PGCPS Parents: Speak Up About Next Year’s Budget

by Lori Morrow

Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) have started soliciting public input for the Fiscal Year 2019 Operating Budget. CEO Kevin Maxwell hosted a forum on Monday, November 13th to hear from members of the public about budget priorities. He was joined by Chief Operating Officer Wesley Watts, Budget Director John Pfister, Board of Education Chair Segun Eubanks, Board of Education Vice Chair Carolyn Boston, and Board of Education Member Sonya Williams.

The short meeting started with an overview of the budget process by Mr. Pfister.  Seven registered speakers shared their feedback, including four parents from Robert Goddard Montessori School advocating for teacher training, materials, and reduced class sizes.  Additional speakers included a parent from the Maya Angelou French Immersion program and a representative from the Education Support Professionals union. Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools (PGCABS) member Tommi Makila thanked the administration for these efforts to engage the public. He also argued that the PGCPS operating budget should focus on things that most directly touch classrooms.

After public comment concluded, the administration shared that PGCPS is testing a new online platform, Let’s Talk, to collect inputs about next year’s spending priorities. This survey will be available through November 27th so that the administration can review comments prior to the CEO’s Proposed Budget presentation to the board of education on December 14th.

Additional public comment forums will be held at locations throughout the county in January and February as the Board of Education shapes the budget request to send forward to Prince George’s County Executive. PGCABS is also working with the PGCPS Budget Office to host a public question and answer forum about the operating budget this winter.

Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts about FY 2019 Operating Budget priorities with the PGCPS CEO here before November 27th.  Historically, feedback tends to be low in these early stages of the budget process but the Operating Budget impacts our students at every level. If you are not sure where to start, consider using the survey to answer one of these questions:

  1. What programs work well and should be kept/expanded at your school?
  2. What programs are not working well and should be eliminated, or may need increased funding to be effective?
  3. Are there programs that you would like to see added within your child’s school or within the county school system?
  4. What additional resources do you feel would benefit your child’s school or classroom (technology, books, field trips, etc.)?
  5. Do you feel that your school has the correct staffing level to meet students’ needs (classroom teachers, aides, special ed, support staff, etc.)?
  6. Do you feel that class sizes at your school are appropriate?
  7. What maintenance concerns do you have about PGCPS facilities?
  8. Do you feel that support services like transportation and security are adequate in PGCPS?

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Notes on the October 24 Board of Education Meeting

by Laura Rammelsberg

To view the agenda in BoardDocs, go here.

Attendees: Board Members Ahmed, Boston, Burroughs, Hernandez, Murray, Paige, Quinteros- Grady, Roche, Valentine, Wallace, Williams, Dr. Wiseman, Dr. Eubanks
CEO Dr. Maxwell

Ms. Eubanks had a friend who passed today and could not attend the meeting.

NEWSBREAK

At 5:39 in the video. Our New 3D Scholars Program – highlights partnership between PGCPS, Prince George’s Community College and UMUC that allows students to get a Bachelor’s Degree for $10,000.

For more information about the 3D Scholars Program visit: http://www.pgcps.org/3dscholars/

REPORT OF THE CHAIR

At 9:49. Honored lives of four individuals – Kayla Holman (G. James Gholson Middle School student), Ms. Owens (educator at Gwynn Park MS), Shelly Miley (father of Dr. Kara Libby, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, PGCPS) and Ms. Murphy (daughter of Kim Murphy, Sasscer building services staff.)

Fairmont Heights HS – new high school was dedicated attended by alumni from 1940s and 1950s were there. Video of the Fairmont Heights HS Ribbon Cutting can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuImqO3DUTQ

Oct. 16 – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen at Greenbelt Middle School announcement of the award of $25 million US Department of Education grant titled “Great Teachers, Great Leaders, Great Schools.” Funds will go to highest need schools and develop leaders to help our children thrive and succeed.  

Video about $25 million grant announcement can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X851MuCwtaA

At 14:29. Board Member Burroughs – recognized former School Board Chair Owen Johnson, who is in the audience.  

Board Member Wallace – recognized 12-year old student from North Forestville Elementary, Ms. Dashai Morton. For her birthday, she raised 3000 cases of water for victims of Hurricane Maria and Irma in Puerto Rico. Proclamation made in honor of her.  To see more information about Ms. Morton’s story visit: http://wjla.com/news/local/prince-georges-county-sixth-grader-collects-water-for-hurricane-victims-in-puerto-rico

Board Member Williams – Greatness is happening all over PGCPS.  Law passed to implement green cleaning in schools throughout the State.  PGCPS is the first organization in the State to complete the green cleaning certification. Ten custodians completed a green certification course, which help achieve this goal, she recognized them.

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Notes on 2017 PARCC Results

by Lori Morrow

Results for the PARCC Assessments taken in Spring 2017 were the main discussion item at the PGCPS Board of Education meeting on September 19, 2017.  PARCC stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. It is a set of annual tests in English/Language Arts and Mathematics that students take in grades 3-12 during April and May.  More information about PARCC can be found online at https://parcc.pearson.com or www.pgcps.org/parcc.

  • The Maryland State Department of Education released this year’s PARCC scores near the end of August 2017.  Results for all state, county and individual school results are available online at http://reportcard.msde.maryland.gov.
  • All students who took PARCC tests should receive individual score sheets from their schools.  If you have not received your results, contact your school’s Testing Coordinator.  Information about understanding the score sheets is online at www.pgcps.org/parcc. Dr. Goldson mentioned that PGCPS will not be presenting “PARCC Nights” like previous years due to low attendance during the 2016-17 School Year.

PARCC RESULTS PRESENTATION:

Dr. Goldson’s presentation begins with the overview and Elementary School Scores: https://youtu.be/o9T65Q9I83U?list=PL4585E4C6234DE895&t=1620

  • Grades 3-5: Increases in all ELA/Math scores by grade except for a decrease for Math 5. Despite increases, PGCPS is still well below the state average for both assessments. For all demographics, students did better on ELA than they did for Math. Most demographic subgroups showed improvement from SY2016 to SY2017.

Middle School Scores: https://youtu.be/o9T65Q9I83U?list=PL4585E4C6234DE895&t=1944

  • Grades 6-8: Slight decrease for student performance in grades 6-8 on both ELA and Mathematics assessments.  The only increase in results was at Grade 7, which was due to clarification from MSDE that students should take the assessment for their grade level.  All demographic subgroups did better on ELA assessments than they did in Math.  Asian and white students outperformed African American students, but it also must be noted that the number of African American students in PGCPS significantly exceeds the number of Asian and white students.  Most groups at the middle school level showed minimal growth or a slight decrease.

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Eubanks Reappointed to Board of Education, Anderson Resigns

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

Prince George’s County Board of Education Chair Segun Eubanks has been appointed to a second four-year term on the board. In a June 8 phone conversation, a staff member in County Executive Rushern Baker’s office confirmed that Baker reappointed Eubanks on June 1 of this year.

Eubanks was first appointed on June 1, 2013, the same day that the controversial House Bill 1107 took effect. The legislation changed the structure of the board, adding four at-large appointed members to the previously all-elected board and giving the superintendent (renamed under the bill as “Chief Executive Officer”) and county executive more control over the school system. Under HB 1107, the county executive also selects the chair of the board of education, who serves a two-year term as chair. Eubanks was selected by Baker to serve as chair of the board in June of 2013.

Beverly Anderson, whose recent resignation from the board has made the news, was also appointed by Baker to a four-year term in June of 2013. Anderson’s appointment was announced on June 17, along with the appointments of Daniel Kaufman and Curtis Valentine. Under the provisions of HB 1107, Valentine was appointed by the county council, and Kaufman was appointed by the county executive. Both were appointed to two-year terms initially, with the stipulation that future appointments to those seats would be four-year terms. Valentine was appointed in June 2015 to a second term, which will last four years. Kaufman’s seat is now held by Mary Roche.

The board of education also has nine elected members, each elected from their own board of education district, and one student member.

On June 13, four days before her term ended, Anderson sent a resignation letter to County Executive Baker, criticizing the school system for its “lack of a coherent educational plant” and calling the board “dysfunctional.” The letter was obtained by NBC 4 through a public information request, and the full text is below. It is not clear whether Baker had planned to appoint Anderson to a second term. Baker is responsible for appointing someone to fill the vacancy left by Anderson.

 

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Notes on the June 22 Board of Education Meeting

by Laura Rammelsberg

To view the agenda for the meeting in BoardDocs, go here.

All Board Members Present

2.0 Adoption of Agenda

At 3:19 in the video. Motion by Board Member David Murray to add to the agenda (as an an emergency item) a discussion of the proposal to update administrative leave policies , given the “record-breaking numbers of teachers, bus drivers, principals, assistant principals, guidance counselors, employees at all levels of the system that have been caught up in our administrative leave policies and are out unjustly, some without pay, some with pay, for extended periods of time . . .”

8 ayes/6 nays — to add Board Member Murray’s motion to the agenda. Required a two thirds majority vote; motion did not carry.

At 5:35. Motion by Edward Burroughs to allow all members of the public who signed up prior to the deadline to speak during the public comments. Motion ruled out of order by Dr. Eubanks.

4 ayes/8 nays/2 abstains — vote to overrule the chair’s decision to enforce public comment policy. Motion did not carry; policy limiting public comments to 15 remained in force.

Minutes from June 7, 2017 board work session and June 13, 2017 operating budget public hearing were approved.

Report of the Chair

At 13:19. Gave honor to two members at their last board meeting. Student Board Member Blocker was thanked for his service with a $5,000 scholarship for college and a certificate.

At 14:18. Student Board Member Blocker (remarks) — Showed photograph of himself with the late Principal Tanya Washington and honored her for supporting him. Thanked his family and community. It takes a village to get a person where they are. He held true to his promise that he would advocate and vote his conscious and get more students involved politically and civically. Words of advice to colleagues: it is an honor to serve the students. He is concerned with the amount of politics that gets in the way of helping the students.”We will continue to be second to the bottom if we continue to let politics get in the way of our decision making.” Thanked Board Members Murray, Ahmed, Burroughs and Dr. Anderson. There is a lot of work to do. Encourages the community to be as active as possible. 2018 is a big year; vote out certain individuals.

At 18:46. Dr. Eubanks gave honor to Dr. Beverly Anderson, who has served with great skill and integrity. Pushed to advance student achievement and make program offerings stronger than ever. Thanked her for her hard work and dedication. A plaque presented to her.

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What We Know About the Prior Investigation into Alleged Fraudulent Graduation Rates

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

Earlier this month, four Prince George’s County board of education members raised hackles when they alleged that graduation rates in the county schools had been inflated through grade fixing and other tactics. The board members — Edward Burroughs, David Murray, Raaheela Ahmed, and Juwan Blocker — asked Governor Larry Hogan to order an investigation into the claims of fraud. Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell and other school officials have denied the allegations, citing an investigation by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) conducted earlier this year that cleared the schools of any wrongdoing.

But State Delegate Jay Walker has publicly questioned whether the MSDE investigation was sufficiently thorough, and on June 25 Governor Larry Hogan sent a letter requesting that the MSDE conduct a “complete, thorough, and exhaustive” investigation into the allegations.

So, why order a second investigation? How thorough was the investigation that was completed earlier this year? A letter sent to the U.S. Department of Education describes the previous MSDE investigation in detail. (Scroll to the end of the post to find the letter in full.) Here is what we know about the investigation:

  1. When did the investigation occur? The investigation was conducted in January 2017, but it was a follow-up on an informal inquiry that had occurred the previous year. In July 2016, Patrick Rooney, deputy director of the United States Department of Education’s (USDE) Office of State Support had sent a letter to Maryland State Superintendent Karen Salmon informing her of an anonymous tip made to his office, alleging that Schools CEO Maxwell was forcing grade changes in order to boost graduation rates. The letter included mention of two high schools in particular. After receiving the letter, Salmon contacted Maxwell about the allegations, and he denied them. Nothing further was done until the MSDE received a phone call in December 2016 from the USDE asking for an update on the investigation.
  2. Who conducted the investigation? The January investigation seems to have been conducted by a single person, Carol Williamson, chief academic officer of the Office of the Deputy for Teaching and Learning, and a former superintendent of Queen Anne’s County Public Schools. The investigation was preceded by a meeting between Williamson and Maxwell on December 12, 2016.
  3. What was the scope of the investigation? The investigation consisted of 1) looking at graduation rate data, 2) meeting with Kevin Maxwell, and 3) interviewing Maxwell and four others. Carol Williamson looked at the graduation data for the county for the past five years and for the two high schools mentioned in the complaint. She discussed the graduation data with Maxwell at the December meeting, and in January she interviewed Maxwell and four other PGCPS employees: an instructional director, a data management and strategy analyst, a special project officer*, and a deputy superintendent.
  4. How were the interviewees selected? How long was each interview? The employees interviewed were referred by Maxwell. It appears that none of the employees interviewed is in a school-based position. Williamson writes, “At the conclusion of our [December] meeting I asked him to identify others with whom I could talk. I asked to talk with the principals’ supervisors for the two high schools, with someone involved in grade collection on transcripts, with someone responsible for school counselors, etc.” Each interview was between 30 and 45 minutes long. According to Williamson, the discussions were thorough, and each person interviewed was “very proud of the work being done in the school system.” (See the letter below for a list of questions asked.)
  5. Who knew — or didn’t know — about the investigation? In a statement issued on June 20, Board Members Burroughs, Ahmed, Murray, and Blocker claimed that they were not informed of the MSDE investigation. They write, “We were absolutely unaware that MSDE had done an investigation on the matter earlier this year. Neither the CEO nor Board leadership informed us of it previous to yesterday evening, when it went out as a blast to school system stakeholders and the media.”

One Parent’s Budget Priorities: Happy Teachers and Engaged Students

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A poster that the author created for Teacher Appreciation Week.

The views expressed are the author’s own and do not represent the views of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.

by Lori Morrow

I originally planned to speak during the public comment portion of the Prince George’s County board of education meeting on June 22. However, I was informed on June 20 that the BOE had reached its limit* of 15 speakers.

The text below is from an email I sent to the CEO and board of education members, with the subject line “PGCPS Budget Priorities: Happy Teachers and Engaged Students”:

I’ve been encouraging people to send inputs in advance of the Thursday meeting, so here is my short list…

Things I want:

1. Whatever the teachers want, including the freedom and resources to be innovative and keep students engaged with hands-on activities

2. Resources to meet the needs of students at all levels of the academic spectrum, including math & literacy support and TAG training for teachers

3. Language exposure at neighborhood elementary schools through programs like ICAL [International Culture and Language, used at Talented and Gifted centers] or sharing language teachers like we do for art and music

4. Maintenance funding to ensure safe, functional buildings for our students and staff

5. Focused interventions and support for students impacted by lack of core teachers due to administrative leave issues this year (Get creative…use executives & central office staff as tutors once a week if necessary. Perhaps more interaction with schools and students will help remind everyone that students should ALWAYS be our central focus.)

Things I do not consider priorities:

1. Things that do not touch classrooms or students

2. Programs that only benefit a few students through the lottery and increase transportation needs/cost

3. Test fees for all students (I believe students should need to demonstrate financial need and/or a minimum grade in their courses to justify reimbursement).

4. The start of new programs before we have met basic needs at neighborhood schools.

I support PGCPS teachers’ priorities because happier teachers will be more effective. Our teachers should have the freedom to teach in creative and innovative ways without being mired in paperwork and restrictions. They should also have the resources to make learning fun and engaging for our children. Additionally, our county’s students should have opportunities for language exposure and gifted programs in every neighborhood. They should not have to literally “win a lottery” to access programs that challenge them academically.

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