Q & A with Alexis Branch, District 7 Board of Education Candidate

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2020 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Alexis Branch is a candidate from District 7 (see district map here) running in the June 2 primary election. Ms. Branch 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?

First and foremost, I am a woman of God. I am also a 2019 graduate from Bennett College, the first HBCU for women. While there I served as the Student Government Association President, NAACP Vice President, Fresh-woman Class President, and a member of The Board of Trustees where I was an instrumental part of the #StandWithBennett campaign. During this campaign, I assisted my institution in raising 8.5 million dollars in 50 days when we were at the risk of losing our accreditation due to a lack of finances. I also have worked for various non-profits around the world in places like Israel and China where I advocated for clean energy and against discrimination in grade school textbooks. I am a former Kindergarten teacher in the county, and I am currently employed for the federal government at the Department of Transportation. I am a product of the Prince Georges County Public School System, graduating from Gwynn Park High School in 2015.

I would like to be on the Board of Education because I am a true advocate for the people I represent and in this case, it would be the children, teacher, and staff of Prince Georges County. I truly care about their well-being and concerned about the life-long foundation we are in installing in them.  I am the only candidate that has been a teacher in the county and has experience in the classroom serving as a kindergarten teacher and a before and aftercare teacher since high school. I believe that it is hard to advocate for change if you have not experienced it yourself and had those heart to heart moments with the children in this County. I am a true believer that a lot of what these will retain will not be the curriculum being taught in our classrooms, it will be the life lessons that they learn along the way that will truly impact, and shape their lives.

I want to change the way the world sees Prince George’s County. By providing more opportunities for our children like study abroad programs, free scholarship grants, and mentorship. I want the citizens of our community to be proud to say their child goes to a Prince Georges County Public School. I also do not agree with the Lottery program, I think every child in our County should have the same opportunity at a successful future. That is taken away with the lottery program. I am an advocate for bilingual education in every elementary school classroom.  I also would like to advocate for the reopening of Skyland Elementary, a school created for students with disabilities. Also, I would like to see an increase in funding per pupil. Especially when it comes to resources in the classroom such as textbooks, and information technology. In conclusion, I believe the only way we will be able to see the change in our school system that our community needs and our future relies on. Would be to have more community involvement. I plan to work with my fellow board members if elected to fix this gap between our school system and our community to help mold and shape the young minds of our kids.

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Q & A with Kenneth Harris, District 7 Board of Education Candidate

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2020 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Kenneth Harris II is a candidate from District 7 (see district map here) running in the June 2 primary election. Mr. Harris 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 am a graduate of Eleanor Roosevelt High School! I then went on to receive my Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and finally my Masters degree from Johns Hopkins University. I have been working at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center since I was 16 years old, and for the past 12 years I have been assisting in the development, fabrication, budgeting, and launch of 6 missions. My passion outside of the Science field is inspiring the education of students through mentorship. I have had the opportunity to travel locally and internationally to speak with teachers and students about the importance of mentorship and early education. I hope to bring my experience with managing large budgets and passion for education to the Prince Georges County School Board. One of my main goals is to develop a classroom to internship pipeline for our students. As well as implement strong mentorship programs to encourage early exposure to amazing careers. My early exposure to the sciences helped me to establish a phenomenal career and I vividly recall visits from professionals to our schools, helping to motivate me to continue my studies. I want to be on the school board to rebuild the confidence of our residents in sending their children through the Prince Georges County School System.

What do you believe are the most important characteristics of an effective school board?

I think one of the most important characteristics of an effective school board is a shared vision for the County. Too often are representatives on different accords when it comes to plans for our schools and how to resolve situations. As a community we need to come together and create a clear and feasible path forward with achievable milestones to track our progress toward a better educational system.

What would be your top three priorities while serving on the board, if elected?

A. Develop a classroom to internship pipeline for our students to set them up for long and impact careers in whichever field(s) they come to love.

B. Targeting the need for universal pre-k and advocating concerning the importance of early education

C. Focusing on the retention of our Administrative Staff and Teachers within the county by providing fair salaries and educational/certification assistance where needed.

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Q & A with K. Alexander Wallace, District 7 Board of Education Candidate

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This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2020 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. K. Alexander Wallace is a candidate from District 7 (see district map here) running in the June 2 primary election. Mr. Wallace 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?

Prior to my appointment in 2015 and election in 2016 to serve on the Board of Education, I spent nearly a decade advocating for the issues facing students and the youth of Maryland through my work serving on the Maryland Youth Advisory Council, the Maryland Higher Education Commission, and the University System of Maryland. For four years prior to my serve on the Board of Education, I also served in the Office of (late) State Senator Ulysses Currie (District 250 as his Legislative and Constituent Aide. It was through this position where I had, both, the pleasure and responsibility of briefing the senator on key educational issues facing the county and state, as well as advocate for students, families, and communities for educational equity, funding, and constituent services.

My academic background is rooted in Urban Public Policy and Administration with a study focus in Education, Housing, and Economic Policies. Through my academic career at Towson University (Undergraduate) and the University of Baltimore (Masters), I have been able to hone my intellectual understanding of educational policies and how they should be implemented.

Combining my experiences in advocacy, governmental affairs, and educational policy field of academic study, I have been able to be a meaningful voice to many of the impactful changes for our school system – from helping to develop our county’s Community Schools initiative and authoring the new Educational Equity policy to representing our county of the Board of Directors for the Maryland Association for Boards of Education and the Washington Areas Boards of Education, what I want to continue to bring to the Board of Education is a pillar of consistency in proper governing, an unapologetic nature towards educational equity, and a broad understanding of educational policy and law.

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Prince George’s County Parent Appointed to State Board of Education

86426424_190174975421114_5863933452117606400_nCongratulations to PGCPS Parent and PGCABS Committee Member Lori Morrow on her selection as the parent member for the Maryland State Board of Education! Lori’s name was included in the list of  “Green Bag” appointments submitted to the State Senate by Governor Hogan on Friday, February 14th for Senate confirmation.

Last year, the Maryland General Assembly passed SB529/HB0087, State Board of Education — Membership — Teacher and Parent Members. This legislation added two members to the Maryland State Board of Education, a teacher member and a parent member. The teacher member, Rachel McCusker of Carroll County, was elected in November 2019 through a process outlined by the Maryland State Educators Association. As the parent member, Lori was chosen by the Governor from a list of three names the Maryland Parent Teacher Association submitted in December 2019. 

Both the parent and teacher members will serve abbreviated terms for their first term. The parent Member will serve until June 2023 and the teacher member will serve until June 2022. Subsequent appointments for the positions will be 4-year terms, as is standard for the regular Board of Education Members appointed by the Governor.

As the parent of two children in Prince George’s County public schools, Lori has served in many volunteer roles including PTA President at Tulip Grove Elementary School and PTSO President at Benjamin Tasker Middle School. She has also served on the PGCPS Board of Education’s Parent and Community Advisory Council. Lori is a frequent contributor to our PGCABS blog (www.pgcabs.org) and one of the managers of our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pgcabschools). You can also follow her on Twitter (@geauxdores). 

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Board of Education Meeting Highlights from Nov. 7

by Khadija Bowen

Chair Dr. Thornton showed video from robot visit to Flowers High school. The event was organized by an alum of the school who now works for the robotics company that created the technology. The robot, very lifelike, was a hit with the students. The purpose of the event was to promote digital literacy and careers in STEM.

Upcoming Hearings/Meetings:

  • Nov. 11 Policy and Governance
  • Nov. 12 Public Boundary Hearing
  • Nov. 14 Academic Achievement Committee
  • Nov. 21 Financial Affairs meeting

All  meetings/ hearings are open to the public and anyone can sign up to speak by phone or by email.

Dr. Goldson report and highlights:

The last of her community listening sessions wrapped up. School bus transportation challenges remain at the top of the list of issues. A task force will be formed to analyze arrival times, hubs, routes and departure times. Task force will consist of parents, school board members, PGCPS staff, and union reps. An interim report is due to the CEO in January and will address break fix resolutions that can be implemented immediately.

Note: Bus driver job fairs are held every other week.

Listening session for employees wrapped up. Key takeaways were compensation, support staff, professional development, and compensation for substitute teachers.

Dr. Goldson thanked the board for passing the public-private partnership to build 18 schools in 7 years. With the private funding obtained, schools will be built in record time. Normal time to build one school is 7 years.

Administration is still pushing to promote and implement the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission as well as the building fund. The two are not separate and will both be implemented.

Deadline for specialty school lottery is Nov. 15. IB and Performing arts lottery has been extended to Dec 1. Charter school lottery open and will close January 31st.

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Five Board of Ed Seats on the 2020 Ballot: Will You Run?


by T. Carter Ross

PGCABS does not endorse candidates but aims to provide information to the Prince George’s County community about those who are running and the candidacy process. We will publish candidate profiles and Q&As in early spring. Although the April Democratic and Republican primaries are closed primaries, registered independent voters can vote on Board of Education races.

While the Democratic contest for the 2020 presidential may be the biggest political contest of the moment, decisions about down-ticket races here in Prince George’s County are being made over the coming weeks. Five of the nine elected seats on the Board of Education — Districts 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8 — are on the ballot in the April primary election with the top-two vote-getters in each race advancing to the November general election.

The seats are currently held by David Murray (District 1), Raaheela Ahmed (District 5), K. Alexander Wallace (District 7), and Edward Burroughs III (District 8). The District 4 seat is currently vacant, pending an appointment by County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. Any or all of the sitting board members may decide to seek re-election; however, anyone who files as a candidate may also run. The main requirement for a Board of Education seat is that the candidate must live in the district they are seeking to represent.

Board of Education races are non-partisan; however, to appear on the April 28, 2020, primary ballots, candidates must file in person with the Prince George’s County Board of Elections a certificate of candidacy before 9 p.m. on January 24, 2020.

As part of the filing process, candidates must fill out several forms outlining who they are, where they live, and the race they are entering. There is also a filing fee of $25. Candidates must also file a financial disclosure as part of the state of Maryland’s ethics rules. Additional forms and affidavits may be required, depending upon circumstances. The State Board of Elections candidacy information page outlines the full requirements and includes links to the required forms. (While the Board of Education races are non-partisan, the information under Democrat and/or Republican is the process used.)

Finally, candidates must also establish a Candidate Campaign Committee, which can be done electronically via the Maryland Campaign Reporting Information (MCRIS) website. As part of this a dedicated campaign bank account must be established. Before any money is spent or raised for a campaign, this committee must be organized and approved by the State Board of Elections. The MCRIS system is used throughout the election cycle to report contributions and expenditures as part of required filings. The public can use the same system to view current and past campaign finance reports, as well as information about any actions taken by the state regarding problems with campaign finance reporting.

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Notes from the March 7 Board of Education Work Session

by Lori Morrow

Newsbreak about the PGCPS Youth Apprenticeship Program: https://youtu.be/GV5fIXhvo0o?t=197

Public Comment: https://youtu.be/GV5fIXhvo0o?t=469

Two staff members spoke about compensation and work conditions. There were also multiple members of LiUNA Local 11 speaking in support of Community Workforce Agreements.

Legislative Update: https://youtu.be/GV5fIXhvo0o?t=1573

The local bill related to the Financial Literacy requirement for PGCPS high schools has moved forward favorably through the PGC Delegation and the House Ways & Means committee, with amendments to start a pilot program in at least one high school by 2021.

It was mentioned that PGCPS staff received amendments earlier in the afternoon related to local bill PG 508-19 / HB 194, which would have established the Office of Accountability and Compliance.  Ms. Tobias described the bill as “substantially changed” and said that it is “being used as vehicle to change the CEO appointment process” and role of the state and County Executive. Additional updates will be provided at the next meeting on March 21. https://youtu.be/GV5fIXhvo0o?t=1719

Board of Education members approved motions to support PG 307-19, Juvenile Law – Diversion Program (https://www.princegeorgeshousedelegation.com/legislation/bill-history?local=PG%20307-19) and HB1412/SB1030, The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (Kirwan Commission Funding, http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?pid=billpage&tab=subject3&id=hb1413&stab=01&ys=2019RS ).

Board Committee Structure and Ad Hoc Focus Groups: https://youtu.be/GV5fIXhvo0o?t=3079

After discussion, the vote on the updated Board Policy 8100 related to the structure of Board Committees and Focus Groups was tabled until the March 21 Board of Education Meeting. Board Committees have not been operating since prior to the November 2018 election.

2019-2020 School Calendar: https://youtu.be/GV5fIXhvo0o?t=4571

The Draft 2019-2020 School Calendar (https://www.boarddocs.com/mabe/pgcps/Board.nsf/files/BA29UJ707829/$file/DRAFT%202019-2020%20School%20Calendar%203-7-19.pdf)

was approved by the Board.  Inputs from the community and staff surveys are available on Boarddocs (https://www.boarddocs.com/mabe/pgcps/Board.nsf/Public)

The next PGCPS Board of Education is scheduled for Thursday, March 21 at 7 PM.  Anyone interested in registering to speak can do so using the online form or by phone starting four business days prior to the meeting. Information about agendas, live streaming links, and public comment registration is available at www.pgcps.org/board.