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

2020-Elections

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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Elections 2018: Thomas, Boozer-Strother, Queen, Williams Win Board Seats

Four seats on the Prince George’s County Board of Education were up for grabs in today’s general election. Challengers Joshua Thomas (Dist. 2) and Belinda Queen (Dist. 6) defeated incumbents, while Sonya Williams (Dist. 9) successfully defended her seat on the board. Newcomer Pamela Boozer-Strother won the District 3 seat left open after Dinora Hernandez declined to run for reelection.

Here are the Maryland State Board of Elections unofficial results for the four school board races in Prince George’s County:

DISTRICT 2:

Joshua Thomas, 57.1%

Lupi Grady, 42.6 %

DISTRICT 3:

Pamela Boozer-Strother, 56.0%

Juwan Blocker, 43.6%

DISTRICT 6:

Belinda Queen, 53.5%

Carolyn Boston, 46.0%

DISTRICT 9:

Sonya Williams, 65.5%

Arun Puracken, 33.7%

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Question 1: Four Facts About the Casino Lock-Box Initiative

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by Llew Brown and David Duba

The 2018 mid-term elections will be held Tuesday, November 6th, 2018. In this election cycle, voters will make a number of choices that will impact public education in Maryland for years to come. Perhaps it’s poetic justice that the first amendment listed on the ballot is related to education funding, a key issue across the country in 2018. This past spring, teachers participated in large scale protests and went on strike in six separate states. These protests were inspired by wages being below the cost of living for school personnel and inadequate budgets for classroom supplies. They coincided with an incident here in Prince George’s County involving the inflation of pay for central office employees, and the early closure of schools throughout the county during the first week of classes due to an inability to adequately cool aging facilities. Given the array of issues facing public education, it’s reasonable to ask, “Where will money to fix public school issues come from, and how can we ensure adequate and equitable funding?” Read further to review a bit of history related to the use of casino funds, and the potential impact of question 1 on the future of public education funding in Maryland.

What is Question 1?

Question 1 on the ballot proposes a constitutional amendment that requires the governor to use casino revenue to supplement funding for prekindergarten through grade 12 in public schools, beyond the minimum levels prescribed by current funding formulas. Sometimes referred to as the “casino lockbox” amendment, passage of this ballot initiative could steer millions of dollars from casino revenues to fund public education.

Didn’t the law already require casino money to support education?

In 2008, voters decided to legalize gambling in the state of Maryland. Revenue from taxes on gambling was since added to the state budget each year. However, according to Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, general tax revenue that was used to fund education prior to 2009 has been regularly diverted from education funding as casino tax revenue has increased. Money that used to be spent on education from the general tax revenue is being diverted to other projects like road construction and employee salaries. Put another way, gambling revenue has replaced education funding, not increased it. By voting yes on Question 1, money from casino revenue will be used to supplement funding for education, per an amendment to the Maryland constitution.

How much money is at stake? How can the money be used?

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Q & A with Sonya Williams, District 9 Board of Education Candidate

Sonya Williams (1)This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2018 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Sonya Williams is the incumbent from District 9 (see district map here) running in the general election. Ms. Williams answered questions generated by members of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools. An earlier version of this post was published in May.

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?

BACKGROUND: Born in DC, raised in Prince George’s County since the age of 5, and educated through Prince George’s County Public Schools, I graduated from Crossland High School at the age of 16. I began my college career at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore studying Engineering. I received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering specializing in Project Management from the University of Maryland College Park. I also have a Masters Degree in International Organizational Leadership from Georgetown University.

As a Civil Engineer, I’ve worked on many projects throughout the county, state and nation. Most notable projects include working as an intern on the construction of the WSSC Headquarters building in Laurel, I was a part of the project management team on the construction of the first expansion of Pier C at BWI Airport, the construction of the International Terminal at BWI Airport, the development of Tanger Outlets and the Clipper Way road construction.

Through my career, I have managed organizations, teams and offices that have built structures, procured services and developed infrastructure. I have work with people of many and varied education levels, backgrounds, cultures and experiences. As a member of the board, it is important to have different perspectives, because as a leader of an organization as large as PGCPS with the diversity in students being serviced, parents, partners, employees and stakeholders, the ability to provide perspective and context.

FUTURE PLANS FORWARD: Since I became a board member, my primary focus has been infrastructure and structural change. The infrastructure of PGCPS is varied and fluctuates, from the types and age of our buildings, to the procedures use to perform the work. Our infrastructure and structures in place that impacts the operation and outcomes show the scars of too many stops and starts as leadership has changed through out the years. My goal is to focus on stabilizing the foundations in our systems so that real decisions can be made with clear information and integrity. What that means is that how information is shared is standardized, what type of information is shared is standardized, the frequency in which the information is shared is standardized, and how we report on the work (data and outcomes) is standardize. Once the standards are clear and concise, we can begin to show and move towards the goal of success.

My accomplishments thus far in this direction since I became a board member has been spearheading changes to how and when the Board budget priorities are incorporated in the budget development process, changes to staff reports to the board, changes to agenda item details, attachments and other information to make us more effective decision makers and inquire with more pinpoint detail. I plan to continue that process to make structural changes so that the work of the Board is more informed, efficient and effective.

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Q & A with Arun Puracken, District 9 Board of Education Candidate

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This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2018 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Arun Puracken is a candidate from District 9 (see district map here) running in the general election. Mr. Puracken answered questions generated by members of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools. An earlier version of this post was published in May.

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 7th/8th Grade Social Studies Teacher at Accokeek Academy. I graduated from Largo High School and UMBC. After college, I taught in Baltimore City for a year with Americorps, and then came back home to teach in Prince George’s County. Teaching has been my entire professional career.

I currently serve as the Social Studies Department Chair as well as the Advisor for the Student Government Association/ Debate Team, Teacher Representative for the PTSA, and Teacher’s Union representative at his school.

I am focused on more accessible and strengthened speciality academic/vocational programs, equitable technology access, raising educator compensation, creating community schools, fully staffing schools, prioritizing facility maintenance/renovation, and ensuring appropriate boundaries to reduce classroom size.

I want to be on the Board of Education because not one elected member of the Board has taught in a public school in this county. That is a very valuable perspective that is missing. Secondly, my experiences at Accokeek Academy has shown me the great inequity in the system. I teach in a $30 million building with a Chromebook for every child in my classroom. So many families, students, and my colleagues at other schools do not have the same access to this quality of educational experience. My goal with this campaign is to bring this equity and ethics back to PGCPS.

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

  • Strengthening and making more accessible high quality speciality academic/vocational programs
  • Raising educator compensation
  • Fully staffing/repairing schools

What qualities do you believe are most important in a Chief Executive Officer?

First, I believe that a Chief Executive Officer should be referred to as a Superintendent or another school-centered term/methodology instead of CEO, which to me, instills a singular business mindset. It is important that we do not turn schools completely into a business model as it can place economic incentives as leverage for decision making starting from the top tier leadership.

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