Notes from the October 9 Budget and Operations Committee Meeting

by Lori Morrow

The Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Board of Education Budget and Operations Committee met for a regular meeting on Tuesday, October 9. BOE Members present were K. Alexander Wallace (Committee Chair), Carolyn Boston, and Sonya Willams. Members Curtis Valentine (Committee Vice Chair) and Raaheela Ahmed were on conference call. The PGCPS Chief Financial Officer Mike Herbstman and Internal Audit Director Michelle Winston were also in attendance.

1.  The first agenda item was a review of the Committee Charter. Last spring, the PGCPS Board of Education unanimously passed Board of Education policy 8100 which did a full reorganization of the standing and ad hoc committees. The reorganization nearly doubled the scope for the Budget and Operations Committee, formerly known as the Finance, Audit and Budget Committee.

The larger scope for the Budget and Operations Committee includes business management services; human resources & talent development; information technology; pupil accounting, school boundaries & capital improvement (CIP); and supporting services. Last year mostly focused on Operational and Capital Improvement Budgets and Internal Audit.

2. The second meeting agenda item was the annual work plan for the Budget and Operations Committee: https://youtu.be/H_khPdyQaLA?t=498

The document outlines meeting dates and proposed topics for the committee this school year. There was a systematic request to meet twice per month from November to February as those are peak months in covering the Operational Budget. In the committee discussion, BOE members amended the work plan to add the topics of CIP, Public-Private Partnerships (P3), 21st Century Schools State Commission, and Procurement.

The Budget and Operations Committee will also be responsible for selecting locations for the January/February Budget work sessions and public hearings.

3.  Internal Audit Director Michelle Winston presented the annual Internal Audit report: https://youtu.be/H_khPdyQaLA?t=1333

The report included a summary of FY2018 Internal Audit operations and the plan for the FY2019. Ms. Winston presented data on the 97 total financial, operational, and fraud audits; 309 hotline report submissions; and 61 property inventory assessments completed in FY2018. An estimated total losses of $16M were averted through audit activities.  Actual losses identified in the audits were $1.8M, with $1.1M of that in property assets. Property items continue to be researched on an ongoing basis.

Internal Audit is responsible for school activity fund audits, hotline & special investigations, and property inventories. Special requests for 2018 included the Human Resources salary increases and Bus Lot Transportation payroll operations.

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Recap of Last Tuesday’s District 7 Education Roundtable

by Robyn Kravitz

On September 18, Board Member K. Alexander Wallace hosted an inaugural Education Roundtable discussion for stakeholders from District 7. Attendants included parents from Wise High School, Imagine Morningside, Benjamin D. Foulois CPAA, Overlook Spanish Immersion, Bradberry Heights, and Arrowhead, along with District 7 residents, educators, and administrators.

Mr. Wallace shared that his job as a board of education member has three pillars — policy, budget, and community engagement. He hopes that this roundtable will be an ongoing tradition for District 7 residents that will help him with all three pillars. To drive the point home, Mr. Wallace has scheduled the next roundtable meeting for November 27, 6:30pm at Drew Freeman Middle School. After some quick introductions, the meeting was a true roundtable experience. Folks shared concerns and brainstormed potential solutions. Most points related to two different topics: communications and investment in PGCPS.

Many folks raised concerns about communications and consistency.  Different schools –and even teachers within a given school — use various tools to communicate with families. The idea that came out of the meeting was that a policy could be created requiring principals to release information to parents that clearly laying out the ways in which the school will communicate with families. There wasn’t a strong preference for one communication tool, just a strong desire for a consistent tool choice (i.e., ClassDojo, SchoolMax, Gov Delivery, text message, etc.). This idea resonated strongly with the room. It felt like a compromise that would give a principal the freedom to decide with method works best for their school but also provide transparency and a clear directive, so families know exactly where to look for communications.

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Notes from the August 23 Board of Education Meeting

by Lori Morrow

The Board of Education Meeting began at approximately 7:30 PM on Thursday, August 23 at the Sasscer Building in Upper Marlboro.

Report of the Chair:

  • BOE Member Mary Kingston Roche has resigned from the Board of Education
  • PGCPS is hosting the Back-to-School Block Party at the Bowie Baysox Stadium on August 25th
  • For Public Comment, members of the public should register 4 days prior to the meeting.

Report of the CEO:

Discussed 5 focus areas, updated policies, and the Back-to-School portion of the webpage to get everyone ready for the first day.

Public Comment:

https://youtu.be/lkl1Z-417J8?t=1218

–Michele Clark, Teacher Retention and Turnover

–Susanne Johnson, Resources for Immersion Schools

–Theresa Mitchell Dudley, PGCEA, Teacher Retention

–Linda Tucker, Fingerprinting Requirements for Athletics Volunteers

Discussion Item:

Dr. Goldson introduction of the Discussion Item, First Day of School Planning & Preparations: https://youtu.be/lkl1Z-417J8?t=2156

–All 17 cases of employees involved in the Internal Audit compensation findings have been returned to previous pay levels and steps are being taken to review future pay increases related to change in responsibilities.

–Dr. Goldson also discussed the restructuring of the Area Office Structure for better leveling and monitoring.  In addition, positions formerly working in the Ombudsman office will be placed in Area Offices as “Area Office Resolution Specialists” to allow more timely resolution of parent concerns.

Associate Superintendent Dr. David Curry: Principal Support & Training this summer: https://youtu.be/lkl1Z-417J8?t=2445

–Principal meeting was held on Aug 8 to present updates for Administrative Procedures related to Attendance (5113) and Grading & Reporting (5121), grade change authorization and grad standards module.  Additional principal meeting was held on Aug 21 to answer questions and concerns about policies. There was also a meeting specifically for Elementary/K-8 Principals to review Health & Wellness 0116 and recess procedures. Principals were directed to include the information in handbooks and review the information with staff.

Chief Accountability Officer, Dr. Douglas Strader: https://youtu.be/lkl1Z-417J8?t=2589

–Discussed the plans to report key performance indicators quarterly to stakeholders.

Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Kara Libby: https://youtu.be/lkl1Z-417J8?t=2650

–Discussed updates about curriculum documents and resources that will be available to teachers. Materials have been disseminated so that teachers will be able to begin instruction on day one.

Chief Information Offier, Mr. Youssef Antar: https://youtu.be/lkl1Z-417J8?t=2736

–Discussed $3M technology upgrades; increase of the one-to-one intitiative (up to 18 schools); and automated graduation standards/grade change modules.

Chief of Human Resources, Mr. Howard Burnett: https://youtu.be/lkl1Z-417J8?t=2862

–Teachers: Hired 976 teachers this summer and have 55 vacancies. We have a pool of 3000 substitute teachers. Substitutes who will be filling vacant positions have been able to attend training/planning days with teachers so that they will be able to teach on the first day.

–Bus drivers: 69 vacancies with over 1000 bus drivers. Substitute drivers and doubled routes will be used to cover the vacancies. 36 drivers are currently in training with another 15 who have been recently hired.

–Nurses: Hired 19 nurses since July 1 but still have 32 vacancies.  Will use contract nurses from 8 agencies to fill vacancies and schools all have emergency care plans in place.

–Administrative Leave: Human Resources and Labor Relations looked at cases of individuals who are currently on leave.  Staff with minor infractions who were found not to pose threat to staff, students or the organization will be able to remain in the work location. Individuals with cases pending with Child Protective Services are not able to remain in their work locations.

Interim CEO Dr. Monica Goldson:

–Capital Improvement: https://youtu.be/lkl1Z-417J8?t=3200 Discussed projects at Tulip Grove ES (Renovation completed), Francis T. Evans ES (Pod conversion, 1 out of 3 completed. Expect completion at end of November), and Hollywood ES (Pod conversion with delays).

–District Heights ES Update: https://youtu.be/lkl1Z-417J8?t=3328 Mold reappeared in the elementary school this summer. Dr. Goldson requested external evaluation and ultimately made the decision that students will be bussed to Forestville HS for this school year so that systemic repairs can be made. $2.5M was already in the FY2019 budget to replace the air conditioning system.

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Follow-Up Needed After Last Year’s Changes in PGCPS Recess Policy

playground_6394.v01b.25percentLori Morrow presented this testimony during the public comment portion of the July 12 Prince George’s County Board of Education work meeting.

Good evening Dr. Eubanks, Board Members, Dr. Maxwell, staff and community members,

My name is Lori Morrow.  I have been a PGCPS parent for 10 years and am active with the Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools. I chose to speak about recess tonight because it is a concern I continue to hear from parents, and it is also something principals have the ability to change for the upcoming school year if they wish.

Last summer, PGCPS updated its Health and Wellness Procedure 0116, and one of the changes was a recommendation to provide 30 minutes for elementary recess, with the minimum required time increasing from 15 to 20 minutes. This spring I submitted a Public Information Act request to find out how many schools actually met that 30-minute recommendation. The answer I received, and I quote: “Upon review, there are no records available to show school responses for compliance with the updated AP 0116 for this request.” I take that to mean the administration does not actually know.

Included in my reply was the spreadsheet of recess times by school prior to the update.  It was enlightening to learn that before 2017, approximately HALF of PGCPS elementary schools had 15-minute recess. At the same time, a quarter of schools managed to provide 30 minutes. With studies that show increased recess can improve student focus and academics, why were so many principals content to do the minimum, and are they still just meeting the minimum?

We appreciate that the wellness policy was updated last year, but I would love to see the administration and the Board of Education do more to encourage all principals to provide 30-minute recess. For the parents and community members out there, don’t settle for the minimum. If you believe kids should have 30 minutes for recess, advocate for it at your school. The framework is there and the principal has the authority to make it happen. I also learned there are no MSDE or PGCPS policies prohibiting middle school principals from implementing a break or recess period. I would love to see some of them experiment with schedules that give middle school students a mental break from their hour-long classes.

Ultimately I’m disappointed because this reinforced complaints that even when the policies and procedures are in place, schools may not be following them. For example 0116 also states that “Withholding of recess as a punishment is prohibited,” but many people, including my rising 5th grader, have examples where it is used that way either for individual students or the entire class.

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But What Can I Do? Thoughts After a Contentious School Board Meeting

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The opinions expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.

by Robyn Kravitz

What an interesting, frustrating, challenging, yet energetic time to be a Prince George’s County resident!

I’m new-ish to the county. My family moved here two years ago thanks to the Air Force. However, in that time I have seen many hurdles within our school system. The most recent hurdle involves the employment, performance, and resignation of Dr. Maxwell from PGCPS. Here are some basic facts that feel important:

  1. Dr. Maxwell’s contract was renewed for 4 years by County Executive Baker in 2017.
  2. Dr. Maxwell announced that he would transition out of the position. But he was not fired.
  3. Other counties in Maryland have been required to pay large severance packages upon the departure of their CEO or Superintendent on top of massive legal fees.
  4. The Board of Education approved a package that is expected to be accepted by Dr. Maxwell and provide a clear path to Dr. Maxwell’s departure from PGCPS.

Now as parents, where do we go from here? I see two very distinct actions we need to take head on — be an educated voter and volunteer in your local parent-teacher organization.

If you love the decision by the Board of the Education, get out and vote this fall for the candidates that supported this package through the system. If you disagree with the package from the Board of Education, get out and vote this fall for the candidates that offer a view you align with. The way we hold our elected officials accountable for the decisions they make is to show up at the polls in November and vote.

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Board of Education Primary Election Results for Prince George’s County

Residents of Prince George’s County Board of Education Districts 2, 3, 6, and 9 had the opportunity to vote for a school board candidate in the Maryland primary election on Tuesday. The two candidates with the most votes will go on to the general election in November.

Incumbents did very well at the polls: In the three districts where incumbents ran for re-election (Districts 2, 6, and 9), incumbents won the most votes.

Here are the Maryland State Board of Elections unofficial results for the four school board races:

DISTRICT 2:

Rob Anthony, 16.4%

*Lupi Grady, 49.3%

*Joshua M. Thomas, 34.3%

DISTRICT 3:

* Juwan Blocker, 25.7%

*Pamela Boozer-Strother, 47.2%

Irene Holtzman, 12.4%

Catherine Bennett Nwosu, 14.7%

District 6:

*Carolyn Maria Boston, 29.4%

Caleb A. Camara, 4.6%

Pat Fletcher, 14.0%

*Belinda Queen, 24.8%

Ava Richardson, 7.4%

David Shelton, 4.9%

Anthony Triplin, 14.9%

District 9:

Matt Green, 8.1%

Don D. Massey, 8.9%

*Arun Puracken, 28.7%

*Sonya Williams, 54.3%

(*) Candidates will appear on the ballot in the general election.

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Upcoming Election Deadlines

IMG_2622by T. Carter Ross

As you may have noticed, there are a number of contested elections on the ballot in Prince George’s this June. Early voting starts on June 14 and runs through June 21 (10 am to 8 pm each day). A full list of early voting locations can be found here: https://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/DocumentCenter/View/11692/Early-Voting-Sites-PDF.

The Primary Election is June 26 (7 am to 8 pm). You can check to make sure you are registered and look up your primary day polling location here: https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/VoterSearch

If you are unable to make it to the polls to vote, you can request an absentee ballot online here: https://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/965/Absentee-Ballots

Because of Maryland’s closed primary system, if you wish to vote in the Democratic primary, you must be registered as a Democrat The same holds true if you wish to vote in the Republican primary, you must be registered as a Republican. Voters registered with a third-party, as independent, and/or as unaffiliated will be able to vote on school board candidates, but not any other races. If you are not registered as a Democrat and wish to vote, for example, in the County Executive or County Council races, you can change your party affiliation to Democrat by updating your information online: https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/OnlineVoterRegistration. It takes about five minutes and you will need your driver’s license as part of the process.

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