This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2020 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Dr. Mohammed Ali is a candidate from District 4 (see district map here) running in the June 2 primary election. Dr. Ali 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 have a B.S./M.S. in Computer Science, and Doctorate in Education from Morgan State University. My goal is to ensure that our youth can compete in the 21st I believe we can do that by providing them with the resources they need the teachers that are compassionate and qualified in the field of education.
I have spent my entire career focused on issues of educational equity. I am a qualified candidate because I value education and have lived in this district for over twenty years. I am a professor of mathematics and information technology at Prince George’s Community College and served in various committee positions at the college. I am a former elementary and secondary Teacher and served as School Education Board at Prince George’s Muslim Association in Lanham, Maryland. Additionally, I have served as a community chair in Maryland and authored of children’s books.
What do you believe are the most important characteristics of an effective school board?
- Effectively school board should have a strong education background in the field of education.
- Having very good exposure in all levels of Educational decisions.
- Has the ability to integrate the communities, parents, educational administrators.
- Management of budget in the area of education.
- Strong leadership and guidance for parents, teachers and the community.
What would be your top three priorities while serving on the board, if elected?
1) Get all the money that should be spent on our students that have not been spent on them yet like other counties. We are currently withholding $4500 that should have been spent on our students while our graduation rate is dismal.
2) Filling the 800 shortage of teachers with qualified teachers who are companionate towards our students.
3) Engaging the parents so that they have a direct connection with the teachers and schools.
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?
Unfortunately, there is dissatisfaction many communities/parents. We have to ensure the teachers have direct connections with the teachers. There should be a weekly check-in with the parents to ensure the child is doing well with the school work as well as any other support the family needs in terms of equity. Parental meetings should have options where parents can meet with the teachers virtually for those parents that can’t be on site to see the progress of their child. There should be regular contacts from the principles to the parents.
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?
Certainly, specialty programs need to expand along with the time. Most of the current specialty programs are established almost three decades ago. In order to accommodate growing needs, we need to have few more specialty program schools. If a program is successful, we should increase it and support it. The focus is the students, and if we need a service or a program works, then we have to implement it. We are here to serve the children and their parents.
What responsibilities, if any, should school districts assume for dealing with such societal problems as poverty, hunger, emotional illness or drug abuse?
Integrating with counseling agencies to help the students who are victims of this social issue. A child should not feel left out. There should be regular check-ins in children we feel are vulnerable. There should be resources of counselors, social works that regularly ensure the needs and safety of all children.
Lessons learned from COVID-19 pandemic: What kind of education policies and procedures would you like to see PGCPS adopt or what is one thing you would like to see done differently when school buildings reopen?
Currently Online classes are in the beginning stage. I like to see the Online classes with the same intensity as if it is in the real class room. Moreover, there should be trainings for the teachers who are at the forefront of the teaching during the pandemic. There should be staff visiting to ensure that the children and their parents know what they are doing. Help them basic trainings of the technology that hub hazardly distributed.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing public education in Prince George’s County and the State of Maryland?
Graduation rate is a big issue in our county. 78% is not acceptable. That means in our district alone of about 5000 high school students, 22% fail, or 1100 of those students have spent 4 years of their life at school and are on the streets confused while their peers go to college. That is very sad it is my plan to change it with every resources necessary for those children to be part of the society they live in.
Do you have any additional comments?
Serving school board is a privilege and not a right. Therefore, don’t vote for the establishment or else they will maintain the status quo. If you want any vote to be fair at the board of the education, vote for someone new who has the experience and education background.
Learn more about Dr. Mohammed Ali here:
- Website: http://dralifordistrict4.com
- Social Media Handles:
- Facebook: @dralifordistrictfour
- Instagram: @dralifordistrict4