Notes on the May 11 Board of Education Meeting

by Laura Rammelsberg

To view the agenda for the meeting as a PDF file, go here . To view in BoardDocs, go here.

Board members Raaheela Ahmed, Edward Burroughs, Patricia Eubanks, Sinora Hernandez, David Murray, Lupi Quinteros-Grady, Curtis Valentine, K. Alexander Wallace, Sonia Williams, and Chair Segun Eubanks were in attendance.

At the beginning of the video of the meeting, Report of the CEO.

On this day, 93 graduating seniors were honored who have worked through Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection at their senior celebration. He thanked entire staff at Hillside for expanding these students’ education opportunities.

He also visited the 2017 student-built house, which was built and designed by PGCPS students. Thanked the partners who helped make this opportunity a success.  This was the 41st house the students built. Every house on the cul-de-sac was built by PGCPS students. They have secured 5 more lots nearby so the work will continue going forward. The house is for sale for $459,000.

He recognized all outstanding students and employees for employee recognition dinner. May 25 at Martin Crosswinds in Greenbelt. Tickets are available at pgcps.org deadline to register is May 19.

Please thank a teacher during Teacher Appreciation Week. National School Nurses day was also celebrated.

Special Olympics had 600 PGCPS students participate in the spring games at the Sports and Learning Complex this year. Students trained for twelve weeks, coached by special education program motor development staff.

Prom and Graduation season is here. The 2017 graduation dates are on the PGCPS website here. Parents please speak to children about celebrating in a responsible manner.

At 4:52 in the video, Newsbreak.

Declarations of Independence (Senior Signing Day) at Oxon Hill and Flowers HS:

Dr. Eubanks’s comment about video: Exciting time for our seniors. The speaker at Flowers HS was Dr. John King, former U.S. Secretary of Education. We are attracting some of the greatest minds in the U.S. to celebrate with us.

At 10:21, Legislative Report — Demetria Tobias, Associate General Counsel, Legislative Programs

There is a report in April 25 posted with details about Maryland state budget, local bills and state bills. She is highlighting a few things this evening.

Local Bills — Took many positions, based on Board of Education’s legislative platform.

*HB 1568 Work Group on Transportation for Middle and High School Students in PG County — Look at overlaps in bus routes, look at systems used to transport students, cost savings for transporting middle and high school students. Report due by August.

*Bill that Impacted BOE structure — Bill as amended sought to change election of vice chair, override votes for recommendations by CEO. This bill did not pass. Law as written is what remains. Final report from school system, CEO and BOE due by Dec. 2017. BOE can provide feedback at that point.

State-wide Bills:

*Protect Our Schools Act – Dealt with state’s final plan that will be submitted to Department of Education under the Every Student Succeeds Act. This bill represents the state’s plan for dealing with schools in need. A lot of back and forth. Concerted push by State Board of Education to kill the bill. The Governor vetoed the bill, but the legislature overrode it. The bill includes a number of things that the State can’t do. Bill prevents state from automatically converting a public school to a charter, or creating a separate state-run school district, or provide incentives for families to not attend local school system. It protects public education but also gives it the supports it needs.

*More Learning Less Testing Act did pass. In odd numbered years, beginning 2017, the school system and union need to meet and agree on the amount of time that will be provided for federal, state and local assessment. If the school system and union can’t agree, it is capped 23.8 hours a year of assessments (slightly higher for 8th grade). PGCPS is under that cap. So, no major changes need to take place in PGCPS for now. In even numbered years, the District Committee on Assessments will advise on what tests to change, what to keep, and allows detailed feedback from staff, representatives and community. A lot of work needed to make sure District Committee on Assessments is going in the right direction. More to come on this.

*School Security – suspension and expulsions. There was a push to have all-out moratorium on suspensions for pre-K to 2nd grade. What passed is a compromise: suspension and expulsions are not allowed except if it is a firearms (federal) offense, or a maximum 5-day suspension can be given when there is a situation of imminent danger to the safety of students or staff. This call needs to be done by a mental health services provider. State BOE needs to change their regulations. The student code of conduct needs to be revised now. Restorative justice principles are being pushed — address the behavior as opposed to over-criminalizing the behavior. Work will continue on this by the Legislative Team.

*House Bill 270 passed. Requires lead testing in all public and non-public schools. Department of Environment to collaborate on best practices for schools. A work group will provide feedback about what the 24 school systems are already doing. This will be in effect 2018-2019 school year.

At 21:30, Legislative Report Questions

Board Member Alexander Wallace: Purple Line mentioned in Transportation Work Group discussions?

Answer: No talks yet. Work group will have a few meetings over the summer and the report is due August 31. Very quick turnaround.

Board Member Wallace: HB 1 on paid sick leave. What is status on the bill? Does the bill impact our substitutes?

Answer: If Governor Hogan doesn’t sign it, it goes into law. If he vetoes it, it will need to wait until January 2018 for legislature to override veto. He has threatened to veto it. PGCPS provides sick leave for employees, but the bill would require them to pay an hour paid leave for every thirty hours worked for substitutes. That involves a whole host of tracking changes. It is going to be a major impact for our systems. 

Board Member Wallace: Who is in charge of school construction funds?

Answer: The Maryland Board of Public Works is still over school construction funds. School systems supposedly no longer need to do last-ditch appeals in January, according to language in the capital budget. Governor and treasurer ignored it this year. They have challenged it on constitution grounds. They do not intend to follow it.

At 25:26, Board Member Raaheela Ahmed’s Comment on Bus Lots
She thanked the Transportation Department for the tour given to her and three other board members. She would love to see a plan for improvements across all the lots.  She would like the Transportation staff to have a better environment to work in. Dr. Watson and his team are working hard to better them.

At 27:13, Board Committee Reports

Board Member Wallace, Chair of Parent, Family and Community Engagement Committee: Committee concluded their work for the school year. The full report is on Board docs. Working to enact Alumni Advisory Council Policy. Working to establish Customer Service Initiative. How they improve communications to parents and other stakeholders. He is thankful for committee members and their dedication. Personally thanked Dr. Shelia Jackson for her work.

Board Member Sonya Williams, Vice Chair of Finance, Audit and Budget Committee: Met 8 times this year. 2018 budget, internal audits and MSDE audits. They have accomplished a lot this year; every budget season is challenging. They have submitted for approval the Fraud, Waste and Abuse Policy. They are reviewing with CFO the financial conditions for the end of the year.

Public Comments on Agenda and Non-Agenda Items

Thirteen speakers registered; some did not show up.

At 32:33, Democratic Central Committee Member comment on school environment — Equality is an issue with the PGCPS. Is it the land of the free except for the poor and low-income? Free public education is a fundamental right. The constitution requires that all children should have equal education opportunity. The citizens in the 25th district are tired of lack of equality in schools and school environments. Mentioned College Park Academy as an example of inequality. This is not representing the needs of the people the board represent. You serve the citizens of this county. Investing in our children is investing in our future.

At 36:26, Townhouse Association of Greenwood Village Member, Greenbelt comment on cell towers — He thanked those that helped to stop the cell tower going up at Eleanor Roosevelt High School. Since the 2011 contract with Milestone Communications was signed, there have been studies that show unusually high cancer rates and other illnesses for people living near these cell towers. Independent studies confirmed that house values diminish by 15% after a cell tower is moved into the neighborhood. Towers are a net-loss not a net-gain for the county, fiscally speaking. Be the first county in the area to reject cell towers on school grounds. Your health is your wealth. That applies to the kids as well. Don’t sacrifice their health or the community’s wealth for cell towers.

At 39:35, Eleanor Roosevelt staff member, comment on cell towers — On behalf on the Roosevelt community thanked CEO Maxwell and Board Members Grady and Ahmed for their response to the community’s concerns about cell towers. Although this has been resolved, there is a greater concern about cell towers. Milestone Communications has not met county standards for transparency. She hopes they will consider termination of contract. Radiation is hazardous to those who live and work in its proximity. PGCPS leadership please refrain from deals that compromise those that you serve.

At 42:25, community member, comment on cell towers — For 22 years his family has lived 150 feet from Eleanor Roosevelt HS. The proposal would have built a 105-foot industrial tower. The proposed tower can be compared to an industrial building that emits harmful pollutants. It would expose his family and the community, including more than 2,000 Eleanor Roosevelt HS students, to an alarming amount of electromagnetic radiation. This lack of concern and disregard for our community is unacceptable at least is criminal at most. rising cancer rates and high foreclosure rates we need to be more responsible for the placement of polluting industries like cell towers. There should be not any cell towers  near homes or schools. He calls for the cancellation of the contract. Thank you for your actions thus far, but go further and reanalyze the need for this no-bid contract.

At 44:56, citizen of Prince George’s County, comment on school governance — Expresses displeasure with CEO and school board for past 4 years. Events are responded to as they happen. Crisis management is not acceptable when it affects 100,000 children. School system is not functioning in the best interest and safety for the children in the community. He asks for CEO to submit his resignation to the County Executive by June 2017. A few incidents: School board called a parent group “silly.” Group had over 900 signatures on a petition and the school board member called it “silly.” Mishandling of crisis at District Heights ES. The only response from the school board came when the media got involved. High levels in lead in water. Large number of teachers and 126 bus drivers on paid leave and district paying for substitutes and children in classroom with uncertified teachers for long periods of time. Action plans for community to take back school system will come soon. He appreciates the CEO’s work, but it’s time for a new management.

At 48:23, parent of two children, District Heights ES — The mold is still there. The paint is no good. They need to solve the solution. 40% of the teachers are out. 200 children are sick. There is mold on the pipes of the building. When will something be done? How many times does she have to come here? She has pictures of the school that shows the lead on the pipes. You are killing our babies. Do you feel my pain and frustration. Would you want your kids having breathing treatment and antibiotics like her children? You need to stop. Dr. Maxwell showed concern for the College Park Academy at the last meeting, but did not show concern for her or District Heights ES. Solve the problem. Go in the building for a week and see if you get sick.

At 51:52, citizen, comment on lead levels in PGCPS water — Mold and cell towers aren’t only toxic emergency in PGCPS — the water has unsafe levels of lead. Parents were not informed about the high levels of lead in the school. Supposedly those water fountains are off but there are dozens that are still on with unsafe levels of lead. That is documented in the lead test reports she received through a FOIA request. She wrote letter to the board. Dozens of water fountains are on that have levels of lead that would not be allowed in DC Public Schools. DC publics schools only allows 1 part per billion.  PGCPS has lead limit of 20 parts per billion. http://leadinpgcpswater.blogspot.com/  is where she has posted for the public all of the documents she has received from her request.  District Heights also had high levels of carbon dioxide, which was not told to the parents. She would be interested to find out what the carbon dioxide levels are for other schools.  Testing should be done as well. She created http://www.safeschoolspg.org/ where the public can see all the documents about the Milestone–PGCPS deal that had been withheld from the public. She asks for transparency moving forward.

At 55:16, Theresa Dudley, PGCEA President — Teachers are not feeling appreciated at the moment. The budget cuts proposed by County Executive Baker hamper the ability to retain and support quality educators. PGCEA formally requests Board of Education to really look at the County Budget, because this reconciliation will come back to you.  Things they have been working on for the past 1 ½ year, reserve for negotiations for teachers who are off-step, need more mentor teachers, National Education teacher stipend, restorative practices and justice is important. So many students are suspended for disrespect. We all know, the higher the suspension rate, the lower graduation rate.  They are concerned about the Healthy Start breakfast program being cut and the factthat the culturally competency training was left on the table. This makes us feel unappreciated. We are at the bargaining table now. We have conversation about this. These cuts will significantly affect those discussions in the future. The children deserve to be treated with respect to be taught how to be whole and to have culturally competent quality educators in front of them who are compensated fairly.

At 59:55, Item 5.1 Consent Agenda

Proclamation National Caribbean American Heritage Month – All in favor of motion.

At 1:00:43, Board Member Edward Burroughs (point of personal privilege) –- He voted for the budget. Asked for $53 million and County Executive removed the $53 million and did not…

Dr. Eubanks stopped Mr. Burroughs’s statement and said point of personal privilege is not a political statement. It should be discussed when all board members can make a point, when the budget is discussed.

Board Member Burroughs disagreed with Dr. Eubanks about it not being a point of personal privilege. He was disappointed in Dr. Eubanks ruling. It’s inappropriate and a conflict of interest because he is discussing the County Executive who Dr. Eubanks is related to.

At 1:03:02, Budget Consent Agenda Items 6.1 – 6.3

Board Member Williams: She asked for a follow up on item 6.4 where design work is being done at Laurel HS. She would like a list of the projects that are being designed as part of that contract.

Answer: It will be sent to her.

Yes – Ahmed, Burroughs, Eubanks, Hernandez, Quinteros-Grady, Valentine, Wallace, Williams, Dr. Eubanks, Murray (ALL)

At 1:06:24, Governance (2nd Reader) Item 8.1-8.11

Board Member Wallace: Question about 8.5. Would this replace textbook in high school LSM Government classes?

Answer: Yes.

Board Member Burroughs: Question about textbooks. Maya Angelou did not receive 4th grade textbooks but French Immersion school in North of the County did. What is the textbook distribution process like?

Answer: They purchase textbooks for every school in the county. Several schools are 1:1 sites, where they have them available digitally. Several of those schools are in his district. In cases where schools are telling you they do not have a textbook, I encourage you to reach out to me in some cases they don’t have textbook because they weren’t given out to the students, but she needs to know so she can investigate it.

Board Member Valentine — Imagine Leland Public Charter School. Would like members of the public charter school to discuss about best practices within their schools that could be replicated in public school system.

Imagine School Leaders –- Mentions some of the things that are at all four Imagine Public Schools in PGC. Stress the importance of developing character and enriching minds.  Focus on moral character and performance character traits (such as perseverance, responsibility, creativity, and curiosity). Those tools that they need to be successful college and career-wise. STAR assessment focus on grade-equivalent of their scholars. Teachers can individualize teaching plans.

Principal — AVID program. They do a lot around PSAT prep for their school.

Board Member Valentine What is the current enrollment? Any discussion for growing program?

Answer: 488 students. Over 2,000 on waiting list for Imagine Leland. They are at cap for enrollment. They are at capacity. They are looking for a different facility so they can grow, but they want to maintain intimacy of the current campus.

Board Member Williams: Question for Policy Committee on item 8.10. Original receipts for supporting documentation. With internet purchases, asked if it could be modified to not be “original” receipts.

Board Member Valentine answer: Recommendation from the internal audit office. They made that change based on the recommendation. When possible, provide an original receipt.

Board Member Wallace: There is a tremendous reduction in the cost for the 1:1 digital versions. Is there a plan to expand using them?

Answer: A six-year plan has been created. They will increase 1:1 devices. 10 schools in initial pilot.

Board Member Burroughs: If we have a charter school that is doing well, and we have schools we have shut down, it is in our best interest to let the charter schools grow. Is there anything that would prevent PGCPS from allowing charter school to use a facility at a reasonable cost?

Answer: Two charters schools are leasing from PGCPS for now. They have a history of allowing charters to use vacant facilities.

ALL voted yes. Motion carried.

At 1:19:34, 1st Reader Items 9.2 & 9.3

Board Member Ahmed — Comment on 9.02, the EFMP Plan. She’s not sure she understands the amendments being proposed. The details of those are uncertain to her.

CEO: They will do that offline to the BOE.

ALL voted yes.  Motion carried.

April 25 Board of Education Meeting Follow Up is posted on Board Docs.

Item 12.1 Actions Taken in Executive Session

ALL voted yes. Motion carried.

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