Q & A with Cheryl Landis, District 5 Board of Education Candidate

image_cherylLandisThis is part of a series of interviews with PGCPS Board of Education candidates. Cheryl Landis is one of four candidates from District 5 (see district map here) whose names will be on the ballot in the April 26th primary election. Ms. Landis answered questions generated by members of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools. 

Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools does not endorse or oppose any candidate for the Board of Education.

Tell us about your background and why you are running for the Board of Education.

I made the decision over ten years ago that upon my retirement from Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), I would transition to an elected member of the Board of Education. On November 1, 2016, I will retire from PGCPS with 27-years of uninterrupted service. Why am I running for the Board of Education? It is my PASSION and my PURPOSE. Each and every step that I have taken since my initial employment with PGCPS in 1989 has successfully prepared me for the position I seek as an elected member of the Board of Education. I am prepared and committed to serving and supporting outstanding educational outcomes for our students.

37 years 1979-present Prince George’s County volunteer, community organizer, activist, servant leader
27 yrs

  • 17 yrs
  • 10 yrs
  • 06 yrs
1989-present

  • 1989-2006
  • 2006-present
  • 2010-present
Prince George’s County Public Schools’ Employee

  • Executive Administrative Officer, Board of Education
  • Strategic Business Partnerships Specialist
  • Administrator, Excellence in Education Foundation for PGCPS, Inc.
10 years 2006-present Member, Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee, Chair (2014-present)
10 years 2014-present Chair, Education/Workforce Development Committee, Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce

What are your top three goals for PGCPS, and how do you plan to accomplish them, if elected?

I have worked for 37 years as a servant leader committed to improving the quality of life for all Prince Georgians. The past 27 years has been in public education, working with numerous boards of education, both elected and appointed. For 17 years (1989-2006), I was the Executive Administrative Officer to the very same Board of Education to which I seek election. And, for the past 10 years (2006-present), I serve as the school system’s Strategic Business Partnerships Specialist. My entire tenure with PGCPS is unique in and of itself as I have worked in only two (2) critical positions, both of which have successfully prepared me to serve as an elected member of the Board of Education. Because of my many years of service, I have developed the intellectual capacity that is needed to be an “effective” Board Member. I understand the critical importance of being collaborative and developing relationships with all stakeholders. This has given me a very unique lens through which I will serve the students, parents, and families.

  • Goal No. 1: To bring student-focused leadership to empower all students through engaging, high quality educational programs and services. I will work to ensure that all graduating seniors are prepared to attend college or pursue their career of choice.
  • Goal No. 2: I will work to ensure that our students, teachers, and employees are provided with safe and supportive environments that are conducive to teaching, learning, and working. I am dedicated to working collaboratively with the administration and our labor organizations to ensure that every employee is empowered with the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to perform at high levels of excellence.
  • Goal No. 3: Fiscal responsibility is critical to improving public perception of the Board of Education and the school system. As an elected member of the Board of Education, I will work diligently to ensure that all plans, resources, processes, programs, technology, and support services are strategically aligned and school-student focused.

What experience do you have working with parents or parent organizations, and how will you increase parent engagement with the system?

I currently serve as the school system’s Strategic Business Partnerships Specialist and as such, have had the distinct honor and privilege of supporting the work of the PGCPS Department of Family and Community Engagement by conducting professional development training to the 60+ Parent Engagement Assistants (PEAs) who work daily with their assigned school, students and parents. As the Administrator for the Excellence in Education Foundation for PGCPS, Inc., I conduct fundraising activities (i.e., Annual Golfing for Education Tournament) with the proceeds going directly to the Foundation to benefit PGCPS students. Since 2010, the Foundation has awarded over $400,000 in scholarships to PGCPS graduating seniors, a direct result of my fundraising efforts. I have experienced tremendous success with fundraising and as a result, have developed the techniques, skills, processes and procedures to officially conduct fundraising activities to support our schools and centers.

The professional development training I conducted for the PEAs included the processes to conduct fundraising, as well as how to identify, establish and retain strong and supportive partnerships that will add value to their respective school with non-profit organizations, community groups, and businesses. My commitment is to increase family and community engagement by working with each District 5 school to help establish – where none exists – a highly functioning, fully engaged PTA/PTO. Community engagement opportunities will be provided to parents and families through listening sessions, meetings, workshops, etc. The business community clearly understandings the importance of a thriving, robust public education system and how it affects their business. As an elected member of the Board of Education, I will work with the business community to create pathways for them to explore in support of our future workforce.

Current board policy states that daily recess for elementary school students must be from 15 to 30 minutes long (See Administrative Procedure 6130). Do you support changing the policy so that children get longer recess periods?  If so, how would you revise the policy?

First and foremost, I do see the value of recess for elementary school students. Recess has a positive impact on academic achievement; students tend to listen better and are more focused in class after recess; recess has a beneficial effect on a child’s overall well-being and social development. With that being said, I do believe that 30 minutes of recess per school day for elementary school students is sufficient and need not be extended to a longer period of time. It must also be noted that discipline problems do tend to occur during recess and/or the lunch break.

Do you support adding world languages to the elementary school curriculum for all schools? If so, how would you lead this initiative?

I believe that learning a second language at an early age has many benefits for students. PGCPS has made great strides in this area, yet there is still much work to be done. Yes, I do support adding world language arts to all elementary schools; however, funding for such a lofty initiative will require collaborative discussions and a commitment over time of additional resources and money. I would lead such an initiative as indicated herein, incrementally and consistently over time until all elementary schools offer World Language Programs. However, all is not lost as PGCPS currently has Elementary World Languages Programs as follows:

FLES K-5: Barack Obama ES, Judith P. Hoyer Montessori, Melwood ES, Montpelier ES, Patuxent ES, Rosaryville ES
Chinese: Ardmore ES, Berwyn Heights ES, and Paint Branch ES
Italian: Fort Foote ES, University Park ES
Russian: Greenbelt ES
French Immersion: K-8 at 2 Schools
Spanish: 2 Montessori/John Hanson Montessori and Robert Goddard Montessori
Spanish / French & 6 Units of Different Languages in 8 TAG: Accokeek Academy, Capitol Heights ES, Glenarden Woods ES, Heather Hills ES, Highland Park ES, Longfields ES, Mattaponi ES, and Valley View ES
Classes:
  • Grade 2: French and Japanese
  • Grade 3: Italian and Chinese
  • Grade 4: Spanish and Russian
  • Grade 5: Spanish, French and Japanese ICAL
  • Introduction to Spanish: Magnolia ES
  • STEM Through Chinese Language: Paint Branch ES
  • STEM Through Spanish Dual Language Arts: Capital Heights ES

Test scores show a significant achievement gap between girls and boys in the county. What can be done to boost achievement for boys and to make schools more boy-friendly?

Under the leadership and direction of CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell, Prince George’s County Public Schools has established a strategic direction focused on achieving ONE common goal: Outstanding Academic Achievement for ALL Students. Literacy is the common thread that binds together our focus areas and the underlying strategies that are being implemented to rapidly improve student achievement. I have first-hand knowledge of this because my work over the past 10 years as the school system’s Strategic Business Partnerships Specialists has focused on supporting our schools and the academic achievement of all students. At the school level, principals are committed to developing a coherent whole school policy for raising the academic achievement of boys. The focus should be to improve boys’ literacy skills from the earliest stages of schooling and particularly at the primary-secondary transition stages. We must find ways to meet boys individual learning needs by tracking their progress and targeting support where it is needed most. As an elected member of the Board of Education, I will support schools in the development of partnerships with other providers of educational services that will widen curriculum choices and meet individual needs. Some of the partnerships that I have development to support our schools provide mentoring and tutoring to at risk students, scholastic enrichment opportunities, health and wellness, student service learning opportunities, environmental education, STEM and STEAM support, etc.

Organizations that I have developed formalized partnership with are — by way of example only — 100 Black Men of Prince George’s County, Concerned Black Men of Prince George’s County, First Generation College Bound, Hillside Work Scholarship Connection, Take Charge of Your Life Juvenile Diversion Program, Prince George’s Tennis Education Foundation, End Time Harvest Ministries, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, Men Aiming Higher, and many, many more. I will work collaboratively and diligently with the members of the Board of Education, the Administration, and all education stakeholders to ensure that: (a) schools set targets for raising the academic achievement for all of its students; (b) we continue to give the highest priority to literacy programs that will help improve boys’ literacy skills; and (c) ensure that we provide schools with performance data on the relative attainment of boys and girls compared with national and benchmarked norms.

What can the school system do to reduce teacher burnout and keep morale high?

PGCPS must do a far better job at facilitating positive relations with current, former and prospective employees. I have been employed by PGCPS for the past 27 years and I have witnessed first-hand the burnout and issues of low morale suffered by many employees. There is a general belief amongst employees that they are not valued or appreciated. My focus in this regard embraces all employees and not just our teachers. As an elected member of the Board of Education, I will work collaboratively with the Board and the Administration to ensure that we make all decisions in the best interest of the students, parents and families we have committed ourselves to serve. The Board of Education and the Administration must model the very behavior we wish to see in our children. We must adhere to high moral values, principles, professional standards and integrity. We must be accessible, transparent, honest, collaborative, and accountable. At the end of the day, we must honor the dignity and worth of each employee and the services they provide in support of PGCPS.

How should teachers be evaluated so that we can ensure a high-performing workforce for our schools?

Teachers and all employees should be evaluated in a way that empowers them to implement practices which will ensure that PGCPS students are college and career ready upon graduation from high school. As a current PGCPS employee, I know first-hand that the mission is to provide all employees with an effective evaluation system that promotes professional growth and facilitates improved outcomes. Having a high performing workforce is critical to successful academic outcomes for our students. The evaluation component is also critical as it is intended to provide clear and consistent communications to all employees about their evaluation. All employees must have a clear understanding of the evaluation processes that support the instructional core of our coherence framework.

Do you have any additional comments?

I have been preparing myself to serve as an elected member of the Board of Education throughout my 27-year tenure as a PGCPS employee; 17-years as the Executive Administrative Officer to the Board of Education; and 10-years as the PGCPS Strategic Business Partnerships Specialist. Once elected, I will take a grassroots approach to working with the students, parents and families. My intent is to partner with District 5 schools by supporting, connecting, and providing opportunities for ongoing, collaborative discussions between PGCPS, parents and students that will result in increased parental engagement and support, and increased academic performance. In addition, I fully understand and embrace the mission of the Board of Education to advance the achievement of all students through sound policy governance, accountability, and fiscal responsibility. I also understand that the authority of the Board belongs not to individual members, but to the Board of Education itself. With that being said, the role of the Board of Education is to provide governance. It is the role of the Chief Executive Officer to manage the day-to-day operations of the school system.

I am ready to hit the ground running as the struggles and learning curve that most new Board Members experience are not factors for me to consider as I am expert at navigating through PGCPS.

I have a very clear and concise plan of action that I will implement once I am elected. It is with deep respect and humility that I ask for the vote of District 5 residents to serve as your elected member on the Prince George’s County Board of Education.

Learn more about Cheryl Landis here:

Update: We have published a new set of questions and answers in advance of the general election. You may read Ms. Landis’s responses to that questionnaire here.

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