Q & A with David Murray, District 1 Board of Education Candidate

29429795831_e9ff633d2c_oThis is part of an ongoing series of interviews with PGCPS Board of Education candidates. David Murray is a candidate from District 1 (see district map here). Mr. Murray 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 feel that you would be an effective member of the Board of Education.

District 1 needs a leader who knows the community and has the background to solve the problems in our schools. I am running for the Board of Education because we face many unique challenges in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS). I can’t predict all of the issues that I will face as a board member but I know better than others the impact our decisions will have on the everyday lives of students and teachers.

My experience includes being appointed by Governor O’Malley and serving on the Maryland State Board of Education. I also served as an Educational Liaison for County Councilman Tom Dernoga and State Senator C. Anthony Muse. During this time I learned how things work in both Upper Marlboro and Annapolis. I know what it takes to get things done, and how to work with other elected officials. I have previously served on the Board of Directors for an education non-profit that serves elementary schools in Laurel. Additionally I have professional experience as a staff auditor at a public accounting firm, where I helped audit state and local governments. Currently I work as an analyst at an investment consulting firm in DC.

What are two or three special challenges that you see in your school board district, and how would you work with the community to address them?

I believe teacher turnover is one of the top two most significant problems facing our district. This is not a new issue facing our schools but one that must be addressed. Perpetual teacher turnover is not good for our students or for our teachers. We need to have a work environment that makes it hard for teachers to want to leave PGCPS, not hard to want to stay. I believe aside from teacher pay there is still more we can be doing. We must make a more concerted effort to listen to our teachers about what is and is not working, and find ways to incorporate their feedback. I will be extremely accessible to our teachers and will solicit input from them often.

The second problem is the lack of community engagement I see from our school board. Prince George’s county has a ton of things going for it that we need to capitalize on. I will work tirelessly to build partnerships with stakeholders in the community including nonprofits, churches, businesses, and the public generally. I am going to be seeking businesses in my district to sponsor schools and donate money, as well as to provide jobs and internship training to local students. I have already begun forging relationships with the faith based community so that we can increase mentoring and tutoring opportunities. I will also be reaching out to the community generally to give their time and talents back to PGCPS. We need to be connecting students with those who work in fields that they aspire to be in and asking people to come volunteer and help out with school events and clubs. I want to bring the community into our schools because I believe it is lacking now.

The school system has recently been under fire for several alleged incidents of abuse and neglect. How will you work to increase a sense of respect and security, for children and their families, in our school system?

I look forward to an independent investigation of the Head Start issues so that we can ensure that people who have engaged in wrongdoing have been held accountable. Additionally, by being accessible to my constituents I hope to bridge the gap between the school system and our community.

What should be done about the massive backlog of building maintenance, renovation, and school construction? As a board member, what impact could you have on the school system’s capital programs?

We have to ensure that dollars are being put to their most efficient use. I will identify top priorities for my district and work with other members of the school board to get these problems addressed. It is simply unacceptable to have our students learning in environments that aren’t safe.

How will you address the transportation issues within the school system? For example, some school buses have been showing up late — or not at all, some bus rides are more than an hour long, and there are reports of students being pulled out of class before the end of the school day in order to catch their bus. 

I have already been talking to parents about the transportation problems that exist. I will meet with PGCPS transportation officials as well as bus drivers to get their feedback on ways to improve. We cannot expect to educate our students when they are not even arriving to school on time.

What improvements would you like to see in our special education program? Are you in favor of expanding PGCPS’s early intervention efforts?

I’d like to see the school system doing more to make sure that students get the IEPs they need and that those IEPs are being followed. As a school board member I will be an advocate for parents and students that need help getting the resources they need for their children.

What are your thoughts on the way the Talented and Gifted (TAG) program is currently operating? Some of our TAG centers have waiting lists. Should every child who is TAG identified be given the opportunity to attend a TAG center?

As a former TAG student in the county I believe it is a great program that should be supported. While TAG centers are wonderful I believe we need to have the ability to educate every TAG child in their neighborhood school if they cho0se.

The demand for language immersion schools and other specialty programs is high. What are your thoughts on expanding language immersion programs and other specialty programs?

I am a strong supporter of expanding language immersion and specialty programs. These students get such phenomenal exposure early on in their educational journey that it opens doors for them that would not be otherwise available. I really want Prince George’s County Schools to lead the way in this department. As a graduate of Roosevelt’s Science and Technology Program I can attest to the great educational opportunities it afforded me.

A judge in Connecticut recently ruled that the state must overhaul its educational system with particular attention to equitable funding.  What aspects of that case are relevant to Prince George’s County and what impact could a board member have on funding inequities?

I think this comes down to providing programs and resources in all zip codes across the county. Following up on specialty programs, I want to see some of them put into new schools and areas that are currently underserved. We can use these programs and discretionary resources to drive student achievement in lower performing schools and give all students the same opportunities to succeed.

What do you think are the greatest obstacles currently facing the Board of Education? As a board member, how will you contribute to solving those problems and increasing the Board’s effectiveness?

Board members are not as active or engaged with our parents, students, and teachers as they should be. You can’t effectively represent your district without understanding the concerns of the people you serve. I intend to keep myself grounded in our schools so that I can be confident when I make decisions that they will be in the best interests of our county.

Do you have any additional comments?

I look forward to working with you all once elected. Thanks for the advocacy you do!

Learn more about David Murray here:

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