by Genevieve Demos Kelley
The Prince George’s County Board of Education held its third and final hearing Tuesday on the fiscal year 2017 operating budget. The hearing was well attended, and many of the speakers and audience members arrived on a bus chartered by Casa de Maryland in Langley Park. Video coverage of the meeting will be posted on PGCPS’s Youtube channel.
Board Chair Segun Eubanks reminded participants that comments would be limited to three minutes per person. He also noted that the Board is scheduled to adopt the budget at the February 25th Board meeting, after which it will be sent to County Executive Rushern Baker.
Fifteen people spoke at the hearing. Their comments are recapped below:
- Twelfth-grade student at High Point High School: (As this young man began to speak, many members of the audience stood in a show of solidarity.) Asked the Board to fund music programs. He plays the guitar in his high school jazz band and believes that music helps students to better themselves. “Music is a universal language that everybody speaks.”
- Parent of a student at Accokeek Academy: a)“Many of us don’t know enough about the budget to make informed and meaningful comments.” Encouraged PGCPS to support another question and answer event about the budget, similar to the successful Q & A hosted by PGCABS last week. b) The Curriculum and Instruction office has about 250 full-time equivalent positions (FTEs) and a $65 million budget. Could that money be better spent elsewhere?
- Twelfth-grader at Forestville High School: Asked the Board to keep Forestville High School open. The military program has helped her to mature and gain leadership skills and discipline. Students benefit from the small-school environment and the small class sizes.
- Speaker in support of Forestville High: Referring to the possible closure of Forestville High, asks, “Is this change realistic? Is this change fair?” Leave Forrestville Military Academy intact, even if it is at another location.
- Sophomore at High Point High School: His experience at High Point has been positive. His algebra teacher has made the subject fun and easy to understand. Please give students more access to technology at home and at school.
- Parent: Our kids are the future, and if we don’t fully commit to their education, their future won’t be as good. Praised the increase in spending on “safe and supportive learning environments.” One of the biggest concerns of her school’s PTO has is that the building is not big enough for its students.
- Parent of three children who attend Cold Spring Elementary (translation by daughter): Concerned about the environment and safety at the school, pleased with budget increase. “We all know stories where children suffer when staff does not behave in a professional manner.”
- Parents of two children at Langley Park McCormick Elementary School: Expressed confidence and trust in Dr. Maxwell. She had invited Dr. Maxwell to her children’s bus stop, and he came to the bus stop and waited with them. Afterward, he went to the school and fixed the broken ceiling and heater that they had previously tried to get fixed. Excited about proposed budget and appreciates that “it makes family and community outreach a priority.” As president of her school’s PTO, she hopes that the new Parent University program will be expanded so that she can attend.
- Parent of two daughters at Judith P. Hoyer Montessori: Expressed full support of the budget proposal. One ask: Please spend some time increasing the county’s commitment to the CIP (Capital Improvement Program) budget. Urged the Board to fight for exceptional school buildings for our children.
- Speaker: Areas of waste and fraud were identified in two separate evaluations. “What have you done to correct the areas that you already know were a problem?” Expressed concern about transparency of the budget process, noting that one hearing was held at 3:00 in the afternoon. Concerned about increase in senior-level administrators in Sasscer. “Our procurement process is broken.”
- Theresa Dudley, President of PGCEA: PGCEA has many concerns, including the need to expand the Peer Assistance and Review program, fair compensation for teachers, technology needs, etc. PGCEA is a partner in the Stop the Violence campaign. “We lost NeShante Davis . . . We are on the front line of what I call the Jerry Springer-ing of America.” Urged the Board to support anti-violence programs in schools.
- Angela Wakhweya, former Health Director of PGCPS: Summarized the Biblical story of Daniel. “They could find no corruption in Daniel because he was neither corrupt nor negligent.” Asked for three things: 1. Please study the PGCPS budget with a fine-tooth comb and get rid of programs that don’t have good outcomes. 2. Please focus on removing inefficiencies, in particular, by investing in paperless systems. 3. Please treat those who are on the front lines (e.g. teachers, nurses, cafeteria workers) with respect. Treat immigrant employees well. “Don’t despise them because of their accents. They are as American as you are.”
- Teacher at Forestville High School: Foresville High stabilizes a community where so many things are unstable. “This is not just a job. They are my family.” The staff at Forrestville takes pride in knowing each and every one of their students. Urged the Board to keep Forrestville open.
- Speaker: Concerned about transparency. “The strategic plan has now been reduced to a 20-page summarized document full of cliches and hyperboles.” Urged an audit of all senior-level positions since 2010. Claimed that since 2013, PGCPS has increased administrative salaries by $30 million. Urged the Board to ensure protection for whistle-blowers. “If you don’t want to do it, then I’m asking the Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Education to investigate our budgeting process.”
- Buck Lodge Middle School student: Supports new budget and stresses the importance of iPads for students. Four years ago, he accidentally broke a window at Casa’s multicultural center, and he was asked to pay for it through community service. He has been giving back to the community ever since.