Notes on the Sept. 8th Board of Education Meeting, Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

by Laura Rammelsberg

To view the agenda for the September 8th Board of Education meeting in BoardDocs, go here. Video of the entire meeting is below.

See notes on the first portion of the meeting here.

AGENDA ITEMS, at 1:22:01.

4.1 Head Start Update / 11.2 Head Start Policy Council Minutes and Follow UP

CEO: On August 29, Head Start opened up for 2017 school year. Very few problems. Members of executive team visited every Head Start classroom in district and will continue to do so. In the summer, all Head Start staff received training on suspected child abuse and neglect and additional training for positive behavior techniques, which is requirement for Head Start. Trainings will continue throughout the year. Issues are being sent to Deputy Superintendents. Conducted several unannounced observations and will continue them throughout the school year. Discussions are underway with Administration for Children and Families, PGCPS administration, four school board members and members of the County Council. Special Section on PGCPS website with updates. Their priority is that Head Start children remain in school with no disruptions.

Questions, beginning at 1:24:34.

Mr. Blocker: What are next steps for Head Start Program? Clarity into the investigation. Internal investigation? How are you will inform the public? He is disappointed how the situation is being handled by administration.

CEO Response: We have been doing fact-finding and investigation, identified people who were a part of the original concerns. Also doing additional trainings and continuing conversation. There is an internal investigation. They will continue to update as additional information becomes available to them. Pieces of personnel investigations that can be public and others not. Taking action, but there are things that they cannot legally discuss in public about individual employees. There can be appeals to BOE (and some already have been appealed). “So I’m glad that you’re disappointed, Mr. Blocker, but you should wait until you have all the facts to be disappointed.”

Mr. Burroughs, at 1:28:50: What is being done to keep our students are safe? Original report from Federal Government mentioned there are cases that weren’t reported so what about the non-Head Start classes? Telling parents that policies have changed is not sufficient. Initial notice was sent to Administration in February. What actions were taken then? What corrective measures taken then?

CEO Response: We have been very clear publicly that we went through the entire process of retraining the staff over the past couple of months. Also, the Student Safety Task Force results are known, Board acted and changed policy. They have been evaluating the training since.

The trigger for The Student Safety Task Force was NOT the Head Start Case; they were not aware of the Head Start issues when the Task Force was begun. 

In regards to question about what has happened since February: They continue to investigate that matter. They are developing a timeline. When they are finished with all the conversations, what was done will be a part of that briefing. Who needs to be held accountable is part of the investigation. Need to be aware of all of the facts.

Mr. Wallace: Head Start in his district are operating smoothly. He doesn’t want to go further in perpetuating a stigma of this Board that they are covering up something. He will be open and transparent to everyone in Prince Georges County.

Ms. Jacobs, at 1:36:44: She’s been contacted by groups of parents who moved from other areas in the region. They want to know what’s going on and asked her if they would have a transparent conversation with them. What exactly is the training (video)? One-on-one training?Created yet another division department: Monitoring and Compliance. They have enough staff at very high levels in the schools. Principal, Assistant Principal, Instructional Director, etc… There shouldn’t have to be a new department to make sure children are safe. Constituent found out that one of the “accused” staff was transferred to her child’s school? What is she supposed to say to that? Acknowledge when we are wrong. We are constantly hearing the trust is not going to be earned because we say things. To earn the public’s trust, going forward it requires someone on the outside to do a different investigation and make recommendations. Create training that’s meaningful. Teacher’s don’t hug or touch children now. Say we’re wrong, we made a mistake and get it right an involve the public with the solutions.

Mr. Valentine: We were wrong. It’s clear. The question is what’s next? We need engaged parents. Advocate for retention and recruiting educations. Children come to school hungry and without structure, to be told they are somebody, despite of what you are told at home. He has been told he can’t be alone with a female student to tutor her. He’s been on both sides of the argument. Agreed with Mr. Burroughs — is a need for a cultural shift. You can’t prepare a student if you are afraid to hug a child. His question is to Board Counsel: What is the process for reporting or investigating teachers? What does a teacher do if they observed something? What recommendations to they have about how they can effectively resource the system so that there’s proper timing for the investigation. No parent wants their children taught by long-term subs? Would additional funding help make cases go through more quickly.

Shauna Battle, Office of General Counsel, at 1:45:45: Incident took place in February, and they immediately began retraining all staff across the district. Student Safety Task Force said they should retool the training module. They then developed a webinar with a video component for teachers. State law mandates reporting of child abuse, and this applies to EVERYONE — central office, bus driver, teachers. One things that was clarified that a report should be made IMMEDIATELY. Call Child Protective Services (CPS), [State Agency] immediately. They clarified no one has to seek permission from a supervisor to report to CPS. They have 48 hours to submit the documentation. When they retrained staff in the Spring, they asked staff to report things they saw, people responded. Office of Child Protective Services were overwhelmed by the phone calls they received at that time. Office of Security Services cases tripled from previous school years — 150 cases to 400 cases. She acknowledged the fact that people were out longer than they would have liked. Each case had to be investigated. When a report comes in the employees goes on administrative leave with pay until the investigation is over. The allegations could be true, so need to remove them to the building. CPS has strict definition of what abuse is. They are looking for bruises in physical abuse cases. Experts who are trained to interview children in sexual abuse cases. She agreed additional funds would help.

Ms. Epps: The employees who were cited in June, did those employees attend the training held in the Spring (is the training effective)? System was under investigation (Head Start) process of making a case to the Children and Families another incident happens. What kind of training has been done in that regard— how teachers / aids treat children?

CEO Response: Retraining everyone was not relative to Head Start Letter from February. Training was based on what happened at Sylvania Woods. Head Start employees are trained in positive behavior intervention. Head Start believes the way the children were disciplined by employees and aids in June were contrary. Those incidents were reported properly. 

Employees of Head Start are trained by Head Start. That training was redone and employees at Head Start have been retrained this summer. They were also trained last year according to the Head Start training procedures, but the employees in question did not discipline the way that they were trained to do.

Monique Davis, Deputy Superintendent, at 1:57:17. They recognize this is a significant burden on parents and staff and on Board of Education. They don’t take that lightly. Important to understand that the first case at Judge Sylvania Woods alerted the system about the requirement for reporting. That piece was missing. Something went on in our school system that was not reported. The re-training was just on they have to report if they suspect. Now they are facing that they do report, how do they prevent the behavior from even occurring. That’s the harder part, that’s about adult’s behavior. That has to do with culture. They are trying to change behaviors and cultures. The Arbinger Institute working with them on culture of school system. Adult to adult culture. What they are finding they need to make sure they are addressing adult to child culture. Takes time to change adult behavior. In the meantime, they are trying to put different procedures in place, these situations will improve what they do in the school system.

Ms. Epps: Seeing misalignment in policies and administrative procedure. Need to make sure they are aligned and also intent is the same. Intent of the Board for every student to have no less than the best experience they can have. All of these allegations and situation keep happening, when she gets a copy of the determination letter dealing with 4170 (harassment) verbal abuse. Parents submit a form and that form reads therefore such behavior (though inappropriate and unprofessional) does not rise to the level of constituting discrimination and / or harassment, that being said PGCPS does not countenance and use such behavior as is PGCPS’s goal to promote student achievement… So, the language here (though inappropriate and unprofessional) acknowledges the behavior and tells the parents, oh well… that’s what people are disgusted about. Align policies and procedures so that they don’t have to worry about adult behavior. There’s nothing in place to deal with verbal abuse. This document has been shared with the CEO.

Dr. Davis: Collective commitment to get better. Not all procedures are officially documented.

Ms. Epps: Maybe they should be. Administrative procedure is trackable. System is too big not to track everything in the system.

Chair Eubanks: Failure of this magnitude happens at every level of this organization from classroom to this dais. Review of this process will find those mistakes. If internal review doesn’t find it out. Then an external review is just fine. Find out what mistakes are made and why. More significant piece for the long run, Washington Post mentioned how to make cultural shift in the organization. 18,000 professionals and 129,000 students make this culture. Things they are doing now with employees and unions may be necessary to avert the crisis. Need to discuss how they learn how to love and treat each other differently across 204 buildings.

Dr. Davis: Involving union partners in cultural discussion. It’s only been within the employees, should be with county partners and BOE. 

Doug Anthony, Office of Talent Development. Over last few years, Leadership and Self-Deception is being used. Trying to get employees to understand that dynamic. Some of the conversation how we model with our students, the next phase is working the Arbinger Institute for teacher training, to examine their views on culture. Where you are and how you see them as other people. Very powerful. Trainers in the district are a cross-section of employees. 51 different facilitators at different levels.

Dr. Davis: 293 school level employees are getting this training

Dr. Anthony: Dr. Davis introduced this training to heal them as a community. Dr. Maxwell and Dr. Davis allowed him to execute it. Next level, experts talk to the BOE about it.

Ms. Williams: Dealing with hard situation after another hard situation. Important that they understand how they ended up here. Two points to focus on to serve the 932 kids this year keep our commitment to serving those 932 students. Detail about reporting directly to Deputy Superintendent. Serving students for this year and what we look like when we apply for the new grant. Important to follow the process along—please share the timeline for the process and how they will evolve into a better, newer greater and the milestones that need to be hit on that path. How will updates be given? Regular agenda Item? She recommends to Vice Chair, to keep it on the Agenda, when there are changes. BOE possibly have a checklist with items related to Head Start. Commit ourselves to the future and implement ways to change the culture.

CEO: Process how things are reported, but they didn’t always come up to the Deputy level. When those calls take place, Dr. Davis and Dr. Goldson are receiving those reports on the same day that they occur. Update given today and another update coming after the update. Children will receive services for the rest of the school year regardless of what happens. This is not negotiable for Administration or the Board. ACF drives other part of the process (reapply with the grant), but already having a conversation with them about that. BOE has an Agenda Setting Committee. If nothing to report, shouldn’t be on there, they’ll defer to Board Agenda Setting Committee. 

Vice Chair Boston, at 2:22:37: Committed to keeping it on Agenda as long as there are updates. Ordeal has been very hard because of the impact on children and families. Head Start is special to her, she has a passion for it. She knows the importance of that program for our students. She is committed regardless of how they go there, that the 932 students will get the service this year. Investigation will reveal where mistakes were made and they can move forward. This has been hard, especially for her because she takes it personally. She has shed plenty of tears over this. Move on now and do the work that we need to do now.

Ms. Jacobs: Training piece, process by which staff has for asking questions after watching the video? What is the process for determining if there were whistleblowers who were told not to report? In regards to training and changing school culture, it might be better to have someone who is NOT from the district direct this kind of training. Some of the feedback she has gotten, I wouldn’t go to this class as these people treat others the worst. Culture and change happen at the top and trickle down from there. Suggest if they are serious about culture change, 1) define what that is 2) parents should be able to see it. 

CEO: Have redone the training so webinar is not just video now. 

Ms. Battle: FAQ answered questions from teachers. A lot of questions have been coming into Dr. Tally, the Counsel’s Office. Dr. Tally’s office is developing a Q&A and Communications is developing a website about it that will include the webinar. Develop an RFP, so volunteers could take it and they could track who took the training. Each person brought up in the report and were given an opportunity to say their side of the story.

Mr. Wallace: What is budget of Head Start. Breakdown of county contributions and state contributions and federal grant?

Raymond Brown, Chief Financial Officer: Revenue is $6.4 million from federal government. $ 2.3 million county Funds. $1.5 million school system Funds. 200,000 from MD State Education Fund for a total of 10.4 Million.

Mr. Burroughs, at 2:31:03. To rebuild community trust need to have an external investigation. District could partially investigate itself it does not make sense. If they are serious about rebuilding trust and owning up to their mistakes, an internal review is not sufficient. He would like to have a conversation with the BOE about this. Other Lawmakers would like an external investigation. He wants to move forward, but people need to be held accountable otherwise they will not have the public’s confidence.

Ms. Epps: Internal investigation needs to happen, she understands that. What is the responsibility of the principal where Head Start is housed when hearing about a situation happening with a child? 35 Schools, 51 classrooms. Is that a mandated reporting situation? What if a parent of a Head Start student sends an email directly to the principal? What’s the proper response?

Please know this is not the BOE making up stuff, these are the stories that come to Board Members, over the last 3 years even though they have a communication protocol, Board Member sends it to CEO and other high level staff to have it taken care of and then she receives an email from a parent about a situation isn’t being address. External investigation would be helpful since issues aren’t being addressed and communication seems to be part the problem and needs improvement.

Dr. Davis: Principal will inform person that they need to report. Principal can assist the employee to take them to the phone and report. The principal would report the alleged incident. Or whoever the employee is, they need to report. It is their obligation to then report it to CPS.

MOTION, at 2:40:00. — To have an external investigation with regard to the Head Start Situation

Mr. Blocker: In order to restore trust and transparency, he made a motion to have external investigation and that the State and Feds come in and do an investigation.

Mr. Len Lucchi, Board Counsel (in response to Mr. Blocker’s Motion): This motion was made at last meeting, in order for the matter to be before the board, it needs to have a motion to reconsider the motion. One of the members who voted no would need to make a motion to reconsider. MOTION DEEMED OUT OF ORDER.

Mr. Blocker: You are saying that you do not want an external investigation of Head Start.

Mr. Burroughs: His motion at the last meeting was different than Mr. Blocker’s. Motion was solely an external investigation be done – County Council, outside investigation. His motion was more broad, Mr. Blocker’s was more narrow.

Mr. Lucchi: He considers them very similar if not identical.

REVISED MOTION (2nd Reader) put forward by Mr. Blocker: Motion for external investigation (no mention of State or Feds).

Mr. Wallace: Who is going to pay for investigation? Who is going to do it? We have had two external investigations — one for Head Start and one with the Student Safety Task Force. He wants budgetary implications of this motion before he will vote.

Mr. Burroughs: Cost is for BOE to discuss, but not necessary now. The motion is broad enough if it passes, more teeth can be put into it later. Motion is broad enough that they can iron out details in future.

Ms. Epps: Speaking out in favor. Three years ago when Dr. Maxwell started a group looked at the whole system the Head Start program itself investigated them as a Grantee. There may be implications to hiring process. HR processes never mentioned. Work session on HR processes, but talked about inputs but nothing about training or development or violations and how they are dealt with. Opportunity for us to dig deep or another entity to dig deeper than earlier investigations. If this is an opportunity for us to say public ally and with our partners and to have our partners be available to an external entity to air their grievances. Budget is a concern, but keep in mind, we just spent a large amount of money on lacrosse.

Mr. Wallace: We can have a discussion before a final decision is made.

Chair Eubanks: People should be angry and frustrated, but it is the BOE’s responsible to take right, productive and proactive action. Mitigated damage — to keep the Head Start kids can stay in this school year. Looking at our own internal review process. Public review of everything has happened. If that gives us the answers we need, if it’s not what we need, then take it to the next level. Motion does not represent thoughtful, wise and responsible leadership.

Ms. Jacobs: BOE voted on a budget chose not to spend money on bus drivers, did not expand Pre-K and spent $600,000 for a lacrosse team. She feels the money can be spent on an external investigation. She doesn’t think it is a budget issue that is insurmountable.

Yes (4) – Blocker, Burroughs, Epps, Jacobs

No (5) – Boston, Hernandez, Quinteros-Grady, Williams, Chair Eubanks

Abstain (3) – Eubanks, Roche, Wallace

Mr. Valentine had to leave for family emergency and was not there for vote. Dr. Anderson was not there to vote.

Motion did not pass.

Item 5.1 – 5.5 Consent Agenda, at 2:59:45.

Approval of commemorations by BOE. All items were approved by all BOE members PRESENT.

Mr. Burroughs: Comment from Dr. Anderson—she wanted to commend the administration for their work with the National Day of Writing. She would would like to see who participated and some highlights from it. She also wanted BOE to recognize winners of competition related to this Day.

Items 6.1 – 6.10, at 3:01:30.

All approved by all members of Board PRESENT

Approval by BOE of Budget Consent Agenda Items.

Ms. Jacobs: What are the addition of bicycle racks and WSSC fees cost for Glenarden Woods? $38,000. Are these normal fees?

Response: $4,147 for bike racks and $34,547 WSSC. That includes a system development charge. 

Ms. Williams: Potomac Landing Project questions— design increase of 53%. Can you discuss design or scope changes on it.

Response: During the design phase, the first walk through revealed some other areas that needed to be addressed to complete the project. Addressing the fire alarm system is an issue on these types of projects. Need to tie in old system with new one. They needed to redesign due to this issue. Tie in HVAC upgrades into the old system. 

Ms. Williams: Can you define POD?

Response: POD is an open-space classroom that was designed in the 1970s and used throughout the district. They are going through the system identifying where POD conversions need to take place, gutting them and putting up walls, breaking up to multiple classrooms, putting in ADA bathrooms, etc.

Ms. Williams: Fairmont Heights 6.10 Project: On the G701 it shows that the substantial completion date of Sept. 4, 2016. Is that correct?

Response: September 2017 is the correct completion date.

Ms. Eubanks: Change orders for Fairmont Heights. Change #4 – explain what is going on with that. She asked for them to email her the information so she can forward her constituents.

Response: They can update the Board on the changes another time. Assumption is when a new school is built is and additional services are needed, there will be extra costs. Change order was minimal… change footings at the canopy entrance, put in some light switches and plumbing revisions required by WSSC.

Ms. Boston: Fairmount Heights wanted to request a change to the spelling of Fairmont Heights to Fairmount Heights. 

2nd Readers Unfinished Business 8.1 and 8.2, at 3:10:15.

BOE approval Fiscal Year 2017 Comprehensive Maintenance Plan and Master Plan and feasibility study for William Schmidt Outdoor Education Facility.

8.1  APPROVED BY ALL MEMBERS OF BOARD PRESENT.

Mr. Wallace: Pg. 2 Arrowhead Elementary School – drainage repair? Is that the parking lot. Parking lot floods when it rains / snows. 

Response: Yes, it is to correct the flooding.

Mr. Wallace: Pg. 11 John E Howard Elementary & Office Building. Exterior Door replacement. Which side of the building is this on?

Response: Office Building portion of the building.

Mr. Wallace: Pg. 15 North Forestville Elementary School – pathway in back of school is secluded, dangerous and not safe. Need to do something to maintain the pathway. He’s contacted State / County Reps about this. 

Response: Safety Office can look into it and take a look at that.

Mr. Wallace: Pg. 19 Skyline Elementary School guidance on the requested $150,000 for FY2018. Why using that amount of money on school and staff.

Response: They still have facility and part of the asbestos abatement program. It may be repurposed so need to take care of it.

Mr. Wallace: Pg. 21 William Beans Elementary School – He wanted to flag concerns from staff and parents that PA system is spotty in school. Teachers can’t hear dismissal and students almost missed the bus.

Mr. Wallace: Pg. 22 Andrew Jackson Academy – He wanted to flag parents from deaf & hard of hearing program related concerns about TV studio was not able to broadcast the visual announcements for the students in that program and teacher had to sign the announcements as they were being heard through the PA system.

Mr. Wallace: Pg. 33 Suitland High School – clarification on auditorium, many seats don’t have bottoms. Any discussion on replacement of those seats.

Response: Seats are no longer manufactured. School is up for renovation and need to think about how much they will spend on replacing the seats before they spend it.

Ms. Epps: Pg 32 High Point High School – Electrical upgrade is on hold. What does this mean? There was an electrical fire last school year. Is there an interim step? Please work with new principal there about this. There’s a serious concern.

Response: this is on hold since High School is 3rd in line for renovation. If they spend money now, it might be difficult to get renovation funded later. He needs to speak with Electrical Force about interim option.

If there is an issue, we’ll deal with the issue.

Ms. Epps: Pg. 32 Laurel High School wants a new track. The field is not in good shape. If that’s not on the list as part of their maintenance. What are some other alternatives of how that school can address those issues.

Response: He might do that with operating funds. Concerns 2-3 weeks ago with the stadium. If it is in this budget it would wait until 2018, so they want to pay for it using operating funds instead

Ms. Williams: What is the process of how something gets put on this CMP? Most of our schools are in the 50-year stage and they need a lot of maintenance.

Response: Team of 15-20 people Coordinators, someone who represents shops and staff housed in Construction Office and they develop their plan by what they feel they need to do from a maintenance standpoint. They sit with Capital Programs and combine the two to come up with the list. They are looking and for everything that needs to be accomplished there are 3-4 things that are in worse shop. They go in depth with the facilities before anything is put on the list. They will look at things are missed.

Ms. Williams: What is the difference between being on CMP and Capital Improvement?

Response: They try to take on a certain number of projects every year. Have a lot of facilities that are past their useful life. 

Ms. Jacobs: Pointer Ridge and Benjamin Tasker communities are trying to raise money to fix parking lots. Please have your staff look at them as they are in bad shape.

Mr. Wallace: Follow-up question: A lot of projects needed county-wide. Partnership that the school district can have with State Representatives to have state bond bills since schools are also used by the public, not just students.

Response: That was the point of the Educational Facility Master Plan. Right now, the Capital Program is not funded to complete Educational Facility Master Plan and they are looking for alternative funding.

8.2  APPROVED BY ALL MEMBERS OF BOARD.

Item 9.1 New Business 1st Reader, at 3:27:44.
APPROVED BY ALL MEMBERS OF BOARD PRESENT.

CEO: Doesn’t require discussion. Item is for approval of the Chesapeake Math and IT South Public Charter School application.

Ms. Roche: Commend the work of the evaluation team. It was very thorough. The school makes sure they have a full-time counselor and the school is focused on STEM and all students who go will have a computer even if they don’t have one at home.

Chair: Head Start Policy Council Minutes is posted on Board Docs.

At 3:29:56. Compliance Board determined that the BOE violated certain provisions of the Open Meetings Act. They are required by MD law to announce the violation and orally summarize the opinion at the next meeting. BOE deferred announcing the violations at its last meeting, on August 25, in order for Board Counsel to review the Opinion received on the afternoon of August 24. Compliance is not an admission of a violation under the act by the public body.

Compliance Board found and noted, areas of non-compliance:

  1. Presiding Officer must make a written statement that discloses the following:
    1. Reason for closing the meeting
    2. Citation of the exception
    3. Listing of the topics to be discussed
  2. BOE failed to explain reasons for excluding the public
    1. Written statements should have been written better
      1. Action: Board will revise its Closing Statement
  3. Disclosure of Events in Closed Session was not done, needs to be done
    Met in a closed session, they are required to summarize the session in the minutes of the next session. Time, place and purpose of the closed session. Each member’s vote, reason they excluded the public, list of topics discussion, persons’ present and how they voted.

    1. Board will ensure both sets of disclosures are placed in one section of the Minutes under the heading that tells the public that they are part of a closed session.

MOTION – TO CONFIRM ACTIONS TAKEN IN EXECUTIVE SESSION SEPT. 8, 2016
APPRPOVED BY ALL MEMBERS OF BOARD PRESENT.

  1. Labor negotiations update
  2. Legal matters
  3. Personnel appointments
  4. Administrative Matters 

 

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