Notes on the Jan 19 Board of Education Meeting

by Laura Rammelsberg

To view the agenda for the January 19th Board Meeting in BoardDocs, go here.

Board Members Dr. Segun Eubanks (chair), Dr. Beverly Anderson, and Dinora Hernandez were not present.

At 5:13 in the video. Elimination of Creative Writing Program at Hyattsville Middle School next year is being discussed, and many members of the public were present to show their support for the program. Families are in the dark about why the decision is being made and came to get some answers. The BOE Member representing that school’s district is not present. Disagreement amongst board members whether to add it as a discussion item this evening. Many BOE members expressed concerns that more information is needed and discussions need to take place with the Administration before it is discussed at a BOE Meeting.

At 15:25. Motion to put Elimination of Creative Writing Program on as a discussion item, proposed by Juwan Blocker.
4 yes, 7 no. Motion not passed.

At 18:02. Video shown celebrating the arts integration program in PGCPS. PGCPS is the only school system with an Arts Integration Office.

At 23:16. BOE Member Wallace commended Head of Security Services Rex Barrett and his handling of incident outside of Suitland High School last Friday. He also publicly thanked Barack Obama Elementary School and three students received a certificate of recognition for the help they provided 1,000 homeless children in the community with care packages that students collected and made.

At 28:52. Report of the Chair (Boston)

Whitehall Elementary received MD State Department of Education EGATE School Award which recognizes Gifted and Talented Programs (click here). She congratulated the school.

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Series of public hearings on FY2018 Budget:

  • Jan 24 Charles Flowers HS Work Session 5:00 pm / Public Hearing 7:00
  • Jan 31 NW High School Work Session 5:00 pm / Public Hearing 7:00
  • Feb 7 Oxon Hill High School Work Session 5:00 pm / Public Hearing 7:00
  • Feb 22 Next BOE Work Session. 

At 33:52. Report of the CEO

Discover PGCPS event highlighted showcase of Immersion and Art Schools at Eleanor Roosevelt HS.

Eight High School Students received a full Scholarship to College.

Jan 23 6:30 – 8:30 Budget Walk Through for parents at Ernest Everett Just Middle School. No RSVP is required. Spanish interpreters will be available. 


Identified top 5 budget priorities for FY2018:

  • Early Start – Pre/ K
  • Expansion of teaching staff
  • Literacy and Math
  • Transportation / Bus Drivers
  • More Maintenance Workers


At 40:40. Accokeek Academy Parent. Proposed boundary changes to school. Consensus approach is Option B that was presented to CEO which would create new K-8 school. The CEO is proposing to move forward with Option A – changing boundaries. Community does not agree.  It does not make Accokeek Academy a K-8 school. Having feeder schools defeats the main purpose of the school. Ms. Williams tried to find a plan the community would be happy it, which is Option B. The boundary changes splits Accokeek neighborhoods – some away from the Academy. Asked CEO to choose Option B. Ft. Washington Elementary PTSA supports Option B as well. Need to find a new long-term solution (new school).

At 43:54. Ft. Washington Elementary School last renovation in 1969 – nearly 50 years ago.  School requires maintenance now.  Photos were sent to School District.   Why does it take half a year to paint and replace things in the school?  Minor fixes.  All 2016 / 2017 work orders should be done by 2018.

PUBLIC COMMENT ON NON-AGENDA ITEMS – 21 Speakers (comments are combined in some cases)

Beginning at 46:10. Hyattsville Middle School – Creative Writing Program 
Current students, including President of Student Council, spoke of their experience – students should be able to participate in the CPA Creative Writing programs. Creative Writing is the backbone for other arts. Students experience a level of writing and reading that they don’t in other classes. This program makes Hyattsville unique.  It’s not offered in other CPA schools; that is the reason they are told it is being taken away.

Many families have had positive experience at Hyattsville Middle School, especially with the refinement of CPA (and Creative Writing) program. Parents are drawn to the school because of that program and parents are upset it might be eliminated. Parents asking that the CPA major be continued.

At 1:02:14. PTSO President – they want the Creative Writing Program be reinstated. A major has an intensity that you can’t have in an elective. Puts like-minded students together so they can push each other to excel. Creative Writing is seamlessly weaved into CPA program. Don’t fix something that isn’t broken. State is asking for curriculum alignment, which is why parents assume this is happening. But great communicators make great leaders and this is why this program is needed. We’re not about mediocrity. Asked CEO to make the Creative Writing program permanent.

Beginning at 51:57. Mother Jones Middle School – Larger Middle School Proposed Construction
Many members of the Adelphi Hills Community Association made comments and were in the audience.  They do not oppose public schools, just the construction of this new school. The Association was not informed about the building of a new middle school.  Neighborhood was not allowed to participation in the approval process, site selection process, walk throughs, etc.

A large portion of the proposed construction site is on a flood plain. The construction of another school raised the water table and it impacted the foundations of the houses (flooding basements, cracking foundations). Construction of larger middle school will make flooding problems worse. Flood plain, wetland areas and steep slopes noted in a report about the site. EPA warms against water falling down the slope. Site is forested and would need forest land mitigation if construction were to happen. Site was not recommended back in 2005.

None of the local streets can handle the bus traffic. Increased the number of schools to five within a one-mile radius. The promise that school buses would not go through neighborhood was not kept. Don’t need another larger school there. Community is having issues getting around in their community.   

PGCPS builds schools but doesn’t maintain them… be more selective of sites. They have put forth suggestions for an alternative site.

At 1:13:31. DELF Diplomas / LabelFrancEducation Seal
Comment on the awarding of DELF diplomas to 101 Dora Kennedy French Immersion and Maya Angelou students and 15 Central High School students as well as the awarding of the LabelFrancEducation seal to Dora Kennedy French Immersion and Maya Angelou French Immersion. Congratulated students and schools.

At 1:19:41. Curriculum Reforms
Head Start Programs need to focus on vocabulary and not just social skills. School Choice should be implemented in policy. Living Curriculum needs to be added. Foreign language access as well. Teachers are not paid well enough – take better care of them.  County proposers when education is thriving.

At 1:23:13. PGCEA
Concerns from staff at Suitland HS. Report from Staff Member that a bullet came through their classroom. Staff is affected by these events as well as the students. Some good news: the NEA teacher Quality Department and Center for Organizing granted PGCEA to take 5 people to Austin, TX for a community schools viewing / training, which they will try to implement in PGCPS. This is part of ESSA Re-authorization preparation.  They will learn why it is important to have a site coordinator, enriched curriculum. parental engagement and wrap-around services.

At 1:34:43. Hyattsville Middle Elementary School (edited)
3 students commented on the impact that teachers being on extended administrative leave have on students. Substitutes switched around— not long-term— and they don’t have lesson plans. Substitutes have been repetitive and don’t explain what students need to do.  Substitutes not always there and classes split up amongst other classes who have their “normal” teachers.

At 1:39:35. Budget Comments
Promise to decease fraud, waste abuse in the budget has not happened.  Decease in scores and in student population by 402.  Why are executive staff salaries being increased?  There is a decrease of staff that deal directly with students (teacher). $8 million+ allotted for Schools CEO contractors, only $1 million+ to teaching contractors.  Our taxpayer dollars should go to students. Also. someone needs to scrutinize construction contracts.

Bridge of Excellence legislation called for a Strategic Plan to be approved every year.  Where is it? Positions with salary increases are already very high — this money could be going into the classroom.  So much duplicity in the budget. Drive the budget correctly.  You give us numbers and no explanation for them.  Give us descriptions of the budget items and give us a Strategic Plan.

4.0 Discussion Item – 4.1 School Boundaries
At 1:46:40.
Pupil Accounting & School Boundaries Office gave presentation of recommended school boundary, grade and program improvements and answered board members’ questions. 

Note: Current students would be grandfathered in.  These changes would be phased starting with new students.

Community Discussions held at James Madison, Accokeek Academy and Bladensburg HS. No easy solution to any of these problems. Feb 2 – 1st Reader at BOE and one or more public hearings in February.

There is also a proposed Grade Re-organization for 7 different middle schools across the County. This re-org would have local 6th grades currently at local elementary schools go to the local Middle School.

Five areas of study / concern

Accokeek Area – Challenge is that the Academy is a K-8 school that does not truly operate as a K-8 school.  Same core of student don’t continue through from K-8.  Students from elsewhere are added at the middle school level. Its at 99% capacity. Continued residential growth will push it past capacity. Under-enrollment in Washington Forest Elementary is also an issue. Multiple options for Balancing Enrollment – 4 Total (A – D).  Option B supported by community (which took a survey) that would affect elementary and middle school assignments. Option C was most preferred. They recommend adoption of Alternative A. Overall the cry was build us new schools.

Buck Lodge Area – Over-enrollment by 217 students.  The site cannot contain any more temporary classrooms. Community was engaged.  Martin Luther King has some open seats. A complete solution is not available until new seats were built. 

Mt. Rainer Area – Mt. Rainer (98 seats available) and Thomas Stone (over-enrolled by 157 students). Both schools are on list for renovation.  Areas are all within walking distance of either school. Asking for Capital Relief for this area since renovations are 5-6 years away.  Three alternatives: A-C. Concerns about demographics… preponderance of apartments assigned to Thomas Stone. 

Fairmont Heights Area – New school being built and will open this coming Fall.  Wing at new school dedicated to Special Education Program. 39 Students from Margaret Brent will be reassigned to Fairmont Heights. 65 Duvall students are walking distance to Fairmont Heights – asking for reassignment of these students to the new school. Community concerns: transfer of staff, desire of increased communication from PGCPS.

Melwood Area – Primary Years program IB program at Melwood ES that would feed in James Madison MS. Not all students from Melwood would go into James Madison.  This would ensure all students in the ES IB Program can continue on to James Madison MS.  High School boundaries are more complex and so it’s not included in recommendations.

BOE Member Questions on this issue:

At 2:13:55. ROUND ONE

BOE Member Williams – Large land mass poses a lot of challenges to the district. Melwood change – she agrees with the recommendation primary to middle year move is important.  What is the effect of moving 6th grade at Clinton Grove ES to Decatur MS – 45 students impacted?  This would reduce surplus seats in the school.  She pushed for IB students to have a HS IB. Frederick Douglas HS Boundaries to match James Madison.

Options proposed for Accokeek. Community has a high concern about changing boundaries.  Accokeek Academy is the largest school in District 9. Ft. Washington Forest is under-utilized.  Community understands this. There is a possibility of high potential of growth in the neighborhood. Goal was to keep student in their area.  They don’t want students to travel 10 miles to a different school as that equates to 45 minutes on the bus.  Option A does the least for Accokeek Academy – explain why that is the preferred choice?

Answer: No answer given. (Will be discussed in community meetings?)

BOE Member Grady – Clarification on Buck Lodge Boundary Change.  Answer: Further boundary adjustments if more seats are available. 

BOE Member Valentine – Accokeek and Fort Washington will both be over enrolled with Option A. 

Answer: Targeted enrollment idea is between 80 – 95%). Not an ideal solution.  In range from 90-105% rooms that were reserved for resource or pullout services get reconverted in classrooms (not optimal).  Next, temporaries are needed. Some buildings have many more resource rooms than older facilities. Old buildings don’t have room to accommodate over enrollment.

BOE Member Valentine – What will happen to TAG students? Any plans to change the TAG program out of Accokeek Academy.

Answer: They would stay at Accokeek Academy. No immediate plans to change this there. TAG office is constantly reassessing TAG need.  TAG in classroom, TAG Center and TAG as a pull-out.

BOE Member Burroughs – Why aren’t more in Kentland community going to Fairmont Heights. Accokeek Academy – why not Option B? South County Issue.  Roosevelt significantly overcrowded and boundaries aren’t changed because it is a success.  Why tampering with Accokeek’s boundaries? Boundary changes don’t seem consistent from North to South. What new programs are they suggested for South of County schools to boost enrollment?

Answer: This is an area where more systemic evaluation of boundaries can happen. Having a series of boundary studies at High School level. Trying to minimize any adjustment.

It was discussed because of the facilities is a K-3 and 4-8 facility.  Moving the children to achieve that end.  Want K-8 facility and there isn’t the Capital Funds for a new school here.  It is unlikely that a K-8 facility could be delivered for that area.  It is not a desirable way of moving forward.  They could not promise that K-8 facility.

There is consistency with boundary moves.  There was Roosevelt boundary changes that weren’t well received.  The concern is not a single school – its multiple schools.  Community wanted Ft. Washington to remain.  Under-utilization at schools around Roosevelt – county-wide aerospace program to Duval.   

It’s not this department’s job to assign programs to schools. We are not growing students and they are reallocating the students that exist. 5 of 6 high schools in the North of the County is overenrolled.  South of the County just doesn’t have the enrollment numbers. Community interest drives the placement of specialty schools. Duval is close to Goddard Space Flight Center, which is one of the reasons it is there.

BOE Member Burroughs asked CEO Maxwell about introducing programs in the South of the county to boost enrollment. South of the County wants these kind of programs that the North of the County has.

Monica Goldson: In FY2018 Budget there is no specific request for new school programs. Everything in FY2018 is continuation of what is already in the system.

BOE Member Wallace: Question between Option A and Option C. What was justification for Option A. Commended him for phasing in for students aren’t separating from their friends. Remedies for communities.

Answer: They looked at net results after phasing is done and what is impact of students in particular. There is a difference. Option A was the least disruptive for students. Option C effects Tag program, but dramatic effect on TAG programs in two other locations … a challenge to these schools and students.

Pupil Accountings role was to focus on what impacts student and shared with Administration what they learned from the community.

BOE Member Roche: What changes will they make in communication and transparency area?

Answer: Process they went through benefited from community input and they will solicit more of it.  They allowed additional time for feedback and re-engaging with the public.  They had 2nd and 3rd follow up meetings.  They are trying to separate some of the issues that need more in-depth study. For District Heights / Capitol Heights Area, they proposed starting conversations in Spring and not this Fall. Would like to have community committee working with them through the process.

Dr. Maxwell: We’ve made adjustments to timelines for the conversations. There is an issue of getting the word out – and they are discussing that.  They want to have time to have a conversation, but are under pressure to tell parents where students will go to school next year as well as to have the bus schedules made.

At 2:48:12. At ROUND 2

BOE Member Williams – can they phase in the TAG program and phase it out of Accokeek? Was that considered? Spend more time looking at Option C.  Highest relief for Accokeek Academy and most public support.

Answer: While searching for solution, they found none better than Option A.  They did consider C.  The pressure that it would place on two schools, did not allow the balancing of resources as one might think. 

BOE Member Valentine – Have parents up for re-zoning to Washington Forest visited the school? Parents can have an impact on a school.  As well as the impact of principal’s school-based funding. He recommends introducing parents to the “new” school.

BOE Member Wallace – Grade adjustments.  Any notification or parent / student input on these changes?

Answer: Not specifically.  The 6th grade realignment has developed a schedule / plan.  They have been addressed in the Master Plan, which had public input.  They asked public for feedback and received none.

Hearings on these changes are pending.  The dates will be posted to PGCPS website as well as website to the community.

At 3:00:19. ROUND 3

BOE Member Williams – 6th grade transition.  What is the plan for promoting those students? Graduation ceremony.

Answer: 2 separate ceremonies.

At 3:02:09. Items 5.1 – 5.5 CONSENT AGENDA

All approved.

At 3:04:23. Item 6.0 BUDGET CONSENT AGENDA

BOE Member Burroughs -asked for 6.16. and 6.17 be separate; seconded. 

6.1 and 6.15 were all approved.

BOE Member Valentine – Is there a way to clarify why orders that have changed? Some cases we changed something or something came up and that’s why there is a change order – not necessarily the contractor is charging more.

Answer: They will look into doing this and make a recommendation.

6.16 & 6.17

At 3:09:15. BOE Member Burroughs – What are confidential employees? Who is executive management?

Answer: The people who sit at negotiation table. They are identified under state law as confidential employee. They have to identify how much they get. Executive table are general counsel, executive cabinet, chief, etc.

6.16 approved by all.

At 3:11: 40. Discussion on 6.17, proposal to raise salaries for Executive Level employees. 

BOE Member Burroughs – will not be supporting 6.17. They don’t deserve raises (up to 30%). Moves to oppose it.

Seconded by BOE Member Murray. At some point at the upper level they have to watch where salaries are getting, especially compared to the teachers. There’s much greater need in other areas.

BOE Member Ahmed – Is against it as well.

BOE Member Valentine – Principals who make as much or more than executive staff. He supports because of the fact of what the administration has done to bring the district in the right division.

BOE Member Burroughs – their large salaries are increased by 30% with no reason in the middle of the year. Largest executive cabinet in the region. We need to seriously consider raises because of this.  He appreciates their work, but it’s very different than principals / people on the ground level.

Student BOE Member Blocker – He thanks administration. Lots of resources lacking at the school level. Advise that they are careful when looking at the budget and to spend more on executives and increasing salaries. Start being more cost-effective on how we can put more money in classrooms and teachers are paid fairly.

BOE Member Wallace – He frequently meets with colleagues from across the region and thinks the per capital level of spending at executive / management level and how many people might be comparable to other school districts in the region. Some districts may have similar departments, but they classify them differently than PGCPS does. He would like that data that compares this to surrounding districts so that he can give his constituents the correct information.

6.17 Motion to Oppose
Ahmed, Burroughs, Murray (3 yes)
Boston, Eubanks, Grady, Roche, Valentine, Wallace, Williams (7 no)

Motion to Table Item 6.17 until the next board meeting
Ahmed, Burroughs, Murray (3 yes)
Boston, Eubanks, Grady, Roche, Valentine, Wallace, Williams (7 no)

6.17 Motion to Approve
Ahmed, Burroughs, Murray (3 no)
Boston, Eubanks, Grady, Roche, Valentine, Wallace, Williams (7 yes)

At 3:24:24. Items 8.1 and 8.2
Items taken separately

Item 8.1
BOE Member Williams Motion to Table specific policies 9140 4112 2700 0107 0108 until the next meeting.

At 3:34:19. BOE Member Boston will approve so the new board members can review these. They were on the 1st readers in October.  They will not be able to get the board handbook out this year due to this.  This is a long process. She encourages BOE members to attend these meetings that are open to everyone.

BOE Member Burroughs – some are simply changes; some are poor public policy.  Disservice to the board to create a rule that a Board Member needs to run a visit to a school by the CEO.  

BOE Member Ahmed – she’s not comfortable with some of the language in them.

8.1 Motion to table Board Policies 9140 4112 2700 0107 0108
No – Ahmed, Blocker, Boston, Burroughs, Eubanks, Murray
Yes – Grady, Roche, Valentine, Wallace, Williams

8.1 Motion to table ALL of the policies until the next board meeting
No – Ahmed, Blocker, Boston, Burroughs, Eubanks, Murray
Yes – Grady, Roche, Valentine, Wallace, Williams

Motion to Accept Item 8.1
BOE Members Burroughs, Murray, and Blocker find 2700 overly restrictive and not necessary (rule that a Board Member needs to run a visit to a school by the CEO).

BOE Members Grady – Questioned the motivation for not tabling it. We claim to be doing this for the children.  Negative feelings directed at Board related to how we conduct ourselves. Need to stop the political games.

At 3:45:31. BOE Member Wallace –He echoes what Grady said. Frustrated that this policy, which had no input from opposing members until tonight, is being labeled “a failed public policy” as opposed to a courtesy. It’s not a laughing matter. If we are here for public policy, then go to the public policy meetings. To sit here and make a big show out of one policy that’s a courtesy so that we know students aren’t testing when we show up. If one day is not enough, why not day of?

Board is lighting up as everyone wants to comment on this.

BOE Member Blocker – thanked Board Member Wallace for his work. But still no on entire package.

BOE Member Ahmed – she plans on voting no – she wants to vet it.

BOE Member Murray – committees don’t’ replace this body and he will vote no.

Motion to Accept Item 8.1 (failed)
No – Ahmed, Blocker, Burroughs, Murray
Yes – Boston, Roche, Valentine, Wallace, Williams, Eubanks, Grady

Motion to Reconsider Tabling Item 8.1 in its entirety

No – Ahmed, Blocker, Burroughs, Murray, Eubanks
Yes – Boston, Roche, Valentine, Wallace, Williams, Grady

Motion to revert the 8.1 back to policy committee for further review; report the attendance at policy committee meeting at the next board meeting / available to the public

BOE Member Burroughs – let’s move on to Motion 11. He is voting no on it.

No – Ahmed, Blocker, Burroughs, Murray
Yes – Boston, Roche, Valentine, Wallace, Williams, Grady, Eubanks

Motions to approve Actions taken in Executive Session January 19, 2017.

All approved.


3 thoughts on “Notes on the Jan 19 Board of Education Meeting

  1. T. Carter Ross (@TCarterRoss) says:

    Thank you for this. Just to note, the students speaking (1:34:43) about administrative leave and substitutes were 5th graders from Hyattsville Elementary (not Hyattsville Middle). Also, the first Hyattsville Middle School speaker was asking to have the CPA program be open to 7th graders. Unlike the two other CPA middle school programs in PGCPS, which start in 6th grade, Hyattsville Middle CPA is open only to 7th and 8th graders. For those who are interested, a petition has been started to support the CPA Creative Writing program at Hyattsville Middle:


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