Three Upcoming Opportunities to Advocate for School Funding

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by Llew Brown

In our personal life, we have lots of wants, but limited resources require us to make tough choices. In the end, the way we spend our time and money reveals our priorities.  If you want to shape the school system’s priorities for next year and beyond, follow these three tips and let your voice be heard:

#1: Testify at a School Board Hearing

The last of three Budget Public Hearings to be held by the school board this year is on Tuesday, February 6, 2018, 7:00 PM at Oxon Hill High School. If you register in advance to speak, you have three minutes to voice your concerns directly to the school board and CEO Kevin Maxwell. Find the proposed budget and timeline here:

http://www.pgcps.org/budget/index.aspx?id=200115

#2: Speak at one of County Executive Baker’s Budget Listening Sessions

The next opportunity is  February 8, 2017, at Prince George’s Community College. To view dates for additional sessions, and to register to speak for three minutes, go here:

https://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/2404/Budget-Listening-Sessions?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

The County Council is hosting a Budget Town Hall meeting on Tuesday, February 20th

https://pgccouncil.us/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=423

#3: Contact your State Legislator 

Several Maryland legislators are proposing changes intended to channel more casino revenues towards  public schools.  Here’s one article discussing the issue:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-mcintosh-amendment-20171222-story.html

Learn what legislative district you belong to here, then follow the link below to contact your legislator and share your opinion on this issue.

http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/07leg/html/gacopg.html

Don’t delay: the budget bill for the current legislative session is due to be decided by April, 2018.

Prince George’s Schools Leaders Must Be Accountable to Voters, Not Politicians

Image 2-20-16 at 4.28 PMThe following is written testimony presented to the Prince George’s County Delegation of the Maryland General ASsembly. Lori Morrow is a current member of the PGCPS Board of Education Parent and Community Advisory Council mentioned on Page 17 of the House Bill 1107 (HB 1107) Final Report. All opinions expressed in this testimony are the author’s own.

by Lori Morrow

I submit this testimony in support of bill PG 509-18, to restore the Board of Education’s authority to select its own chair and vice chair and appoint the CEO. In addition, I support the repeal of HB1107 and the return to an elected school board in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) via bill PG 511-18.

I have reviewed the House Bill 1107 Final Report, and do not discount the many programs and initiatives that have been implemented in PGCPS these past few years. Unfortunately the positives have been significantly overshadowed by the challenges: the loss of the Head Start grant; the Judge Sylvania Woods incident; the subsequent administrative leave debacle; and the graduation rate audits. The report does not provide adequate support to show that the current governance structure has had a positive impact on PGCPS. Instead I have heard the exact opposite from many parents and community members. There is an overwhelming sense that the system is failing in terms of transparency and accountability because PGCPS leadership is responsible to county politicians instead of residents.

Regardless of original intention, the current structure and concentration of power in the office of the county executive serves as a political distraction that prevents our system from moving forward. Board members who were appointed or elected with the support of the county executive are viewed as beholden to the county government and not fully trusted. Board members elected without the support of the county executive are labeled as rebels or dissidents, and marginalized in the operations of the school board. In either case, the power of the individual county residents has been diluted.

The June 2017 resignation letter submitted by Dr. Beverly Anderson, an appointed member of the Board of Education, reflected many of my own observations: “We have a dysfunctional board possibly because too many of the members are compromised or have conflicts of interest; an angry student body because we have not figured out how to incorporate some of their good ideas into our practices; unhappy parents because we do not solve in an efficient manner classroom or administrative problems impacting their children; and an apathetic teaching force. This scenario must change!”

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Notes on the Jan. 23 Budget Hearing for FY 2019

by Laura Rammelsberg

The Prince George’s County Board of Education held its first public hearing on the fiscal year 2019 operating budget on January 23, at Laurel High School. A Board of Education budget work session (video here) immediately preceded the hearing.

Prince George’s County Public Schools Fiscal Year 2019 Operating Budget Public Hearing

Meeting called to order at 7:15 pm

Attendees:                                                                 

Segun C. Eubanks, Ed.D, Board Chair/Appointed Member

Carolyn Boston, BOE Vice Chair, District 6

David Murray, District 1

Lupi Quinteros-Grady, District 2
Dinora A. Hernandez, Esq. District 3 – not present
Patricia Eubanks, District 4
Raaheela Ahmed, District 5
K. Alexander Wallace, District 7  – not present

Sonya Williams, District 9

Edward Burroughs III, District 8

Mary Kingston Roche, Appointed Member  – not present

Dr. Donna Wiseman, Appointed Member – not present
Curtis Valentine, M.P.P., Appointed Member – not present
Amanya Paige, Student Member – not present

Chief Executive Officer Kevin M. Maxwell, Ph.D.

Review of Budget Process

At 1:22 in the video. Dr. Eubanks: Feb 22 Board Meeting is when they will adopt the budget. It will then be sent to County Executive Baker and presented to the county council in March of 2018. The county council must adopt budget and it will be sent to the state legislature in April 2018. The board of education will then reconcile with the county’s approved budget, and it will be accepted at a board meeting in June of 2018.

Powerpoint from Budget Work Session is in Boarddocs will be posted in a few days.

***Fewer than 25 people in attendance***

***Only ONE (1) PGCPS Parent made a public comment***

Public Comments: Three Registered Speakers

  • At 4:27. Teresa Dudley, President Prince Georges County Educator’s Association (PGCEA) – Here to address four issues:
  1. Peer Assistance and Review Program (helps new teachers in the first three years of their teaching career). This year, there has been very high turnover rate for new teachers – 15%.  30% of these are conditional teachers. Peer Assistant and Review Coaches are needed to teach basic pedagogy and bring them to speed of review process in county. The conditional teachers don’t have that training and need classes in the school system, so that they stay in the system.
  2. Community Schools & Restorative Practices.
  3. ESSA Re-Authorization. A Policy is coming before the Board that needs to be instituted for pilot program.  And need to make sure they are ready from upcoming ESSA specifics coming back from state and the federal government and money set aside for Committees to deal with that.
  4. Compensation and Working Conditions. Negotiated Agreement – Step increase and retirement incentives. They want to make sure that stays in the budget as well.
  • At 8:22. Representative of Saturday School Program, that works with 150+ PGCPS students at High Point High School since 2015. Modeled after program started in Montgomery County. Community Work Advance partnered with the school system in this effort. 30% improvement in ath proficiency. They request funding to renew program at High Point High School for 2 years and open a second site at Crossland High School. Each feeder system or host school requires an annual budget of $175,000.
  • At 11:25. Parent of Saturday School student testified to the benefits of the program for her daughter. Daughter was motivated and looks forward to every Saturday. Now an honors math student. Parents are proud of her, but give credit to Saturday School for her success. She encourages BOE to support the continuation of this program. The parents are engaged and kept well-informed by the Saturday School team.

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Notes on the December 19 Special Board of Education Meeting

by Nichelle Mandjilla 

Nichelle Mandjilla is a member of the Dora Kennedy French Immersion School Legislative Committee

To view the agenda for this meeting, go here.

1. Public Session

Attendees:                                                                                                                                             

Segun C. Eubanks, Ed.D, Board Chair/Appointed Member
Edward Burroughs III, District 8 Member
David Murray, District 1 Member
Lupi Quinteros-Grady, District 2 Member
Mary Kingston Roche, Appointed Member
K. Alexander Wallace, District 7 Member
Sonya Williams, District 9 Member
Dinora A. Hernandez, District 3 Member
Amanya Paige, Student Member
Chief Executive Officer Kevin M. Maxwell, Ph.D.

*Board Members Carolyn M. Boston, Vice Chair/District 6 Member, Curtis Valentine, M.P.P., Appointed Member, and  Donna Wiseman, Ph.D., Appointed Member arrived at a later time after meeting had been called to order.

*Board member Raaheela Ahmed, District 5 Member was away on business travel.

*Board member Patricia Eubanks, District 4 Member was “under the weather” and would not be in attendance at meeting.

  • Adoption of the Agenda: December 19, 2017 Board Meeting at 2:25 in the video.

Board Member Burroughs interjects with concern regarding the cancellation of executive session. Board Member Burroughs put forth a motion to add executive session at the conclusion of meeting to discuss legal and personnel matters. Board Member Burroughs brought it to the board’s attention that he received documentation on the subject of the graduation rate audit. According to this documentation, it appears that top level administration were aware of students graduating who did not meet basic graduation requirements a year prior to the independent audit. Appears no action was taken at that time to address these findings. Mr. Burroughs is aware his concerns cannot be fully expressed during public session, as it involves personnel. Board Chair Eubanks solicited any further discussion; there was none. Eubanks then proceeded to request a roll call of vote:

  • 8 Ayes – Burroughs, Hernandez, Murray, Paige, Wallace, Williams, Wiseman, Eubanks
  • 2 Nays – Quinteros-Grady & Roche

Executive session scheduled to convene following public session.

After this vote, motion carried unanimously to adopt amended agenda.

2. Public Comment on Agenda & Non-Agenda Items

2.01 Public Comment on Agenda & Non-Agenda Items

15 registered public comment speakers.

  • 4 speakers registered for item 3.01.
  • 4 speakers registered for item 4.01.
  • 7 speakers registered for non-agenda items.

Registered speakers for item 3.01 PGCPS Response to MSDE Graduation Rate Audit Report

http://marylandpublicschools.org/stateboard/Documents/PGCPSGraduationRateReview10312017.pdf

  • Prince George’s County Resident & Parent at 8:20.

Systematic grade change epidemic has become a culture in the county. Frustrated with corruption surrounding county, and including PGCPS administration. Standing in representation of parents, community leaders and groups of Prince George’s county in calling for the resignation of PGCPS CEO, Deputy Superintendent, area Instructional Directors, and County Executive. Requesting transition to a PGCPS Board of Education elected by Prince George’s County Residents. Spoke of PGCPS administration’s involvement in grade change scandal due to prior knowledge of unauthorized grade changing or failure to bring attention to matter prior to audit. Spoke of no improvement of PGCPS since the arrival of current CEO, Dr. Maxwell. Spoke of unfavorable reputation of Deputy Superintendent, appointed by Dr. Maxwell.

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Largo Parent Asks Board to Approve Online Credit Recovery Program

Candace Leach, president of the Largo High School PTSA, made the following statement during the public comments portion of the December 19 Prince George’s County Board of Education meeting. She has given us permission to print it here. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.

Good evening Board.

My name is Candace Leach, and I am the Largo High School PTSA President. I have had two children to graduate from Largo, in 2016 and 2017. I currently have one scholar attending Largo, slated to graduate in 2020. I want to take a moment to re-introduce Largo High School to you. Where we are a school that strives for academic and athletic excellence, the atmosphere throughout our building can simply be described as “Family,” and with every family, the support system for our scholars continues to amaze me day by day, week by week, and month by month.

I stand before you today, to urge you to approve the online credit recovery program. As you ponder your decision, consider what happens to our Prince George’s County Public School scholars that can’t afford the $480.00 for evening high school. Consider how having an after school online credit recovery program can aid in keeping the dropout rates down, while encouraging our scholars to “catch up” and graduate on time. With no safety net for our scholars, how do you explain in good conscience that you voted with the best interest of these scholars in mind?

When we look across the state, other jurisdictions have some type of credit recovery program. Also keep in mind, failure is also a part of the learning process. It’s not about getting it right the first time, but about having the will to keep trying until you succeed. With an affordable option, such as the current $150.00 for the credit recovery program, it gives each and every scholar an option to work on learning the content or standards of the course, so that they can continue to fulfill the requirements of the Maryland State diploma.

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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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