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.

Sept. 15, 6 pm – Capital Improvement Program Public Hearing

Sept. 22, 1 pm – Board Work Session

Sept. 24, 9 am – College & Career Readiness Summit at Northwestern High School

CEO REPORT, at 22:00.

Working toward student success through new Workforce Diversity Task Force. Students benefit from diverse teaching staff. Group will recommend a plan to address the system’s employment needs.

Acknowledged – Col. Brad Hoagland Col. John Teichert, former and current commanders from Joint Base Andrews. Thanked them for service to PGCPS.

Recognized eight schools that went above and beyond with Arts Integration:

  • Accokeek Academy
  • William Paca Elementary School
  • Capitol Heights Elementary School
  • Edward Felegy Elementary School
  • Thomas G. Pullen Arts Academy
  • Benjamin D. Floyd Creative Arts Academy
  • Northwestern High School
  • Beacon Heights Elementary School 

PUBLIC COMMENTS

Comments on Agenda Item 4.1, Head Start Update

At 36:06. Rosalind Johnson, former Board of Education Member. She has committed her life to PGCPS and comes from a family who always fought wrongs. She will end HB-1107. There is a dome of silence that keeps employees from speaking out. Every promise that has been made has been failed to be realized. Prince George’s residents will take back their schools and ensure our children will be thought of first. She will fight to the end to make PGCPS becomes what it is destined to be.

At 39:21. David Cahn, Co-chair of Citizens for an Elected Board. Interim contractor is running the Head Start program instead of PGCPS. Failure of leadership caused this issue. On Feb. 29, the administration set out a document that showed the deficiencies in the system. They received six weeks to do something about it. So, it was known by at least March 1 what needed to be done to “clean up our act”. April 12 – 14 the Feds came back for another review. PGCPS “flunked,” but Feds didn’t cut off grant and gave PGCPS another 2 months. And then PGCPS “flunked” again. Words must be followed up with action and you failed to follow up with action. It is time to say goodbye / fall on your sword. 

At 42:44. Pat Fletcher, former member of the Board of Education. She was chair of the Personnel Committee and the Board Liaison to Head Start. Head Start mandate required a Board Liaison to Head Start. Head Start is unique. PGCPS is the only county in the country where Head Start is intertwined in the school system. Our Head Start children have highly qualified teachers standing in front of them. Head Start Parent Councils at each school brought many concerns to the Head Start Liaison during her time on the Board, so she knew what was going well and what wasn’t. She knows one of the parents made several attempts to contact Board Liaison and didn’t get a response. Everyone knew about these incidents. County Executive was aware of this as well. Bottom line is this: Our children will be the losers in this. These kids are the most vulnerable kids in the County and they are the ones hurt by this. CEO, Chair and Vice Chair need to go.

At 47:32. Questions why Ms. Deal was terminated, in connection with the Head Start situation. Speaker was a whistleblower herself and terminated for it as well. CEO refused to meet with her. Hope her story gives others the courage to speak out about corruption and cover-ups embedded in administration. 

It 50:57. It is shameful that CEO and Board Chair abuse their power by keeping the discussion behind closed doors. It is an attempt to defraud and deceive the public about what was really happening with Head Start. They are showing no remorse that children were abused. This is all about saving the County Executive. She calls on local state, and federal law enforcement to look into this – do their job to protect children. CEO, Chair and Vice Chair concealed child abuse. Our leaders broke the law when they failed to report that children were abused.

Public Comments on Non-Agenda Items

At 54:19. Parent of Kindergarten student at Calverton Elementary School. Son is excited at new school, but PGCPS Transportation Office denied her son a bus to school. A walk zone is 1.5 miles from the school. When walking conditions are unsafe they are supposed to provide a bus to school, which they have not to her son. Neighborhood was considered “safe” by Transportation Department, but there are no sidewalks and no crosswalks with crossing guard. Response to her concerns from Transportation have been inadequate, if not troubling.

At 57: 43. Bus Driver. Rules for releasing PreK / Kindergarten students have been sent out, and to not follow them is a Category 3 Offense, which can lead to termination of employment. Rule is that PreK / Kindergarten Students must be released to a parent or older sibling or other designee. These students are not readily identifiable by PGCPS drivers. Drivers are not supplied with a student list that tells them their name and drop off location, nor a list of persons approved to pick up the child. Children have no distinguishing clothing or ID tags. It is also a common occurrence for school staff to place a child on the wrong bus. If driver and staff had bus list, they could check to make sure the child belongs on that bus. Drivers are expected to pick up students and guess their destination. Some drivers are facing dismissal after dropping off Prek / K students off the bus without supervision. Disorganization has to stop. Bus drivers are not given the proper tools to do the job effectively. No accountability for staff placing children on wrong bus. Students should wear a highly visibly ID tag with name, address and bus drop off location – that would help greatly. 

At 1:01:2. Parent of a child at CMIT North, a public charter school. Added costs of your child going to a public charter school are transportation costs that run $2,408 per child. She loves the school, but she doesn’t understand why she has to pay so much for transportation. Bus from Private company taking her children to school. Also questioned why CMIT North students in the class of 2017 have to graduate from Laurel High School.

At 1:03:13. Theresa Mitchell Dudley, President of Prince Georges County Education Association (PGCEA). Educators love our students and the parents we serve. PGCEA shares the administration’s intention to protect the children. Reporting abuse is mandatory by state law. There are issues arising from new reporting guidelines and students are suffering standards. When allegation is reported and teachers are put on a 4 to 6-week minimum administrative leave students taught by subs or dispersed to other classes. Children are suffering by not having their teacher teaching them. Educators are standing with hands behinds their backs for fear of being placed on leave for touching a child. Teachers are in trouble if they do or don’t intervene. If a child falls down a bannister what should teacher do? Let them fall? If a fight breaks out between students what should they do? Solutions: Process needs to be improved on the time it takes to close a case. There currently is a huge backlog. This situation is traumatic for educators and their families. What resources are given to teachers waiting to return? Care is needed for teachers entering back into their classes; if you were out of your class for 6 months, how do you transition back? Common sense: system-wide staff development is needed. What is appropriate? What is professional behavior when addressing children? Children will continue to struggle if there is not a cultural change.

At 1:08:04. Doris Reed, Executive Director of Association of Supervisory & Administrative School Personnel (ASASP). In spite of actions of by the CEO, the School Board has the authority given to it by law and the voters to decide the operational policies of the school district. Lower level expendables were let go but their executive staff supervisors were absolved. This union believes the safety of children should never be compromised. Those who offend must be dealt with, regardless of position and title. What about the children? Will the new Head Start company hire certified teachers? Documents which show top level administration brag about preventing the Board Vice Chair from placing the Head Start discussion on the Agenda, bragging that he in conjunction with the Board Chair only placed the incident in Board Docs, this not providing an open discussion at any Board Meeting. He has not been terminated. Employees dismissed for failure to report, but supervisors also failed to report. These top-level individuals placed blame on those below them and suffer no penalties themselves. The administration updated administrative procedure re: reporting guidelines in August 2016, allowing them to apply harsh penalties to union members. This Administration developed a culture of fear in school district. Other union leader says members share the same concerns. A culture of fear is not supportive of the children. Support the employees who support the children.

At 1:11:40. Shirley Kirkland, President of Local 2250. Her statement is to the parents and community members. Don’t be fooled. Ms.Kirkland cannot in good conscience have parents and community believe that the recent termination of employees will fix the problem as the administration and Board would have you believe. Employees want the system to succeed and are committed to growth and education to children. Administration is sending employees like lambs to the slaughter as a smokescreen. The real issues with the system are: short staffing, archaic or non-existing policy and procedures, poor management practices, practices that result in poor fiscal results. Termination as a fix will cause: buildings with maintenance issues won’t be repaired, limited bus routes, late pick-ups drop offs no nurses to help with children’s medication. Special needs children not receiving the services they need, not enough food ordered, long lines at lunch, etc. Losing funding for Head Start was not the employees fault, it was the Board and Administration’s fault as they did not comply with the Federal Government’s requirements in a timely manner. BOE it is your duty if Administration carries out policy and procedure. Ensure that every child has a great learning environment. We are your union partners, not your enemies, so work with us.

At 1:14:59. Bus Driver.There have been several incidents regarding Pre-K and kindergarten children getting off at the wrong stop. Memo updating guidelines for dropping children off was recently sent to drivers. Consequences for not following guidelines is termination. Each driver has 50-60 children per school. The safeguards should be in place to make sure incidents don’t take place again. Aides on buses with young students, ID tags. 

Registration and withdrawal process comment. No registrar on staff to withdraw her children from Wise. Several parents upset about this. Ask that they look at ways to streamline the process so that larger schools have more than one registrar.

At 1:17:25. Bus Driver. She was proud she got her CDL. She is doing something that she loves. She understands the concerns of the parents of the precious cargo she transports. She is concerned about the union contract. Drivers stopped getting steps and anniversary increases. Honor the contract. It takes a village to raise a child. Teachers, drivers, maintenance staff all should work together for the children.

At 1:18:58. Jeremy Joseph, Parent Leadership Institute for Prince George’s County (PLTI). The PLTI enables parents to become advocates for children. PLTI teaches parents how to be practiced change agents for the next generation. National Program but application is designed to meet local needs. It is a 26 week program that can be a compliment of the Family Institute. Success in CT for more than 10 years. Alexandria, VA uses the program. Student achievement is linked to parent advocacy. More families advocate for children the children do better in school. Applaud the PGCPS Family Conference. PLTI would like to meet with the Board to see if they can partner with the Family Institute.

Chair Eubanks says he looks forward to continuing dialogue.

Go here for notes on the remainder of the meeting.

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