback, including four parents from Robert Goddard Montessori School advocating for teacher training, materials, and reduced class sizes.  Additional speakers included a parent from the Maya Angelou French Immersion program and a representative from the Education Support Professionals union. Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools (PGCABS) member Tommi Makila thanked the administration for these efforts to engage the public. He also argued that the PGCPS operating budget should focus on things that most directly touch classrooms.

After public comment concluded, the administration shared that PGCPS is testing a new online platform, Let’s Talk, to collect inputs about next year’s spending priorities. This survey will be available through November 27th so that the administration can review comments prior to the CEO’s Proposed Budget presentation to the board of education on December 14th.

Additional public comment forums will be held at locations throughout the county in January and February as the Board of Education shapes the budget request to send forward to Prince George’s County Executive. PGCABS is also working with the PGCPS Budget Office to host a public question and answer forum about the operating budget this winter.

Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts about FY 2019 Operating Budget priorities with the PGCPS CEO here before November 27th.  Historically, feedback tends to be low in these early stages of the budget process but the Operating Budget impacts our students at every level. If you are not sure where to start, consider using the survey to answer one of these questions:

  1. What programs work well and should be kept/expanded at your school?
  2. What programs are not working well and should be eliminated, or may need increased funding to be effective?
  3. Are there programs that you would like to see added within your child’s school or within the county school system?
  4. What additional resources do you feel would benefit your child’s school or classroom (technology, books, field trips, etc.)?
  5. Do you feel that your school has the correct staffing level to meet students’ needs (classroom teachers, aides, special ed, support staff, etc.)?
  6. Do you feel that class sizes at your school are appropriate?
  7. What maintenance concerns do you have about PGCPS facilities?
  8. Do you feel that support services like transportation and security are adequate in PGCPS?

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Ten Things PGCPS Can Do to Rebuild Community Confidence

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by Lori Morrow

This past weekend I read the graduation rate audit report from Alvarez & Marsal. Unfortunately I was not surprised by the findings. Over the past 9+ years, I’ve noticed a disconnect between Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) leadership/central offices and the way individual schools operate on a daily basis.

I suspect that any PGCPS parent could provide anecdotes about inconsistent policy and procedure compliance at the school level — from issues like withholding elementary school recess as punishment and discrepancies in meeting volunteer/visitor requirements, to inconsistencies in grading procedures or the abuse incidents in recent years. While the report did not find system-wide fraud, I believe we need a system-wide solution to balancing effective policies and procedures without drowning staff in processes and paperwork.

Earlier this week I wrote a list of things that I believe parents/guardians should do. Parents own a piece of the issues identified in the audit if they aren’t paying attention to grades and attendance, if they ask to have their child promoted when they shouldn’t be, or if they are focused just on the diploma instead of the education. Sadly what I often hear from parents and teachers is that it doesn’t matter what we do because we are powerless to change PGCPS. I spend too much time attending PGCPS events and meetings to accept that there is nothing we can do.

Here are my suggestions for ways PGCPS can partner with parents and staff to help rebuild trust and confidence in our school system:

  1. Host forums like last year’s “Community Summit on Safety & Accountability” to involve the community in identifying problems and searching for solutions.
  2. Involve PTA/PTO leaders in reviewing climate survey results at the school level so that they can assist in resolving ongoing concerns.
  3. Add an item to parent and teacher climate surveys that asks about staff adherence to policies and procedures.
  4. Implement new Administrative Procedures in the spring or beginning of the summer (instead of right before school starts) so that principals and central offices are thoroughly prepared to communicate them to parents and teachers by Back-to-School Night.
  5. Create an interactive video/training module on the Students Rights & Responsibilities Handbook for parents and students that can be posted online and shared at Back-to-School Nights or PTA meetings.
  6. Reach out to the Board of Education Parent and Community Advisory Council to provide feedback on policy and procedure changes.
  7. Host forums with PTA/PTO leaders at least twice during the school year to identify system-wide issues.
  8. Clarify the role of instructional directors as it relates to policy and administrative procedure compliance, and share that information with the community.
  9. Educate the community on the formal process for teachers, students, and parents/guardians who wish to report instances of non-compliance, and ensure that they will not face retaliation.
  10. Above all else, please put aside the politics and make our children’s EDUCATION the priority.

Ten Things Parents Can Do in Response to the PGCPS Graduation Rate Audit

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by Lori Morrow

Here are ten things parents and guardians can do in response to the Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) graduation rate audit:

  1. Read the Executive Summary of the report if you haven’t already, regardless of what grade your child is in.
  2. Read the sections of the Students Rights and Responsibilities Handbook that relate to attendance and graduation requirements (and the rest of it too if you can find the time).
  3. Make sure you are meeting your parent responsibilities by getting your child to school every day.
  4. Set high expectations for your children and provide them the support they need to meet them.
  5. Check grades and attendance regularly in the Schoolmax Family Portal and contact teachers if you see any errors/discrepancies.
  6. Attend parent teacher conferences to understand how your child is doing in school.
  7. Ask teachers and guidance counselors about graduation requirements that you don’t understand.
  8. Keep your own file (hardcopy or digital) of documentation for credit make-up work and Service Learning Hours.
  9. If you find that procedures are not being followed, bring that to the attention of someone at a higher level (whether that is the principal, the Instructional Director, the Ombudsman, the CEO or the Board of Education).
  10. If you see a better way to do things, bring that to the attention of someone as well. We can ALL find solutions.

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Notes on the October 24 Board of Education Meeting

by Laura Rammelsberg

To view the agenda in BoardDocs, go here.

Attendees: Board Members Ahmed, Boston, Burroughs, Hernandez, Murray, Paige, Quinteros- Grady, Roche, Valentine, Wallace, Williams, Dr. Wiseman, Dr. Eubanks
CEO Dr. Maxwell

Ms. Eubanks had a friend who passed today and could not attend the meeting.

NEWSBREAK

At 5:39 in the video. Our New 3D Scholars Program – highlights partnership between PGCPS, Prince George’s Community College and UMUC that allows students to get a Bachelor’s Degree for $10,000.

For more information about the 3D Scholars Program visit: http://www.pgcps.org/3dscholars/

REPORT OF THE CHAIR

At 9:49. Honored lives of four individuals – Kayla Holman (G. James Gholson Middle School student), Ms. Owens (educator at Gwynn Park MS), Shelly Miley (father of Dr. Kara Libby, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, PGCPS) and Ms. Murphy (daughter of Kim Murphy, Sasscer building services staff.)

Fairmont Heights HS – new high school was dedicated attended by alumni from 1940s and 1950s were there. Video of the Fairmont Heights HS Ribbon Cutting can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuImqO3DUTQ

Oct. 16 – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen at Greenbelt Middle School announcement of the award of $25 million US Department of Education grant titled “Great Teachers, Great Leaders, Great Schools.” Funds will go to highest need schools and develop leaders to help our children thrive and succeed.  

Video about $25 million grant announcement can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X851MuCwtaA

At 14:29. Board Member Burroughs – recognized former School Board Chair Owen Johnson, who is in the audience.  

Board Member Wallace – recognized 12-year old student from North Forestville Elementary, Ms. Dashai Morton. For her birthday, she raised 3000 cases of water for victims of Hurricane Maria and Irma in Puerto Rico. Proclamation made in honor of her.  To see more information about Ms. Morton’s story visit: http://wjla.com/news/local/prince-georges-county-sixth-grader-collects-water-for-hurricane-victims-in-puerto-rico

Board Member Williams – Greatness is happening all over PGCPS.  Law passed to implement green cleaning in schools throughout the State.  PGCPS is the first organization in the State to complete the green cleaning certification. Ten custodians completed a green certification course, which help achieve this goal, she recognized them.

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Notes on 2017 PARCC Results

by Lori Morrow

Results for the PARCC Assessments taken in Spring 2017 were the main discussion item at the PGCPS Board of Education meeting on September 19, 2017.  PARCC stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. It is a set of annual tests in English/Language Arts and Mathematics that students take in grades 3-12 during April and May.  More information about PARCC can be found online at https://parcc.pearson.com or www.pgcps.org/parcc.

  • The Maryland State Department of Education released this year’s PARCC scores near the end of August 2017.  Results for all state, county and individual school results are available online at http://reportcard.msde.maryland.gov.
  • All students who took PARCC tests should receive individual score sheets from their schools.  If you have not received your results, contact your school’s Testing Coordinator.  Information about understanding the score sheets is online at www.pgcps.org/parcc. Dr. Goldson mentioned that PGCPS will not be presenting “PARCC Nights” like previous years due to low attendance during the 2016-17 School Year.

PARCC RESULTS PRESENTATION:

Dr. Goldson’s presentation begins with the overview and Elementary School Scores: https://youtu.be/o9T65Q9I83U?list=PL4585E4C6234DE895&t=1620

  • Grades 3-5: Increases in all ELA/Math scores by grade except for a decrease for Math 5. Despite increases, PGCPS is still well below the state average for both assessments. For all demographics, students did better on ELA than they did for Math. Most demographic subgroups showed improvement from SY2016 to SY2017.

Middle School Scores: https://youtu.be/o9T65Q9I83U?list=PL4585E4C6234DE895&t=1944

  • Grades 6-8: Slight decrease for student performance in grades 6-8 on both ELA and Mathematics assessments.  The only increase in results was at Grade 7, which was due to clarification from MSDE that students should take the assessment for their grade level.  All demographic subgroups did better on ELA assessments than they did in Math.  Asian and white students outperformed African American students, but it also must be noted that the number of African American students in PGCPS significantly exceeds the number of Asian and white students.  Most groups at the middle school level showed minimal growth or a slight decrease.

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Eubanks Reappointed to Board of Education, Anderson Resigns

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

Prince George’s County Board of Education Chair Segun Eubanks has been appointed to a second four-year term on the board. In a June 8 phone conversation, a staff member in County Executive Rushern Baker’s office confirmed that Baker reappointed Eubanks on June 1 of this year.

Eubanks was first appointed on June 1, 2013, the same day that the controversial House Bill 1107 took effect. The legislation changed the structure of the board, adding four at-large appointed members to the previously all-elected board and giving the superintendent (renamed under the bill as “Chief Executive Officer”) and county executive more control over the school system. Under HB 1107, the county executive also selects the chair of the board of education, who serves a two-year term as chair. Eubanks was selected by Baker to serve as chair of the board in June of 2013.

Beverly Anderson, whose recent resignation from the board has made the news, was also appointed by Baker to a four-year term in June of 2013. Anderson’s appointment was announced on June 17, along with the appointments of Daniel Kaufman and Curtis Valentine. Under the provisions of HB 1107, Valentine was appointed by the county council, and Kaufman was appointed by the county executive. Both were appointed to two-year terms initially, with the stipulation that future appointments to those seats would be four-year terms. Valentine was appointed in June 2015 to a second term, which will last four years. Kaufman’s seat is now held by Mary Roche.

The board of education also has nine elected members, each elected from their own board of education district, and one student member.

On June 13, four days before her term ended, Anderson sent a resignation letter to County Executive Baker, criticizing the school system for its “lack of a coherent educational plant” and calling the board “dysfunctional.” The letter was obtained by NBC 4 through a public information request, and the full text is below. It is not clear whether Baker had planned to appoint Anderson to a second term. Baker is responsible for appointing someone to fill the vacancy left by Anderson.

 

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A Lonely Journey: Life on Administrative Leave

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The author is an employee of Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) who wishes to remain anonymous.

There is your badge sitting on the desk. Your smiling face and the PGCPS logo are looking straight up at the ceiling. That piece of plastic that stayed so close to you every day at work was being taken away from you. Maybe for a few days. Maybe forever. The words still ring in your ears: “I’m placing you on administrative leave.”

You’ve had a stellar record through all of your career. You’re respected by your colleagues. You’ve never had a whiff of trouble. And now, you can’t do the thing that’s been at the core of your being for almost your entire adult life.

Your mind turns to the alleged victim. You are a teacher because you have a sincere desire to make the world a better place. You want the best for your students, your colleagues, and your community. Yet somehow, somebody believes you have been harmful to them or that you have done something to put others at risk. Whoever is putting forth the allegations is not your enemy, but you are suddenly placed in an antagonistic position with someone you have tried to support.

As the principal walks you to the parking lot and you drive away, you contemplate how you will explain this to your family. You know they will be hurt and confused, but you still have to be the one to deliver the news. Before it even happens, you can hear what will come: the bewildered silence and the anger in their voices.

You turn your attention to what it will take to defend yourself. So many things happen in a teacher’s day. This is a profession that is exhausting based on the sheer number of decisions you have to make as you plan and manage a classroom full of young personalities and try to impart the curriculum. You don’t have time to take detailed notes of everything that happens, yet right now you wish that you had a record of every interaction you’ve had. You do the best with what you’ve got.

It soon becomes clear what is one of the most insidious aspects of being on administrative leave. The feeling of isolation is horrible. You have been instructed not to be in contact with any colleagues, students, or parents. You know they are wondering about you. Where is my teacher? Will they ever come back? What happened to our colleague? I hope everything is OK. You receive phone calls, text messages, and emails, but you know you can’t respond and tell the truth of what you’re going through.

When the school year ends, you will learn from news reports that there were 848 PGCPS staff members placed on administrative leave this year. In that sense, you are not alone. Sure, you had heard through the grapevine what had happened to a friend of a friend. It was unfortunate, but it was distant. Now it is all too close. You wish you could reach out to the others. You need a support group, but you don’t know who they are or where they are.

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