by Lori Morrow
This past weekend I read the graduation rate audit report from Alvarez & Marsal. Unfortunately I was not surprised by the findings. Over the past 9+ years, I’ve noticed a disconnect between Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) leadership/central offices and the way individual schools operate on a daily basis.
I suspect that any PGCPS parent could provide anecdotes about inconsistent policy and procedure compliance at the school level — from issues like withholding elementary school recess as punishment and discrepancies in meeting volunteer/visitor requirements, to inconsistencies in grading procedures or the abuse incidents in recent years. While the report did not find system-wide fraud, I believe we need a system-wide solution to balancing effective policies and procedures without drowning staff in processes and paperwork.
Earlier this week I wrote a list of things that I believe parents/guardians should do. Parents own a piece of the issues identified in the audit if they aren’t paying attention to grades and attendance, if they ask to have their child promoted when they shouldn’t be, or if they are focused just on the diploma instead of the education. Sadly what I often hear from parents and teachers is that it doesn’t matter what we do because we are powerless to change PGCPS. I spend too much time attending PGCPS events and meetings to accept that there is nothing we can do.
Here are my suggestions for ways PGCPS can partner with parents and staff to help rebuild trust and confidence in our school system:
- Host forums like last year’s “Community Summit on Safety & Accountability” to involve the community in identifying problems and searching for solutions.
- Involve PTA/PTO leaders in reviewing climate survey results at the school level so that they can assist in resolving ongoing concerns.
- Add an item to parent and teacher climate surveys that asks about staff adherence to policies and procedures.
- Implement new Administrative Procedures in the spring or beginning of the summer (instead of right before school starts) so that principals and central offices are thoroughly prepared to communicate them to parents and teachers by Back-to-School Night.
- Create an interactive video/training module on the Students Rights & Responsibilities Handbook for parents and students that can be posted online and shared at Back-to-School Nights or PTA meetings.
- Reach out to the Board of Education Parent and Community Advisory Council to provide feedback on policy and procedure changes.
- Host forums with PTA/PTO leaders at least twice during the school year to identify system-wide issues.
- Clarify the role of instructional directors as it relates to policy and administrative procedure compliance, and share that information with the community.
- Educate the community on the formal process for teachers, students, and parents/guardians who wish to report instances of non-compliance, and ensure that they will not face retaliation.
- Above all else, please put aside the politics and make our children’s EDUCATION the priority.