Update on Administrative Leave Situation in Prince George’s County Schools

An earlier post documented the large number of staff on administrative leave in the Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS).

by Justine C. 

IMG_6404Since I wrote about this issue on March 1, 2017, there has been increased reporting in the local media on the problem. School board members Edward Burroughs (Distrct 8), David Murray (District 1), Raaheela Ahmed (District 5), and Juwan Blocker (Student Member) have created a petition in April to review and revamp the administrative leave policy. Their stated goals are to host listening sessions and create recommendations for improvements to the current policies and procedures.

In addition, this month, PGCPS’s Office of Monitoring, Accountability and Compliance will be providing any recommendations they have for changes to policies and procedures regarding student safety. (See minutes from March 7 Policy, Legal, and Legislative Committee Meeting.) The office was created on July 1, 2016, to oversee the development and implementation of procedures and protocols related to student safety.

In response to a Public Information Act request, PGCPS reports that as of May 2, 2017, there are 153 teachers — compared with 160 on January 31 — and 248 additional staff on administrative leave for a total of 401 personnel, indicating either a decline in the number of reports or faster investigations.

PGCPS also indicated in their response to my Public Information Act request that they implemented a tracking system in early April that includes the disposition of cases, referring to whether or not a staff person was reprimanded, terminated, or some other course of action was taken. However, they do not track the amount of time a case takes to investigate and how long teachers are out of the classroom on administrative leave.

Response to the Public Information Act request is embedded below.

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Making Advocacy More Effective

Printby Lori Morrow

After much feedback from constituents — including the Parent and Community Advisory Council — the Prince George’s County Board of Education’s Policy, Legal and Legislative Committee voted not to revise the Board Policy 8345 – Public Comment at this time. Board members acknowledged that the changes were being perceived as limiting public comment, and that this was not their intention. Instead, there is an understanding that many people speak at Board of Education meetings because they are not feeling heard elsewhere. That is something that the system needs to address.


I’ve been a PGCPS parent for nine years, including three years as a PTA/PTSO President, two years on a PTA/PTSO Executive Board, and this past year as a member of the Parent & Community Advisory Council.  I have found myself in front of the Board of Education more times than I can count, and I want to offer some suggestions for parents who are looking to be heard:

  1. Work with your school’s parent organization. Ask to add the issue of concern as a meeting agenda item, so that you canget input from other families. Members of your Parent Teacher Association/Organization (PTA/PTO) Board may have heard from other parents dealing with the same situation or may know if school staff is already working on a resolution.
  2. For PTA/PTO leaders, network with other parent organizations in your area. Find out if they have dealt with similar issues and how they have been able to resolve them.  PGCABS is a great resource to find out what is going on at other schools as well!
  3. Refer to the Ombudsman’s “Guide to Addressing Questions and Concerns”. Finding the right office may help solve your issue sooner.
  4. If you have thoughts on a Board of Education meeting agenda item, consider submitting your testimony to your Board of Education Member a day or two in advance of any vote. This allows the members time to review the information and follow-up with any questions for you or other PGCPS offices.
  5. Take advantage of opportunities to speak with members of the administration or Board of Education at community forums, Family Institute events, and public hearings.
  6. If you plan to speak at a Board of Education meeting as a group, coordinate your message and identify your strongest speakers. Bring other community members to support you in the audience, but often your points can be made with 2-4 speakers.
  7. Suggest a solution or a desired outcome whenever possible. You may have insight or a fresh perspective that members of the administration or Board of Education may not have considered.
  8. When you do speak during the public comment portion of a board meeting, be concise and direct. Respect the time limits and Board of Education guidelines to keep the process running smoothly. Showing that we understand and respect the process will help keep it available as an avenue for engaging school leadership.

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Notes on the Feb 21 Prince George’s County Council Town Hall Meeting

by Laura Rammelsberg

Informal notes on the Prince George’s County Council Town Hall Meeting that was held on February 21, 2017.

This is the first meeting in a series of meetings discussing the FY2018 Budget and the fiscal future of Prince George’s County. There will be more public hearings in the coming months.

Council Members in Attendance: Mary Lehman (District 1), Deni Taveras (District 2), Dannielle Glaros (District 3), Andrea Harrison (District 5), Mel Franklin (District 8), Obie Patterson (District 9)

Resources and materials:

Highlights of the Meeting:

The county has not recovered from the recession yet. Structural deficit will grow over the next six years.

Projected annual budget gap is $28 million to $229 million between FY2018 and FY2023, even after accounting for MGM Revenues.

There are three unique constraints on the county, which no other Maryland county has in this combination. The Blue Ribbon Commission on Addressing the Structural Deficit recommends the following:

  1. Repeal TRIM (Property Tax Cap)
  2. Repeal Question I, which prohibits levying new taxes without a public referendum.
  3. Maximize use of Homestead Tax Credit Cap (this cap is most restrictive in the State of Maryland). The County is losing $56-60 Million a year from the Homestead Tax Credit every year.

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PGCPS Grappling with Large Number of Teachers on Administrative Leave

IMG_6404The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the positions or opinions of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.

by Justine C.

In response to the horrific incidents at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School and the resulting Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Student Safety Task Force Final Report (completed May 2016), the PGCPS administration revised Administrative Procedure 5145 “Reporting Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect” in August 2016.

According to Dr. Kevin Maxwell in an email to me dated January 18, “added emphasis was placed on the training of all employees to ensure that as a district we are providing the safest possible atmosphere for all students.” Maxwell continued, “while the large number of reports that have been generated as a result of the renewed emphasis on training, could be viewed as an unintended consequence, it only takes one incident, to one child to demonstrate how important it is for us as a district to remain diligent in this area.”

It’s hard to argue with that.

But I believe that PGCPS needs to be honest that there has been a significant overcorrection and that this is negatively impacting classrooms and students across the county. In fact, it was reported at a public meeting with PGCPS officials hosted by our local PTA on February 1 that Child Protective Services (CPS) has told PGCPS that many reports are not abuse and are not even reportable offenses. I can attest to how disruptive the procedures changes have been.

During the fall and winter of this school year, one of my child’s teachers had to take an extended period of family leave. This resulted in the class having a number of different substitutes of varying temperaments and abilities. There was general confusion on a daily basis about whether or not there would even be a substitute for that day. The lack of continuous instruction meant very little material was covered. If a substitute did not pick up the job for the day, students in the affected class were given a packet of work and sent to sit in other classrooms. When a 9-year-old bemoans the fact that they aren’t learning any math, you know that there is a problem.

Just prior to the winter break, my other child’s teacher disappeared. After parent inquiries were made, it was discovered that the teacher had been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. Again, the students were subject to the vagaries of the substitute teaching pool. Other staff had to develop lesson plans based on the curriculum, grade papers, and input grades into School Max, in addition to their regular duties. And once again, students recognized that the worksheets they were doing were in no way equal to the exciting projects, lessons, and differentiated instruction they had previously enjoyed.

How did this situation evolve?

While I am still somewhat murky on the details of how reports regarding child abuse are made and what the county considers to be abuse, it is clear that these investigations take a significant amount of time due to the sheer number of offices involved. A report goes directly to CPS, who must investigate and give their findings to PGCPS’ Security Services. Employee Relations must also make a determination, and then the area instructional leader and principal weigh in on the outcome.

A Maryland Public Information Act request revealed that as of January 31, 2017, there have been 296 teachers placed on paid administrative leave for the school year, and as of that date, 160 remained on paid administrative leave. At the February 1 PTA meeting, Cesar Pacheco, Assistant Director of Security Services, stated that his office currently has nearly 700 pending cases pertaining to staff throughout the system. This reflects a marked increase from seven years ago when the office handled 250 cases for the entire year.

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Memo to Staff: Don’t Send Work-Related Emails on the Weekend

Natalie Barnes is a mathematics middle school teacher in the county. The views expressed are the author’s own.

by Natalie Barnes

On November 2, Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell sent a memo to all staff regarding weekend email communication:

“The nature of our work often requires us to miss opportunities to spend time with loved ones. I would like to announce a change that hopefully encourages you to seek a better work-life balance.

“Effective Friday, November 4, I am strongly discouraging weekend email communication. Please refrain from sending emails after 6:00 pm on Fridays unless it is an emergency situation.

“You may resume sending emails Monday morning. I ask that supervisors maintain current contact information for all staff members in the event of an emergency.

“As always, thank you for all of the work that you do on behalf of our students and schools.”

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How the PGCPS Governance System has Changed Under HB 1107: A Before and After Comparison

Image 2-20-16 at 4.28 PMby Genevieve Demos Kelley

The governance system of Prince George’s County Public Schools was restructured in 2013 under House Bill 1107. Many people know that HB 1107 changed the structure of the Board of Education from an all-elected board to a hybrid of elected and appointed members. But there are several other features of the bill that have significantly changed the way the school system is governed.

Here’s a before-and-after table highlighting some of the changes made under HB 1107:

Before HB 1107 Under HB 1107 (Effective June 1, 2013)
Members of the school board are elected. Board is a combination of members who are elected and appointed. (Section 3-114)
Nine elected school board members, each of whom resides in a different school district; one student member of the board. Nine elected board members, one student member, and four appointed board members (three appointed by the County Executive and one appointed by the County Council). (Section 3-114)
Board needs a simple majority to pass a motion. The school board requires a two-thirds vote to take an action that is contrary to an action of the CEO. (Section 4-403)
Board members elect a chair and vice chair of the school board once a year, from among the members of the school board. The County Executive selects the chair and vice chair of the school board for a two-year term. The vice chair is appointed from among the elected members of the board. (Section 3-1004)
If a seat on the Board becomes vacant more than 180 days before the end of the term, it is filled at a special election.  If a seat held by an elected member of the Board becomes vacant, the County Executive fills the vacancy by appointment. (Section 3-1002)
The head of the school system is known as the Superintendent of schools. The superintendent is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the school system. (Section 4-101)
The school board has authority to consolidate schools. The CEO has the authority to consolidate schools. (Section 4-120)
The school board selects and appoints the superintendent of the school system.  The County Executive selects the CEO of the school system from a list of three candidates provided by a search committee. The school board then appoints the CEO after agreement on contract terms negotiated by the chair of the county board.  (Section 4-201.1)
The county superintendent is responsible for the administration of his office. The CEO is responsible for the administration of his office, including hiring and setting the salaries of the executive staff. (Section 4-204)
 The county school board shall employ individuals in the positions that the county board considers necessary for the operation of the public schools in the county. The CEO of the school system shall hire and set the salaries of a Chief Operating Officer, a Chief Financial Officer, a Chief Academic officer, a Chief of Staff, a Board Liaison, and any other necessary executive staff in the office of the CEO. (Section 6-201)

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Proposed Policy Update to Require Training for Parent Volunteers

Lori Morrow presented a version of this testimony during the public comment portion of the May 12th Board of Education Meeting. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.

by Lori Morrow

I would like to share my thoughts on the volunteer policies on the agenda tonight. I am glad to see that the administrative policies about volunteers will be updated, as there were certainly some gray areas and inconsistent implementation in Administrative Procedures for Volunteers and Criminal Background Checks.

However, as I read the updated language for Board Policy 0106, I’m concerned some of these new procedures have the potential to create barriers for parents who are interested in volunteering. In particular, I believe that, while “Requiring all volunteers and leadership of Parent Teacher Associations and Parent Teacher Organizations to undergo specific training on reporting suspected child abuse and neglect” is an understandable reaction to incidents this year, depending on the form that training takes, it is yet another requirement we’re levying on volunteers that could result in diminished volunteerism.

I am a former Elementary School PTA President, and incoming Middle School PTSO President and I know how difficult it can be to engage parents and recruit them as volunteers. It is my hope that parent leaders and advocates will be included in your process as you establish volunteer training and monitoring procedures. Parents, grandparents and community members who choose to provide free labor in our schools should be treated as welcomed partners, not suspects. We accept the locked doors and Raptor checks and the sign-in procedures, but we also want reassurance that volunteers are welcome and needed.

In my personal experience, I think we lost some of that welcome feeling both when Parent Liaison positions were eliminated in the budget cuts years ago, and also as security measures have increased in recent years. If parents, school staff, and the administration work together, I believe we can find a balance between the transparent, welcoming atmosphere parents and volunteers appreciate, while still maintaining the safe learning environment our students deserve.

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