This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2018 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Pat Fletcher is a candidate from District 6 (see district map here) running in the June 26 primary election. Ms. Fletcher 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 your plans to move our school system forward. Why do you want to be on the Board of Education?
I am running to block administration and politicians from using our children and educators as political footballs. I am running to be the voice of the parents of our children who feel that their voices are not being heard. I am running for those parents, educators and children who receive little or no direction to be prepared to avoid incidents only to get them after the fact. I am running for that teacher who went in her pocket and spent her last $25 to ensure that a student had a pen, notebook and paper. I am running for that CEO who gave her all to the Head Start program and was terminated due to others in action (now going around the country inspecting Head Start programs for US Dept. of Education). I am running for that bus driver who rescued our babies from a burning bus and gets a dismal salary. I am running for that custodian who takes the extra time to actually talk and listen to our children. We have awesome children and staff. I am running to ensure they all have the resources they need so that our children will be competitive and succeed.
I started in the community and political arena when I was seven and perhaps earlier. Going to tenant association meetings, PTA, and commissioners’ meetings with my mom. She was active with the Toastmasters and a member of the Community Mental Health citizen’s advisory board. All of this took place in DC. I started in the political arena in Prince Georges’ County under Tommy Broadwater when he asked a group of us to volunteer for Steny Hoyer when he ran in the special election for Gladys Noon Spellman’s vacated seat. Assisted the statewide treasurer for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign (Carolyn Howard, Joanne Benson, Paul Pinsky, all teachers back then were Jackson Delegates and/or worked on the campaign). Treasurer for PGCDCC, School Board Member from 2006-2010; former president and vice president of Kentland/Columbia Park Boys and Girls Club; former PTA President of Forestville HS and G. James Gholson MS and presently president of Board of Directors for Village Green Mutual Homes, Inc. a cooperative in Landover for low to moderate income families. I have lived in Prince George’s County for over 40 years. Mother of two daughters and grandmother of 4. Both my daughters are graduates of county school system. Youngest daughter was an English teacher for 14 years in our school system. I have one grandchild presently attending a county school.
I bring with me a wealth of history of Prince George’s County school system. From directly experiencing the desegregation of the schools and the creation of magnet schools (which was segregation in disguise), the racism in selection of minority children in the TAG program, the building of a fence around Bowie annex when students from Bladensburg had to go there while Bladensburg HS was being rebuilt and were not allowed to walk in the Bowie neighborhood, minority students not being able to take AP courses, and the schools in my district getting little or no funding. I am a firm believer in that you need to know and understand where you have been before you can move forward.
Moving forward my plan is to empower our parents by way of educating them on their rights, the curriculum of their student and how Prince George’s County school system functions. I want to allow teachers to teach by arming and exposing our children with as much knowledge from various perspectives that will allow them to make informed and appropriate decisions and choices for their future so that they can become contributing citizens for their respective communities. I want to provide the resources and setting policies that will have a direct impact on the success of our children.
What would be your top three priorities while serving on the board, if elected?
- Educating and empowering parents to assist in the education of their child
- Competitive salaries and benefit packages for staff. Provide resources and tools to the educator so that they can effectively teach and provide appropriate wrap around services in the school for children and their parents
- Head Start and Universal Pre-K
What qualities do you believe are most important in a Chief Executive Officer?
A CEO must have working knowledge of the community they are servicing. They must bring to the table their plans on how they will utilize the entire community in the education of our children. Have the ability to think outside of the box. Effective utilization of staff and resources to ensure that effective and appropriate learning is taking place in the classroom.
If you had the opportunity to chair one of the existing Board of Education committees, which would you choose and why?
Personnel Committee – it dictates the quality of learning in the classroom
I would also like to serve on Curriculum and Instruction – this committee dictates what is being taught and how (this is where you can form ideas on how the curriculum is taught to the student in innovative ways – project base learning)
What are your impressions of the current level of parent engagement in our schools, and what ideas do you have for improving/encouraging parent and community engagement?
Parents are not welcome in the schools. Dr. Betty Depsenza Green and I initiated the Parent Liaisons’ program, which was lead by Dr. Michael Robinson (Forest of the Rain). Parents need to be educated and empowered which automatically leads to their active participation in the child’s education. This was mandated and was very effective in the Head Start program and must be utilized K-12.
What are your ideas for addressing inadequate facilities and alleviating overcrowding, while communities wait for new school construction and renovation to take place?
During my previous tenure on the school board (2006-2010) we had a study performed to prioritize building, replacing or renovation of all of our schools as we discovered that schools were being built, renovated or replaced based on political favoritism as oppose to the actual need and age of the schools. The Board of Education only makes recommendation (in accordance to the need) to the state Department of Public Works who allocates the funding for Capital Improvement. In fact, we were informed that we needed to address under enrollment of some of our schools prior to anything being built/renovated. If you recall we closed some of the schools and consolidated others. School boundaries’, I discovered were very political and not understood. This is a part of the education of the parent that I spoke of in a previous question. The problem was that residents not understanding the process and what it entailed applied pressure on their elected officials to go to new schools (prior to 2006-2010). Example of what happen is Charles Herbert Flowers. Once built, students living in walking distance of Largo HS were assigned to Flowers. Flowers overcrowded, Largo under enrolled. We made our request according to the study and the state Department of Public Works gave instructions to fixed the boundaries as we had a large number of schools they were under enrolled. I constantly addressed the issue of boundaries for our high schools, but was met with resistance from many on the board.
Name one book you have recently read. What did you learn from it?
The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore – no matter what side of the track/zip code a minority comes from they are all treated the same.
There have been questions surrounding graduation rates and grade fixing in Prince George’s County. According to the WABE report, Prince George’s County students continually scored among the lowest on the SAT. What can the school system do to improve the quality of a Prince George’s County education?
First and foremost I know firsthand that grade fixing was ordered and was no accident. Secondly, it was not just in Prince George’s County but also across the country. Was it right? No because it has caused a grave injustice to our children. Many do not know that a student in elementary school in the state of Maryland cannot be retained if they are not on grade level in reading and math. Achievement gap begins. As they matriculate forward they become further and further behind. By 6th grade they present behavior problems (compensation); by 9th grade they are in the suspension mode; by the age of 16 they are considered hopeless, ignored and wait until they are 18 to drop out. The achievement gap is by design. It must stop and if a student is not performing at grade level it should be mandated that they attend summer school (sliding scale fee) or they are retained. All scores would improve.
Many specialty programs (e.g. language immersion, performing arts programs) have waitlists because demand exceeds the current capacity, and some students travel long distances to attend a specialty school. Do you support the expansion of specialty schools? Why or why not?
Starting in middle schools, students should be introduced to various career paths. By the 8th grade they should be selecting their path and making selections of courses for that path to begin in the 9th grade. I do not understand why it begins in the 11th grade. Building and Trade Field -9th grade introduced and begin curriculum (partner with Trade Unions) – senior year take and pass all necessary state licensing exams; cosmetology -9th grade intro and begin curriculum (partner with existing schools) – senior year take state board; medical field – 9th grade intro and begin curriculum (partner with Universities), law, teaching, culinary arts, engineering, drama, theatre, journalism, art etc. The same applies. In addition to designating specialty schools within we can utilize our community resources and have the students go to them.
Do you have any additional comments?
Special Needs Program – Needs to have a Board member assigned to oversee. Not to give direction, but observed to see if service is being provided, laws adhere to, availability of resources and students being educated. Report back to the board on a monthly basis. Issues can be addressed and resolved.
Foreign Language – We spend millions of dollars for English language learners. Eventually these students become dual language, which is great. However, I English only speaking students cannot get into a foreign language class because there is no instructor or class is full. Children can pick up a foreign language within three months. What I would like to see is what some of the Head Start programs around the country started doing. Instead of pulling the English language learner student out of the classroom, they brought the instructor in. All students were learning both English and the foreign language. This can be done from Head start- 12th grade.
Read responses from other District 6 candidates:
- Carolyn Boston (incumbent)
- Belinda Queen
- Anthony Triplin