This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2018 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Lupi Grady is the incumbent from District 2 (see district map here) running in the June 26 primary election. Ms. Grady 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 seek to run for re-election to the Board of Education because this work matters. As a parent of two children attending Prince George’s Public Schools, I am invested. I believe in public education. I came to the United States at the age of 7 years old and did not speak English. I still remember my teachers. I am so grateful to them to this day. My parents worked very hard to provide for my sister and younger brother, so it was difficult for them to have the time and to know how to support us in our academics. My parents did not know how to navigate the education system or to advocate on our behalf. We were encouraged to work hard and respect our teachers. My sister and I had to learn to be very independent and as we set the path, it helped our younger brother succeed. My personal experiences help me to understand the students that we serve. I see myself in many of our students, who with the proper supports and guidance can excel in their academics and have a bright future.
The issues in our education system are complex and how the school board goes about doing the work is important. A Strategic Plan was established for 2016-2020 (adopted March 2015) with five focus areas that include Academic Excellence, High-Performing Workforce, Safe and Supportive Environments, Family and Community Engagement and Organizational Effectiveness. The Strategic Plan serves as a road map and our budget decisions must align with the aforementioned key priorities. As we enter our fourth year as a Board of the strategic plan, it is imperative to assess the impact of our investment as it relates to budget decisions. What is effective? How do we determine progress? What data points are we measuring? Are we measuring the right data points? How is progress being monitored? These are discussions that need to be examined to better determine how we move forward. This year, I participated in an Equity Taskforce that was tasked to define what is equitable for our students. The task force began its work of examining educational equity gaps and invited a series of presenters that informed the discussion. The taskforce outlined specific recommendations for policy, establishing a diverse workforce, family & community engagement, quality instructions and budgetary resource allocations that are outlined in the report. The recommendations will be shared with the entire Board and community in the coming months.
Relevant to moving our school system forward is the work of the Kirwan Commission. As indicated in their preliminary report and potential recommendation on an increase of funding, there is an opportunity to align our work for optimum student success.
Being on the board for almost four years, it has its challenges and I am consistently learning and growing in my understanding of the issues. The work is not done in a vacuum and the perspectives are many around a diversity of issues. The issues brought to my attention have varied from recess, transportation, cell towers, the selection process of Principals, meetings with potential partners that can support our students’ academic success, the overcrowding of schools in the north, homelessness, language barriers; and bullying to mention a few. As the issues are brought to my attention, I work towards solutions, addressing existing system or lack of systems in partnership with parents, administrators and Board colleagues. This work cannot be accomplished in silos as an individual Board. I am committed to this work and we have to be steadfast in our efforts to continue to move our school system forward.
What would be your top three priorities while serving on the board, if elected?
Capitol Improvement Program (CIP)
Two of the biggest challenges we have is maintaining our facilities and building new schools to support the growth in enrollment in the county. The Capital Improvement Program (CIP) is designed to resolve the overcrowding of the schools in the north which is a challenge for students and teachers. The CIP is also designed to maintain our aging school buildings. For example, in District 2 the majority of the schools are over capacity. There is an Elementary school with up to 13 temporary classrooms (temps), a Middle School with 11 temps and a High School with up to 21 temps. This poses real challenges to not being able to reduce classroom size, expand pre-k, increase of enrollment; and it impacts the day-to-day operations such as the scheduling for lunch periods and overall courses. Teachers are actively engaging students in every classroom that is available to them. The up keep of the facilities and the demands are great. I recently visited a Middle School that has to have the floor gym replaced, that will cost $100,000 and this was not a planned “repair.” This Board has increased funds to provide some flexibility in the budget when unprecedented repairs need to happen for the betterment of our teachers and students. I am committed to continuing to advocate for these funds going forward.