Robert Johnson 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. Mr. Johnson 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 have been a resident of Prince George’s County since 1994. I live in the city of Bowie with my wife and two daughters. Currently I serve as Campus Director at ITT Technical College in Springfield, VA. Previously I have served as a classroom teacher in Prince George’s county, administrator, principal, and various leadership positions in higher education for over 16 years. I have earned a certificate of completion of SUPES Academy Chicago with a focus on Urban School Leadership, Education Policy and Administration. I hold an advanced Graduate certificate in Educational Leadership and Supervision from the University of the District of Columbia, Masters of Education degree in Special Education at Bowie State University, and a Bachelors of Arts degree at State University of New York at Albany. However even with all my degrees in education, I realize it is now time to serve the community of which I have been a long time resident. I truly believe Prince Georges County Public Schools can accomplish great things in education with the right type of leadership. I am a new candidate, with new ideas, new direction and strong leadership.
What are your top three goals for PGCPS, and how do you plan to accomplish them if elected?
As candidate for District 5 School Board Member I am looking to accomplish many goals, however my top three goals are:
- Reduce classroom size
- Make our schools safer
- Improve college acceptance rates for all students
What experience do you have working with parents or parent organizations, and how will you increase parent engagement with the system?
Serving as a teacher, coach, and principal, I have significant experience working with parents and parent organizations to engage the entire community in the total success of every student. I have personally implemented programs that sought to bring the school to the community. As a principal once a week I would personally start a half a mile away from the school and begin walking to school, encouraging parents and students to walk with me, thus bringing the school into the community. Currently as a parent I am very involved in my children’s education, committing to spending at least once a week in the classroom.
It is the welcoming environment from the principal and teacher that helps to develop a culture that encourages this sort of involvement. Serving as School Board Member it will be my goal to bring the school house into the family house, by hosting regular small meetings in various communities to talk about what is occurring in the schools. In addition, I will also look to incorporate technology such as “Go To Meeting” as part of these local meetings, as parents with busy schedules they may not always be able to attend every meeting.
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?
I am in full support of Administrative Procedure 6130 as it currently is written. I am in full support of students receiving recess daily. As the research indicates, recess has proven success in three specific areas:
- Builds Social Skills
- Improves academic performance
- Aids in physical development
The change in the school to add additional time to recess would be something I would need to do further research on regarding the impact this would have on the larger school day schedule for every student in the school, however I would not want to ever decrease the amount of current time students receive for recess.
Do you support adding world languages to the elementary school curriculum for all schools? If so, how would you lead this initiative?
I certainly support adding world languages to elementary school. Spanish is the fastest growing language in the United States. Mandarin and Arabic are the fastest growing languages in the world; for our students to compete nationally and internationally they need to be able to communicate in a number of languages. As a school board member I believe it will be my job to assist with the allocation of resources that would allow for the hiring of world languages teachers at the elementary school level.
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?
To improve the achievement gap between boys and girls I would recommend exploring and incorporating the following five concepts.
- First I would seek to create opportunities for young children to attend school in pre-k with a focus on increasing word recognition, vocabulary development and reading comprehension skills in elementary school. Thus providing more opportunities to expose male students to a more inclusive and diverse social learning environment at a younger age.
- I would encourage establishing and reinforcing consistent high expectations for every child’s learning by matching appropriate research based strategies and resources to students’ academic needs.
- I would recommend a study group to explore looking into a revolutionary new concept in education called, “flipping the classrooms.” The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions. I believe this model will allow males to demonstrate mastery of learning through verbal and hands on activities.
- I would also recommend incorporating extended day and Saturday enrichment academies, where possible, that will target areas of deficiencies. These academies will also emphasize communication and STEAM programs.
- Finally, I will seek to cultivate partnerships with parents, businesses, local college’s faith-based groups and community organizations to provide a sustainable system of support and professional development for minority boys.
What can the school system do to reduce teacher burnout and keep morale high? How should teachers be evaluated so that we can ensure a high-performing workforce for our schools?
As a former classroom educator, I personally understand the countless hours that teachers put in to preparing for class, grading papers, contacting parents, and constantly looking for ways to improve their classroom learning environment. These are hours that educators are never fully compensated for; this is what educators do because they genuinely care about improving the lives of students. If elected I will attempt to accomplish the following five ideas to address teacher burnout and keep morale high.
- I will fight to incorporate (true) duty-free planning periods.
- I will work with our community partners to attempt to bring back the teacher next door program that will assist educators to find housing and discounted rates.
- I will continue to build partnerships to assist with creating funding sources that encourages new instructors to continue their education for advanced degrees and certifications at discounted rates.
- Provide tangible resources so that instructors wont have to supplement their income to purchase supplies that they need to effective in the classroom.
- Finally, I will fight to reduce class size — this will have the most dramatic impact on the classroom environment and teacher and student performance.
I will work together with administration and teachers unions to revisit our current teacher evaluation methods for identifying effective teachers. With my background as an educator and principal, I understand the value of an effective evaluation tool that measures the instructor’s ability to connect with students through data-based results that measure several outcomes related to classroom performance, student growth, delivery of instruction, along with assessments. Instructors should NOT be evaluated solely on the basis of annual assessment. As an educator I know that learning is constant and not a one time event. We should not measure the quality or effectiveness of an instructor based on a one time event at the end of the year.
Do you have any additional comments?
I am asking for your vote because I understand every stakeholder’s perspective of the public school system. As educator I have faced the challenges that our educators currently face in this assessment-driven environment, and I also understand that this environment increases the frustration level of students and parents.
As a school building level leader, I understand the importance of creating a supportive student centered environment that is inclusive of parents and community partnerships. I know that it is difficult to create that environment alone. I will fight to remove the barriers that prevent principals from establishing effective partnerships, that promote alternative strategies to improve instructor performance and student outcomes.
As a parent I know the frustration of having a child in an overcrowded classroom and have made the personal commitment to provided any support needed to not only assist my children, but all children.
Finally as the Executive Director of a local nonprofit, I have dealt with the frustration of attempting to navigate the bureaucracy to bring quality programs into the local school system.
As a new candidate with new ideas, strong leadership, I am prepared to take Prince Georges County Public Schools in a new direction.
Learn more about Robert Johnson here:
- Candidate Website: http://www.rjohnson4schools.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009089901172&pnref=story