In mid-June, the PGCPS Board of Education voted to postpone action on School Resource Officers (SROs) in schools. Those discussions will resume this week in the Operations, Budget & Fiscal Affairs (OBFA) Committee on Monday, September 14 at 6 PM and the full Board Meeting on Thursday, September 17 at 7 PM.
We encourage everyone to contact your Board of Education members to share your thoughts. Board member contact information, as well as links to meeting documents and live meeting webinars, are available at https://www.pgcps.org/board/.
The PGCABS Board has not endorsed a position on this matter, but provides these notes and links for clarification:
Under Maryland law, a school resource officer is defined as “a law enforcement officer who has been assigned to a school in accordance with a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the chief of a law enforcement agency and the local school system.”
Maryland’s Safe to Learn Act from 2018 required that “all public high schools have either an SRO assigned to them or adequate law enforcement coverage by the 2018-19 school year.” As of the bill’s passage, PGCPS had thirty SROs. Additional details are available in the bill’s Fiscal Policy Note.
The Maryland Center for School Safety operates a 5-day training program for SROs that includes topics of “De-escalation, Disability Awareness, Maintaining a Positive School Climate, Constructive Interactions with Students, Implicit Bias, and Disability and Diversity Awareness with specific attention to Racial and Ethnic Disparities.”
PGCPS currently has Memorandums of Agreement* with the Prince George’s County Police Department and police departments in the cities of Bowie, Greenbelt, and Hyattsville. SROs are paid by the county through the law enforcement agencies.
The opinions expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.
I recently learned that the Maryland State Board of Education is meeting on Tuesday September 1st, 2020 to consider mandating the number of hours that children must spend actively engaged in learning. The graphic is a slide from the presentation that presents the proposal the board is to consider.
All schools must provide 6 hours of instruction per day. And, by implication, all children must engage in 6 hours of instruction per day.
This is not reasonable.
It is not reasonable to mandate that all children must engage in 6 hours per day of electronically-delivered instruction. There are many reasons. Some of the most compelling include:
Developmentally appropriate expectations regarding daily engagement and focus with academic content. Parents who homeschool their children regularly find that their children can accomplish their learning goals with 2-3 hours per day of focused learning. Importantly, “time doing academic study was determined by the pace at which we got through the material, rather than how many hours we did.” (quote from the linked article).
It is not reasonable to expect parents to help their children engage in 6 hours per day of remotely-delivered instruction. Parents cannot both earn a living and monitor their children’s engagement with education. Parents were busy (and often overwhelmed) before the pandemic hit. Asking them to take on even more responsibility now is just not possible for many families.
Hello, My name is Janna Parker, board member of PGCABS. We are a nonpartisan grassroots community organization that focuses on supporting our community to ensure that all students and residents of Prince George’s county receive a quality education from our school system. We are currently looking for additional board members to continue the vision of our organization for the betterment of the schools within our county.
During the past year, PGCABS signed on with MAREE, Maryland Alliance for Racial Equity in Education — a Maryland Coalition of several different organizations that focuses on advocating for equity in education for Black and Brown students and residents within the state of Maryland through local and state policies and guidelines. The board members of PGCABS felt as though it was important to be partners within this coalition because many of our students, families, and residents are People of Color and we support any and all legislation and/or policies, (whether partisan or non partisan), that positively impacts the education of our students.
Recently, MAREE released a reopening guide with recommendations for schools in Maryland on reopening in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic this fall that focuses on ensuring equity in education for Black and Brown students. We encourage you to read through this guide and provide feedback directly to PGCPS on any recommendations you agree with that may be missing from the PGCPS fall reopening guidelines.
To contact members of the PGCABS Executive Board, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Lori Morrow is a board member of the Prince George’s Advocates for Better Schools and was appointed as the Parent Member of the Maryland State Board of Education in March 2020. The opinions expressed here are her own.
Two months ago, I was sworn in as a member of the Maryland State Board of Education under the most unusual circumstances: 6 feet apart from the county clerk, barely inside the front doors, with no family or friends as witnesses. In February, I expected much of my 3.5-year term to focus on the Kirwan Commission recommendations. Instead the Blueprint bill was recently vetoed by Governor Larry Hogan and the upcoming years will most likely be focused on Covid-19, school closures, the trauma in our communities, and how we move forward.
Distance learning has been a monumental feat across the state. I commend the teachers, school staff, parents, and students who shifted rapidly in mid-March to make this happen, while also jumping into action to address issues of food insecurity, child care, and massive unemployment. Our public schools do so much more than teach curriculum, and this crisis has highlighted the important role they serve.
There are only a few weeks left of the 2019-20 school year, and the biggest question is, “What comes next?” There is no single answer, as each of the 24 school districts develops a plan for their county. However, I am fairly confident in saying that school will not look “normal” when it starts back up in the fall. We are facing a school year where parents and volunteers may not be able to host events or assist inside the buildings in the way we have before. While public health will dictate many circumstances, we must take the time to look at how we can be involved. This is a time to remember advocacy is a core mission of National PTA and many PTOs. We must work together with school leaders to ensure all of Maryland’s children get the education they deserve.
Avoid rumors. The Maryland Recovery Plan does not outline specific dates or timelines. Check the Maryland rumors page or be sure to share information directly from school district or state websites.
Start planning locally. It is okay to grieve for the events and activities we missed out on this school year, and those we may have to skip next year too. In-person meetings, back-to-school nights, and family events may not be possible. This is a time to get creative to find things we CAN do, and don’t forget to involve students in the brainstorming and planning too!
Participate in feedback opportunities at all levels: school, district and state. Take advantage of any survey opportunities; share ideas with school and PTA leaders; and send constructive comments to district and state leaders. Solutions usually go farther than complaints.
Stay active in PTA/PTO for next school year and continue to advocate as situations evolve. We may not have the same events or fundraisers, but parent voice will be even more important when we can’t meet in person.
The Prince George’s County school system has been in a state of educational change and growth over the past few months with the new interim CEO. Now, with the addition of new incoming school board members, there is a renewed sense of hope for a change within our school system that will continue to push our system towards new educational heights. However there is still much work to be done, with many concerns surrounding the policies and procedures of disciplinary practices within the county.
In the 2016- 2017 school year, a quarter of all elementary school children suspended in Maryland were from Prince George’s County despite current state legislation prohibiting suspension for grades 2 and under. In the 2017-2018 school year, 48 percent of out-of-school suspensions in Prince George’s county were for disruption and disrespect and 1 in 4 children with out-of-school suspensions in Prince George’s county were students with disabilities.
On November 14, 2018, Delegate Erek L. Barron and former School Board Vice Chair Carolyn Boston, hosted a workshop at G. James Gholson Middle School in Landover, Maryland. The presentation by the Maryland Suspension Representation Project (MSRP) focused on informing the public on their rights during the disciplinary process within Maryland, specifically Prince George’s county. The MSRP is a partnership between Disability Rights Maryland, Maryland Office of the Public Defender, the Public Justice Center, and the Youth, Education and Justice Clinic at the Maryland School of Law. They are “committed to protecting the due process rights of Maryland students who face school push out.”
There were several key points and takeaways from the workshop, the first being that you and your child should be fully aware of various circumstances where your child has been suspended. If your child was physically removed for breaking school rules, kicked out of a regular classroom, told to go to the front office or the in-school-suspension (ISS) room for the rest of the day, told to go home for the day, or told you cannot enter the building, chances are they have been suspended or possibly expelled.
Parents must be notified in writing of all suspensions prior to the suspension start date. If you receive a call from the school or administration asking you to, “Just come pick your child up,” immediately clarify with the school whether or not your child is being suspended. If they are not, there is no requirement for you to pick your child up at that time and they should be allowed to finish the school day. If they are being suspended, then the administrator must provide you with documentation stating as such at or before you pick up your child that day.
Lori Morrow presented this testimony during the public comment portion of the July 12 Prince George’s County Board of Education work meeting.
Good evening Dr. Eubanks, Board Members, Dr. Maxwell, staff and community members,
My name is Lori Morrow. I have been a PGCPS parent for 10 years and am active with the Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools. I chose to speak about recess tonight because it is a concern I continue to hear from parents, and it is also something principals have the ability to change for the upcoming school year if they wish.
Last summer, PGCPS updated its Health and Wellness Procedure 0116, and one of the changes was a recommendation to provide 30 minutes for elementary recess, with the minimum required time increasing from 15 to 20 minutes. This spring I submitted a Public Information Act request to find out how many schools actually met that 30-minute recommendation. The answer I received, and I quote: “Upon review, there are no records available to show school responses for compliance with the updated AP 0116 for this request.” I take that to mean the administration does not actually know.
Included in my reply was the spreadsheet of recess times by school prior to the update. It was enlightening to learn that before 2017, approximately HALF of PGCPS elementary schools had 15-minute recess. At the same time, a quarter of schools managed to provide 30 minutes. With studies that show increased recess can improve student focus and academics, why were so many principals content to do the minimum, and are they still just meeting the minimum?
We appreciate that the wellness policy was updated last year, but I would love to see the administration and the Board of Education do more to encourage all principals to provide 30-minute recess. For the parents and community members out there, don’t settle for the minimum. If you believe kids should have 30 minutes for recess, advocate for it at your school. The framework is there and the principal has the authority to make it happen. I also learned there are no MSDE or PGCPS policies prohibiting middle school principals from implementing a break or recess period. I would love to see some of them experiment with schedules that give middle school students a mental break from their hour-long classes.
Ultimately I’m disappointed because this reinforced complaints that even when the policies and procedures are in place, schools may not be following them. For example 0116 also states that “Withholding of recess as a punishment is prohibited,” but many people, including my rising 5th grader, have examples where it is used that way either for individual students or the entire class.
The author is an employee of Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) who wishes to remain anonymous. The opinions expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.
The past few years have certainly been traumatic for Prince George’s County Public Schools.. Educators, parents, and students in PGCPS have had to weather storm after storm after storm. For most of the issues that have come across the public’s attention, there are parallels with other school districts. Yet there is one issue that in its scope is truly unique to Prince George’s County Public Schools: the placement of hundreds of its staff on administrative leave, often for months at a time, during the 2016-2017 school year.
It is difficult to find another district that had an administrative leave crisis like this one. In 2014,the Baltimore Sun reported leave statistics for some other districts in the region, with Baltimore County taking the lead at 230 employees on leave in a year at a district similar in size to PGCPS. Most recently, Providence Public School District in Rhode Island had a spike in administrative leave cases this year involving new reporting requirements. However, the district revised its policy by the middle of December, as it was quick to recognize the inherent problem in having too many teachers on leave.
In the case of Prince George’s County, a whole school year went by and local news outlets had to run several stories before district leaders would even acknowledge that there was a problem. In fact, a June 1, 2017 release from PGCPS defended the district’s handling of the situation, saying “No price is too high for a child’s well-being.”
It’s an interesting statement, considering the thousands of students whose academic well-being were harmed by the sudden departure of their highly qualified teachers, often for weeks or months at a time. Not only did the leave situation cost the district almost $10 million, it also did serious damage to the academic progress of students in all grades. Substitute teachers work hard in challenging circumstances, but they are not paid to be the full-time professionals that are expected to be there to serve the students of Prince George’s County.
There have been varying reports of the number of teachers on leave in 2016-2017. The Washington Post reported the number to be in the range of 400 to 500 out of over 800 total employees placed on leave. Recently, the Prince George’s County Education Association (PGCEA) has stated in its communicationsthat over 600 teachers were placed on leave that year. If we take the PGCEA figure, multiply that by five instructional hours in a day, and then multiply that figure by a ballpark estimate of 50 instructional days lost per teacher on leave, the product is 75,000 hours of lost instruction by certified teachers. The impact is then multiplied by the number of students affected. While many elementary school teachers are in self-contained classrooms, PGCPS often has students in upper elementary grades go to different teachers for different subjects, and teachers at this level often interact with 50 or more students on a daily basis. Middle and high school teachers frequently teach six classes, with their impact reaching well over a hundred students.
The author is an employee of Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) who wishes to remain anonymous. The opinions expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.
Over recent months, media attention has focused on what employees of Prince George’s County have known for a long time: the problem of having too many school staff on administrative leave. According to the Washington Post, as of June 6, there were 142 teachers and 91 other employees off the job.
I am part of that statistic.
I will share part of my story. Of course, there are very strict limits to what I can share. However, with the massive number of employees who have gone through what I am experiencing, it is important for policy makers and the public to know the issue from the perspective of someone in my position.
There were 848 PGCPS employees placed on administrative leave this year. That means 4.24%, or about one out of every twenty-four PGCPS employees were paid for days, weeks, or even months to not be at work serving the children of Prince George’s County. To put this in perspective, if students were absent at that rate, many of our schools would not meet their own student attendance targets.
There were some cases where the wrongdoing was real. Of the 615 cases that have been resolved, 196 resulted in a reprimand, suspension, retirement, resignation, or termination. Another 170 or so resulted in a letter of professional counsel. In all, violations of PGCPS policy were found in about 60% of the cases, but only about 10% of the cases rose to the level of requiring the employee leave the school system permanently.
From my perspective, based on past results and not on the merits of my case, I have a 10% chance of needing to search for a new job. I have about a 50% chance of having done something wrong while still keeping my job, but was it really worth having me out of the classroom to determine this? I have about a 40% chance of being completely cleared, in which case my time removed from the classroom has been completely worthless to me and detrimental to the education of the students I serve.
The logic of having the staff member removed from the schools during the investigation is that the employee may interfere with the investigation. This makes sense when an investigation is done in an expeditious manner. The interruption will only last for a few days, and if there is no fault found or only enough fault to warrant a reprimand or letter of counsel, the employee can return to duty in a timely manner.
However, when there is a known backlog of cases and it is widely understood by all parties that the process can take weeks or months, this brings into question whether the use of administrative leave has been misapplied. Certainly, it was necessary in at least 10% of the cases. But what about the other 90%? Was it truly helpful to have the employee off the job for that length of time? What could have been done differently so instruction or other important services were not interrupted or diminished?
Good teachers know that if you are going to crack down on a problem behavior, you have to plan for a timely and efficient enforcement of your class rules. Otherwise, you are not going to be respected by the students, especially those who are trying to do their best and feel like they have all been collectively thrown into a toxic pool of suspicion because of the bad behavior of a few. Why, then, did PGCPS not use that same logic and realize that if they were going to have more reporting of suspected misconduct, they needed to be prepared to handle the increased caseload?
Again, I can’t give details about the nature of my case, but the nature of how the process has been handled is very instructive. When I was put on administrative leave, I was given a vague verbal explanation of the allegations. To this date, I have nothing in writing stating the nature of the allegations. I was told not to have any contact with colleagues, students, or parents and to remain off PGCPS property until advised otherwise.
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.
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.
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.
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:
health and wellness
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 40:30. Mt. Rainer K-6 Language Immersion — Parentwould like to implement language immersionin 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.