Approved Operating Budget Falls Short of Board’s Request

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

In a letter dated May 25, 2017, the Prince George’s County Council transmitted an approved operating budget of $1,975,443,500 for Fiscal Year 2018 to the Board of Education. The letter also outlined approved expenditure allocations by major category.

For each expenditure category, the table below compares the approved amount for FY 2018 with both the FY 2017 estimated expenditure and the FY 2018 requested amount.

BudgetReconciliation_pgcabs

1FY 2018 Requested Board of Education Annual Operating Budget, p. 39; 
2 Letter from County Council Chair Davis to Board of Education Chair Eubanks transmitting the approved FY 2018 operating budget

As the table shows, the approved budget of $1.975 billion represents a 2.7% increase over FY 2017 estimated expenditures. But it’s a much smaller increase than the school system asked for. The operating budget approved by the county council is $75.3 million less than the amount requested by the board of education in March.

Yet, in most of the expenditure categories, the difference between the requested budget and the approved budget is small (less than 1%), and two categories even show a significant increase over the amount in the requested budget (food services and “other instructional costs”). The $75 million shortfall is largely absorbed in the “fixed charges” category. Fixed charges expenditures are approved for $76.5 million less than was requested for FY 2018 (a reduction of 16.7%), and $57.2 million less than the estimated expenditures in FY 2017.

That is, PGCPS is supposed to spend 13.1% less on fixed charges than they did the previous year. This is the only expenditure category to see a decrease in approved spending, compared with the estimated spending from FY 2017. In fact, several categories, such as maintenance of plant, and administration, are seeing major increases in allocated funds.

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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.

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Making Advocacy More Effective

Printby Lori Morrow

After much feedback from constituents — including the Parent and Community Advisory Council — the Prince George’s County Board of Education’s Policy, Legal and Legislative Committee voted not to revise the Board Policy 8345 – Public Comment at this time. Board members acknowledged that the changes were being perceived as limiting public comment, and that this was not their intention. Instead, there is an understanding that many people speak at Board of Education meetings because they are not feeling heard elsewhere. That is something that the system needs to address.


I’ve been a PGCPS parent for nine years, including three years as a PTA/PTSO President, two years on a PTA/PTSO Executive Board, and this past year as a member of the Parent & Community Advisory Council.  I have found myself in front of the Board of Education more times than I can count, and I want to offer some suggestions for parents who are looking to be heard:

  1. Work with your school’s parent organization. Ask to add the issue of concern as a meeting agenda item, so that you canget input from other families. Members of your Parent Teacher Association/Organization (PTA/PTO) Board may have heard from other parents dealing with the same situation or may know if school staff is already working on a resolution.
  2. For PTA/PTO leaders, network with other parent organizations in your area. Find out if they have dealt with similar issues and how they have been able to resolve them.  PGCABS is a great resource to find out what is going on at other schools as well!
  3. Refer to the Ombudsman’s “Guide to Addressing Questions and Concerns”. Finding the right office may help solve your issue sooner.
  4. If you have thoughts on a Board of Education meeting agenda item, consider submitting your testimony to your Board of Education Member a day or two in advance of any vote. This allows the members time to review the information and follow-up with any questions for you or other PGCPS offices.
  5. Take advantage of opportunities to speak with members of the administration or Board of Education at community forums, Family Institute events, and public hearings.
  6. If you plan to speak at a Board of Education meeting as a group, coordinate your message and identify your strongest speakers. Bring other community members to support you in the audience, but often your points can be made with 2-4 speakers.
  7. Suggest a solution or a desired outcome whenever possible. You may have insight or a fresh perspective that members of the administration or Board of Education may not have considered.
  8. When you do speak during the public comment portion of a board meeting, be concise and direct. Respect the time limits and Board of Education guidelines to keep the process running smoothly. Showing that we understand and respect the process will help keep it available as an avenue for engaging school leadership.

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Notes on the Apr 25 Board of Education Meeting

by Laura Rammelsberg

To view the agenda for the April 25 Board meeting, go here.

Board members Patricia Eubanks (ill), Lupi Quinteros-Grady (ill), Mary Roche (expecting baby, due this week), and Beverly Anderson were not present.

All items under 8.0 Governance struck from the agenda.

At 17:03 in the video. Report of the Chair

Honored the lives of three middle schoolers who passed away recently.

This was the 31st season of the Science Bowl for PGCPS. Glen Arden Woods ES and Martin Luther King Jr. MS won the bowl this season. Congratulated the students.

Congratulated Brandywine ES, local partners and community volunteers for their outdoor garden/classroom. This effort reflects a great partnership with a community who helped to make the school more beautiful and ready-to-learn.

At 21:19. Board Member Raaheela Ahmed — April 12 she co-sponsored Bowie HS Annex challenge to raise their GPAs. 100 students enrolled in the challenge and 30% achieved the goal. This grassroots collaboration was a success, and Board Member Ahmed would like to see more projects like it across the county. Important to encourage growth in our students. Board Member Ahmed acknowledged some of the Bowie HS students and parents in the audience.

May 11 Board Meeting is at 5 pm.

At 23:53. Report of the CEO

PARCC is in progress in schools across the County. Students start this test in 3rd Grade. Parents should ensure students are well-rested.

Congratulated PGCPS Teacher of the Year Carolyn Marzke of Ridgecrest Elementary School, and the runners-up.

Washington Post Principal of the Year and Teacher of the Year — Denise Dunn, Principal of Ridgecrest Elementary School and teacher at Maria Wood of William Hall Academy were nominated for this honor and have made the list of finalists.

Please thank teachers during National Teacher Appreciation Week (May 8 – May 12). Theme is “Teachers Deliver.” Tag photos with #thankateacher to PGCPS twitter account (#PGCPS)

Legislative Report posted in BoardDocs, link to PDF here.

Board Committee Reports

At 27:43. Board Member Curtis Valentine, Chair of Policy & Legislative Committee — Established a priority at beginning of the year to review and assess current policies. Four main goals:

  1. student safety
  2. student equity
  3. health and wellness
  4. teacher quality and pipeline programs

Reviewed travel policy. Looked at Board Handbook to make sure meetings are timely and efficient. Active in participating in MD Legislative Session, testified in Annapolis. Represent Maryland Association of Boards of Education Legislative Committee. Review of minority-based enterprises policy to ensure equity. First Minority-based Enterprises Policy Advisory Board Meeting will be in May. Reviewing student safety/administrative leave policies. Rights of substitute teachers, rights of teachers to communicate with substitute in their absence. Ensuring timely case review. Their committee meetings are public and public can participate. Dates of their meetings are on their website. You can email him as well.

At 32:21. Board Vice Chair Boston, Chair of Governance Committee­ — Congratulated Mr. Brown and team for recognition they received for their finance work. This Committee identifies activities to increase knowledge and skill sets of Board members — professional development of the Board. Last report was in November. Held January committee meeting. Board retreat held on February 3-4. At the retreat, board reviewed book, Courageous Conversations on Race, by Glen Singleton, that anchored a conversation on equity. Also had CEO/Administration presentation on Strategic Plan, updates from all Board committee chairs on their committees. Board was briefed on internal / external communications. March and April meetings discussed equity and Equity Task Force. First meeting of Equity Task Force was held on April 1. This task force will report to Board on a monthly basis. The first report is due on April 1, 2018.

Public Comment on Non-Agenda Items

At 40:30Mt. Rainer K-6 Language Immersion — Parent would like to implement language immersion in Mt. Rainer ES. Cultural mix of PGC is quite vast, our greatest needs are for investments in the future for the county and the country. America is becoming more diverse and he applauds the Board for the programs they are implementing to help the students to learn better. He commends the CEO for his letter to the head of Homeland Security and drawing a line of safety around our community.

At 44:00. District Heights ES — Parent gave very emotional testimony about chemicals released within the school. It is not a safe environment. Contractors walking in and out without badges who don’t sign in and just walk through the building. The children need to be moved until the work is done. The chemicals released today were harmful. The parent and her children had headaches. Other children feeling sick. 40% of the teachers weren’t there because they are sick. It is not safe for the children to be in that building. The children are there to get an education and not to get sick or die. The band-aids are fine, but get the children out while the rest of the work is done. They need help and they need the Board to do something.

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Notes on the Feb 21 Prince George’s County Council Town Hall Meeting

by Laura Rammelsberg

Informal notes on the Prince George’s County Council Town Hall Meeting that was held on February 21, 2017.

This is the first meeting in a series of meetings discussing the FY2018 Budget and the fiscal future of Prince George’s County. There will be more public hearings in the coming months.

Council Members in Attendance: Mary Lehman (District 1), Deni Taveras (District 2), Dannielle Glaros (District 3), Andrea Harrison (District 5), Mel Franklin (District 8), Obie Patterson (District 9)

Resources and materials:

Highlights of the Meeting:

The county has not recovered from the recession yet. Structural deficit will grow over the next six years.

Projected annual budget gap is $28 million to $229 million between FY2018 and FY2023, even after accounting for MGM Revenues.

There are three unique constraints on the county, which no other Maryland county has in this combination. The Blue Ribbon Commission on Addressing the Structural Deficit recommends the following:

  1. Repeal TRIM (Property Tax Cap)
  2. Repeal Question I, which prohibits levying new taxes without a public referendum.
  3. Maximize use of Homestead Tax Credit Cap (this cap is most restrictive in the State of Maryland). The County is losing $56-60 Million a year from the Homestead Tax Credit every year.

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Every Comment From the Jan 24 Budget Hearing

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

The Prince George’s County Board of Education held its first public hearing on the fiscal year 2018 operating budget on January 24, at Charles Herbert Flowers High School. A Board of Education budget work session immediately preceded the hearing.

Fifteen members of the public spoke at the hearing. Their comments are recapped below:

  1. At 1:45:23 in the video, special educator: Increase the amount of funding for special education beyond what is proposed in the budget. “Special educators are leaving the county and field of special education in droves.” Special educators spend twelve to fourteen hours a week on legally required compliance paperwork. “Time spent on compliance paperwork is time spent out of the classroom and away from servicing our students.
  2.  At 1:48:02, special educator, paraprofessional in autism program: Adequately budget for our special education and autism programs. Our special education programs are not adequately staffed to safely manage the students. Special educators are close to burnout. “How many times must I document that a student ran away or tried to throw himself down the stairs before an additional staff person is approved? Also, when a specialist comes to observe our students to assess staffing or proper placement, why not have him or her actually do the job for an entire day instead of making an assessment based on a 15 or 20 minute slice of time?”
  3. At 1:50:57, special educator: It has become increasingly hard to do the job without adequate staffing. Describes a “day in the life of a special education teacher,” including assessing newly referred students to special education, writing IEPs, preparing paperwork for meetings, collecting data, collaborating with teachers, completing follow-up paperwork for IEP meetings, writing progress reports, providing assessment accommodations for students, as well as general school duties such as lunch duty. It is often necessary to spend several hours over the weekend working on
  4. At 1:53:42, special educator: “Special educators often fulfill two distinct jobs: We’re case managers, and we’re specialized instructors. However, we only have 45 minutes of planning time to fulfill these dual roles. . . .The overwhelming amount of time required to complete paperwork diminishes the amount of time that we have to provide supports in the classroom, with less specialized instruction for students with disabilities. . . I’m here today because so many of my colleagues leave the field of special education each year, due to the overwhelming pressure of compliance, as paperwork often becomes a priority over teaching.” Increased special education funding is needed for additional special educators, instructional specialists, and IEP clerks.
  5. At 1:56:43, parent of 9th grader at Bowie High School who has recently transitioned from private school: “As my daughter complained about sweltering classrooms at the start of the school year and frigid classrooms last month, I have to ask, is academic excellence really a priority? As my daughter has had a substitute teacher for science the entire semester and about three weeks for math, I must ask, how can we expect her to excel on the standardized tests . . . ?” Pay attention to a hierarchy of needs. There are tough choices to be made. Should such items as culture training for teachers (at around $610,000) and additional world languages funding ($1.2 million) compete for basic needs such as heating and cooling, or instruction in math and English?
  6. At 1:59:45, parent of a 5th grade Heather Hills Elementary student: There is confusion surrounding next year’s placement of some rising middle school Talented and Gifted (TAG) students from Heather Hills Elementary. Students who had anticipated attending the TAG center at Kenmoor Middle School next year received a letter stating that they must enroll in the TAG program at Benjamin Tasker Middle School instead. However, there has been no other mention of a TAG center at Benjamin Tasker Middle School. After numerous phone calls, parents were able to learn nothing about a potential TAG center at Tasker. The request is that students should be permitted to remain at Kenmoor until the TAG center at Tasker is fully operational.
  7. At 2:02:24, community member and parent of PGCPS alumni: Was hired in 2011 as a senior purchasing specialist, and subsequently discovered and reported waste, fraud, and abuse in the school system. The Strategic Plan implemented in 2016 and scheduled to go through 2018 does not actually address the goals of academic excellence, high-performing workforce, safe and supportive environments , family and community engagement, and organizational effectiveness. “How is it that we have a plan that went from 2016 to 2018, and you have not shown us any data or statistics that support what you’re doing?”
  8. At 2:05:25, community member and “watchdog advocate”: The budget document contains several discrepancies, and it is difficult, in some cases, to track where the money is going. For example, 17 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) positions are listed at a cost of $2.8 million to develop the Strategic Plan and obtaining grants in support of the plan.
  9. At 2:08:13, student at Whitehall Elementary School: School lacks adequate heating. “It is hard being so cold in my classroom. Sometimes when I write, I shiver . . . It can be hard to take tests too, because all I can think about is how cold I am.”
  10. At 2:09: 14, PTA president at Whitehall Elementary School: There are currently 833 open work orders related to heat for the 208 schools in the county. Whitehall’s heat is not working properly, even after months of requests for repairs. Classroom temperatures have been documented to be as low as 49 degrees, and kids are wearing coats and long johns in the classroom. Whitehall Elementary is overenrolled, with 576 students at a school that has a capacity for 420 students. “Please consider allowing room in your budget to repair so many of our buildings that our failing your scholars. You cannot continue to have high expectations academically while requiring such low maintenance standards of yourselves.” 

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Notes on the Jan 19 Board of Education Meeting

by Laura Rammelsberg

To view the agenda for the January 19th Board Meeting in BoardDocs, go here.

Board Members Dr. Segun Eubanks (chair), Dr. Beverly Anderson, and Dinora Hernandez were not present.

At 5:13 in the video. Elimination of Creative Writing Program at Hyattsville Middle School next year is being discussed, and many members of the public were present to show their support for the program. Families are in the dark about why the decision is being made and came to get some answers. The BOE Member representing that school’s district is not present. Disagreement amongst board members whether to add it as a discussion item this evening. Many BOE members expressed concerns that more information is needed and discussions need to take place with the Administration before it is discussed at a BOE Meeting.

At 15:25. Motion to put Elimination of Creative Writing Program on as a discussion item, proposed by Juwan Blocker.
4 yes, 7 no. Motion not passed.

At 18:02. Video shown celebrating the arts integration program in PGCPS. PGCPS is the only school system with an Arts Integration Office.

At 23:16. BOE Member Wallace commended Head of Security Services Rex Barrett and his handling of incident outside of Suitland High School last Friday. He also publicly thanked Barack Obama Elementary School and three students received a certificate of recognition for the help they provided 1,000 homeless children in the community with care packages that students collected and made.

At 28:52. Report of the Chair (Boston)

Whitehall Elementary received MD State Department of Education EGATE School Award which recognizes Gifted and Talented Programs (click here). She congratulated the school.

Sign up for Text Alerts for Weather Delays / Closures.

Series of public hearings on FY2018 Budget:

  • Jan 24 Charles Flowers HS Work Session 5:00 pm / Public Hearing 7:00
  • Jan 31 NW High School Work Session 5:00 pm / Public Hearing 7:00
  • Feb 7 Oxon Hill High School Work Session 5:00 pm / Public Hearing 7:00
  • Feb 22 Next BOE Work Session. 

At 33:52. Report of the CEO

Discover PGCPS event highlighted showcase of Immersion and Art Schools at Eleanor Roosevelt HS.

Eight High School Students received a full Scholarship to College.

Jan 23 6:30 – 8:30 Budget Walk Through for parents at Ernest Everett Just Middle School. No RSVP is required. Spanish interpreters will be available. 

At 35:57. BOARD COMMITTEE REPORTS

Identified top 5 budget priorities for FY2018:

  • Early Start – Pre/ K
  • Expansion of teaching staff
  • Literacy and Math
  • Transportation / Bus Drivers
  • More Maintenance Workers

PUBLIC COMMENT ON AGENDA ITEMS – 2 Speakers

At 40:40. Accokeek Academy Parent. Proposed boundary changes to school. Consensus approach is Option B that was presented to CEO which would create new K-8 school. The CEO is proposing to move forward with Option A – changing boundaries. Community does not agree.  It does not make Accokeek Academy a K-8 school. Having feeder schools defeats the main purpose of the school. Ms. Williams tried to find a plan the community would be happy it, which is Option B. The boundary changes splits Accokeek neighborhoods – some away from the Academy. Asked CEO to choose Option B. Ft. Washington Elementary PTSA supports Option B as well. Need to find a new long-term solution (new school).

At 43:54. Ft. Washington Elementary School last renovation in 1969 – nearly 50 years ago.  School requires maintenance now.  Photos were sent to School District.   Why does it take half a year to paint and replace things in the school?  Minor fixes.  All 2016 / 2017 work orders should be done by 2018.

PUBLIC COMMENT ON NON-AGENDA ITEMS – 21 Speakers (comments are combined in some cases)

Beginning at 46:10. Hyattsville Middle School – Creative Writing Program 
Current students, including President of Student Council, spoke of their experience – students should be able to participate in the CPA Creative Writing programs. Creative Writing is the backbone for other arts. Students experience a level of writing and reading that they don’t in other classes. This program makes Hyattsville unique.  It’s not offered in other CPA schools; that is the reason they are told it is being taken away.

Many families have had positive experience at Hyattsville Middle School, especially with the refinement of CPA (and Creative Writing) program. Parents are drawn to the school because of that program and parents are upset it might be eliminated. Parents asking that the CPA major be continued.

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