Del. Barnes Forms Parent Involvement and Education Advisory Committee

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 12.25.42 AM

by Lori Morrow

Over forty Prince George’s County parents, staff, community advocates and elected officials gathered at the TGI Friday’s in Forestville, Maryland on Saturday, February 17 to find out more about Delegate Dr. Darryl Barnes’s Parent Involvement and Education Advisory Committee.

Led by Chair Earnest Moore and Vice Chair Tramaine Crawford, the advisory committee was established to “tackle lingering issues in the Prince George’s County Education System.”

Delegate Barnes emphasized that the focus of the committee is not to “throw stones,” but rather to develop ideas and solutions that can help move our system forward. Collaboration was a recurring theme throughout the meeting. Individuals were charged to bring together our diverse knowledge and resources, as well as learn from those who have come before us. Ultimately, the goal is for the committee to present findings and recommendations to decision-makers including the County Council, Board of Education, and General Assembly as appropriate.

Those present for the planning breakfast were invited to volunteer for at least one of the seven subcommittees that most fit their expertise or passion. Mr. Crawford introduced the seven topics: Special Education; Restorative Practices and Bullying; Charter and Public School Law; Teacher and Administrator Policy/ Betterment; Public School Improvement; Minority Male Involvement/Mentorship; and English Language Learners. Subcommittees will meet via teleconference or in person, with initial tasks to choose and chair and develop work plans and timelines. The full advisory committee will meet again in approximately 30 days to share updates with the Chairs and Delegate Barnes.

Continue reading

Three Upcoming Opportunities to Advocate for School Funding

Print

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!”

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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?

Continue reading

Ten Things PGCPS Can Do to Rebuild Community Confidence

IMG_6358

by Lori Morrow

This past weekend I read the graduation rate audit report from Alvarez & Marsal. Unfortunately I was not surprised by the findings. Over the past 9+ years, I’ve noticed a disconnect between Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) leadership/central offices and the way individual schools operate on a daily basis.

I suspect that any PGCPS parent could provide anecdotes about inconsistent policy and procedure compliance at the school level — from issues like withholding elementary school recess as punishment and discrepancies in meeting volunteer/visitor requirements, to inconsistencies in grading procedures or the abuse incidents in recent years. While the report did not find system-wide fraud, I believe we need a system-wide solution to balancing effective policies and procedures without drowning staff in processes and paperwork.

Earlier this week I wrote a list of things that I believe parents/guardians should do. Parents own a piece of the issues identified in the audit if they aren’t paying attention to grades and attendance, if they ask to have their child promoted when they shouldn’t be, or if they are focused just on the diploma instead of the education. Sadly what I often hear from parents and teachers is that it doesn’t matter what we do because we are powerless to change PGCPS. I spend too much time attending PGCPS events and meetings to accept that there is nothing we can do.

Here are my suggestions for ways PGCPS can partner with parents and staff to help rebuild trust and confidence in our school system:

  1. Host forums like last year’s “Community Summit on Safety & Accountability” to involve the community in identifying problems and searching for solutions.
  2. Involve PTA/PTO leaders in reviewing climate survey results at the school level so that they can assist in resolving ongoing concerns.
  3. Add an item to parent and teacher climate surveys that asks about staff adherence to policies and procedures.
  4. Implement new Administrative Procedures in the spring or beginning of the summer (instead of right before school starts) so that principals and central offices are thoroughly prepared to communicate them to parents and teachers by Back-to-School Night.
  5. Create an interactive video/training module on the Students Rights & Responsibilities Handbook for parents and students that can be posted online and shared at Back-to-School Nights or PTA meetings.
  6. Reach out to the Board of Education Parent and Community Advisory Council to provide feedback on policy and procedure changes.
  7. Host forums with PTA/PTO leaders at least twice during the school year to identify system-wide issues.
  8. Clarify the role of instructional directors as it relates to policy and administrative procedure compliance, and share that information with the community.
  9. Educate the community on the formal process for teachers, students, and parents/guardians who wish to report instances of non-compliance, and ensure that they will not face retaliation.
  10. Above all else, please put aside the politics and make our children’s EDUCATION the priority.