Q & A with John Richardson, District 7 Board of Education Candidate

20160606_083607This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with PGCPS Board of Education candidates. John Richardson is a candidate from District 7 (see district map here). Mr. Richardson answered questions generated in advance of the primary election 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 why you are running for the Board of Education.

My passion is grounded in public service where all citizens’ quality of life, educational growth as well as development is a priority. I’m a veteran frontline educator with more than 17 years combined experience which include serving as a Career & Technical Education Teacher (formerly vocational education), Assistant Principal on the secondary level, Dean of Students, Testing Coordinator and Summer School Principal. It was a pleasure serving 2 ½ years in the Maryland General Assembly as a Constituent Services Liaison for Legislative District 25.

In addition, I have served in ministry for over 17 years in the capacity of Sunday School Teacher, Youth Pastor and Pastor. Moreover, my experience includes honorably serving our country in the United States Marine Reserves while matriculating at the University of The District of Columbia (UDC) where my Bachelor of Science Degree in Printing Management was obtained. Subsequently, my Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction Degree was obtained at National Louis University. 

I’m running for Board of Education because all of my professional experiences have prepared me to effectively represent the constituents of District 7. I am a proven leader who has prepared students for college and careers. I have improved the academic achievement of students, improved parental involvement, implemented policy and engaged the community in the educational process. Furthermore, as Chairman of the MD4 Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Project Community Task Force, I have collaborated with local and state government agency representatives along with concerned citizens on a $24 million dollar project currently in progress between Silver Hill Road and Forestville Road that will continue to save lives while enhancing our community!

What are your top three goals for PGCPS, and how do you plan to accomplish them, if elected?

In my opinion, academic achievement and our consistent ongoing ranking near the bottom quartile compared to other school districts in the state of Maryland despite incremental gains that are celebrated yearly is a significant problem. My top three goals are below:

  1. Improve overall academic achievement and ninth grade promotion rates.
  2. Engage the community in the educational process while improving parental involvement which can assist in creating safe welcoming environments.
  3. Improve communication between the Board of Education, schools and all stakeholders.

I’ve already started collaborating with stakeholders about accomplishing the aforementioned tasks. Upon being elected, with the help of a core group of diverse leaders, we will organize a Town Hall Meeting to provide stakeholders with an opportunity to provide feedback and input. Also, we will have ongoing sessions throughout the year not only assessing our weaknesses but creating strategies to maintain where we are strong and overcome all challenges. In addition, we will assess our progress and make changes as needed. 

Improving communication takes a conscious effort which includes being considerate of a parents’ time. Events must be planned way in advance with timely notification to parents, guardians, caregivers and students. Oftentimes, community leaders and the citizens at-large are unaware of the great things happening in our school system. I use most social media platforms to keep my family members, friends and the community informed which will continue during my term as a Board Member. I utilize email blast campaigns, group text messaging, instant messaging and a host of other forms of communication to keep people informed.

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Q & A with District 5 Board of Education Candidate Cheryl Landis

image_cherylLandisThis is part of an ongoing series of interviews with PGCPS Board of Education candidates. Cheryl Landis is a candidate from District 5 (see district map here). Ms. Landis 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 why you feel that you would be an effective member of the Board of Education.

For the past 37 years, I’ve been an active volunteer, community organizer, and servant leader in Prince George’s County. I made a deliberate and decisive decision well over 10 years ago that upon my retirement from Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), I would transition to serve as an elected member of the Board of Education. On November 1, 2016, I will officially retire from PGCPS with 27 years of service. For 17 years (1989 to 2006) I served as the Executive Administrative Officer to the very same Board of Education I seek election to. During that time, I worked directly with numerous boards of education, both elected and appointed. For the past 10 years (2006 to present) I have served as the school system’s Strategic Business Partnerships Specialist, as well as Administrator for the Excellence in Education Foundation for PGCPS, Inc. I’ve also had the honor of serving as Chair of the Education Workforce Development Committee of the Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce. I was recently selected by Junior Achievement of Greater Washington to serve on the Junior Achievement Finance Park Prince George’s County Advisory Council.

Each and every step that I have taken over the past 37 years has successfully prepared me to serve as an elected member of the Board. I realize the awesome responsibility and commitment of time that will ultimately come with the position. I understand that the mission of the Board of Education is to advance the academic achievement of all students through community engagement, sound policy governance, accountability, and fiscal responsibility. Because of my many years of experience, I have a very clear and concise understanding of the role of a Board Member. I have already defined my scope and purpose for working collaboratively with the Administration and my colleagues as an elected member of the Board. I will hit the ground running!

What are two or three special challenges that you see in your school board district, and how would you work with the community to address them?

Challenge No. 1 — Family & Community Engagement: Family and community engagement are important components to the academic success of a student. That is why educating our youth must be viewed as a shared responsibility between the school system, parents, and students. As an elected member of the Board of Education, I will take a “grassroots approach” to effectively increase family and community engagement by implementing the following strategies in District 5 schools:

  • Beginning January 2017, I will meet individually and on an ongoing basis with District 5 principals and PTA/PTO to assess the needs of the District.
  • I will work with District 5 schools to establish a fully engaged, highly functioning PTA/PTO where none exist
  • I will attend monthly scheduled PTA/PTO meetings on a rotating basis. The goal is to encourage, motivate and inspire parents in their efforts to support their children academically.
  • I will work collaboratively with the respective school principal and the established PTA/PTO to develop partnerships with the business community, nonprofits, community organizations, etc., that will supplement and support the academic achievement of District 5 students. All partnerships will be established in accordance with Board Policy and PGCPS Administrative Procedures
  • I will work with the Administration to develop programs and services that will enhance and expand academic opportunities to ensure that our students will graduate from PGCPS College AND Career Ready.
  • I will seek to develop partnerships that will provide academic enrichment opportunities for students such as: After School Programs, Conflict Resolution and Mediation, Health Care, Wellness and Fitness, Dental Support, Literacy Support, Gang Prevention and Intervention, Internships, Youth Employment, Student Service Learning Opportunities, Tobacco Free, Alcohol Free, Drug Free, Mentoring and Tutoring, Parent Engagement, Tennis Education, Youth Development Engagement, etc.
  • I will create parent, family and community engagement opportunities through meetings, workshops, listening sessions, etc.
  • I will provide professional development training to District 5 PTA/PTO on the process of fundraising for donations both in-kind and monetary in accordance with Board Policy.
  • I will work to bring needed resources to District 5 schools.
  • I will produce a quarterly District 5 Newsletter which will include appropriate information from each District 5 school to keep parents informed and engaged.
  • I will host an annual event to bring District 5 schools together which will include workshops for parents and students, sharing of information sharing, opportunities for networking, invited guest speakers, games and activities, etc.

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Q & A with David Murray, District 1 Board of Education Candidate

29429795831_e9ff633d2c_oThis is part of an ongoing series of interviews with PGCPS Board of Education candidates. David Murray is a candidate from District 1 (see district map here). Mr. Murray 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 why you feel that you would be an effective member of the Board of Education.

District 1 needs a leader who knows the community and has the background to solve the problems in our schools. I am running for the Board of Education because we face many unique challenges in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS). I can’t predict all of the issues that I will face as a board member but I know better than others the impact our decisions will have on the everyday lives of students and teachers.

My experience includes being appointed by Governor O’Malley and serving on the Maryland State Board of Education. I also served as an Educational Liaison for County Councilman Tom Dernoga and State Senator C. Anthony Muse. During this time I learned how things work in both Upper Marlboro and Annapolis. I know what it takes to get things done, and how to work with other elected officials. I have previously served on the Board of Directors for an education non-profit that serves elementary schools in Laurel. Additionally I have professional experience as a staff auditor at a public accounting firm, where I helped audit state and local governments. Currently I work as an analyst at an investment consulting firm in DC.

What are two or three special challenges that you see in your school board district, and how would you work with the community to address them?

I believe teacher turnover is one of the top two most significant problems facing our district. This is not a new issue facing our schools but one that must be addressed. Perpetual teacher turnover is not good for our students or for our teachers. We need to have a work environment that makes it hard for teachers to want to leave PGCPS, not hard to want to stay. I believe aside from teacher pay there is still more we can be doing. We must make a more concerted effort to listen to our teachers about what is and is not working, and find ways to incorporate their feedback. I will be extremely accessible to our teachers and will solicit input from them often.

The second problem is the lack of community engagement I see from our school board. Prince George’s county has a ton of things going for it that we need to capitalize on. I will work tirelessly to build partnerships with stakeholders in the community including nonprofits, churches, businesses, and the public generally. I am going to be seeking businesses in my district to sponsor schools and donate money, as well as to provide jobs and internship training to local students. I have already begun forging relationships with the faith based community so that we can increase mentoring and tutoring opportunities. I will also be reaching out to the community generally to give their time and talents back to PGCPS. We need to be connecting students with those who work in fields that they aspire to be in and asking people to come volunteer and help out with school events and clubs. I want to bring the community into our schools because I believe it is lacking now.

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Q & A with K. Alexander Wallace, District 7 Board of Education Candidate

img_0010_0This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with PGCPS Board of Education candidates. K. Alexander Wallace is a candidate from District 7 (see district map here). 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 why you feel that you would be an effective member of the Board of Education.

In the spring of 2015, I went to the Board of Elections and filed for my candidacy to run for the District 7 seat on the Board of Education for Prince George’s County, a county that I was born and raised in. In November of 2015, the County Executive appointed me to represent District 7 and the County Council voted to affirm my confirmation, 9-0. I am proud to say that I currently represent District 7, a district where I was born and a district where I graduated.

I am running to remain on the Board of Education because I have the necessary experience it takes to fulfill the duties of a Board member. The Board is required to increase academic achievement, engage the families and communities, approve educational policies and procedures, and to oversee the nearly $2 billion budget. Throughout my nearly 15 years of combined education policy, community engagement, and grassroots advocacy experience, I have had the honor of working in the Maryland General Assembly and on Capitol Hill where I helped advocate for better educational polices and equitable funding and resources for children of color and children living in poverty – many of whom live in District 7.

I am a product of the county school system, K-12 (Patuxent Elementary, Gwynn Park Middle, Frederick Douglass High, Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High). I furthered my education at Towson University (Undergraduate) and the University of Baltimore (Graduate) where I spent countless years working with the University System of Maryland, the Maryland Higher Education Commission, and the Maryland Youth Advisory Council to advocate for pathways to higher education for Maryland’s youth by making sure education was affordable, accessible, and of high quality.

What are two or three special challenges that you see in your school board district, and how would you work with the community to address them?

One challenge is the high number of aging schools in District 7. While this district has received a handful of new schools and school renovations, such as Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School, Barack Obama Elementary School, North Forestville Elementary, and William Beanes Elementary Schools, there are still too many schools who have been overlooked by the county. We need to rebuild Suitland High School, as well as Drew Freeman and Benjamin Stoddert Middle Schools. Since my time on the Board, I have worked to push these three schools up on our priority list and construction/renovations in the coming years if we receive full funding from the State and County Council.

The school system has recently been under fire for several alleged incidents of abuse and neglect. How will you work to increase a sense of respect and security, for children and their families, in our school system?

The actions of the staff members that have been discovered have been outright disgusting and indefensible. It is because of these events, coupled with the unethical actions of previous PGCPS staff, from the Board of Education down, that has fractured the trust the community has. While these handful of staff members have been dealt with, for the nearly 20,000 staff members within PGCPS, we know that they wake up every day ready to teach, nurture, and grow our students. As Board Members, we need to promote that, governing by facts and not fears. We need to re-engage our stakeholders, on a macro and micro level. As the Chair of the Family and Community Engagement Committee, I have made this a top initiative for the committee.

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Q & A with Stephanie Hinton, District 8 Board of Education Candidate

 

20160227 Stephanie Hinton Portrait

(February 27th, 2016) Portrait of Stephanie Hinton candidate for Price George’s County Board of Education Representative for District 8 ~ Photo © David Sachs / Studio 20Seven Photography

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with PGCPS Board of Education candidates. Stephanie Hinton is a candidate from District 8 (see district map here). Ms. Hinton 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 why you feel that you would be an effective member of the Board of Education.

After 25 years of being a parent, teacher and advocate in Prince George’s County, I have a great understanding of the issues facing our communities. There are some tough problems facing our school system, but there are ways to start addressing them, and I want to be a part of that.

I have developed an eight-point plan that pulls from my experiences as a teacher at a Prince George’s County elementary school, as an educational advocate for special needs children and as a parent of two children who attended PGCPS. These points are focused on creating a safe, positive, healthy learning environment for all of the children in our county. They need healthy meals and clean classrooms. They need teachers who are motivated and supported. They need books that are current and accessible. They need parents who are communicated with and informed.

Much of this is lacking in schools around our county, and it is time for a change. I want Equality for District 8, and for every district in gorgeous Prince George’s.

What are two or three special challenges that you see in your school board district, and how would you work with the community to address them?

Communication is one of the largest problems facing our district. One of my eight points, holding town hall meetings will assist with working with the community. The town hall meetings allows parents, students, teachers, and community members to meet regularly to discuss concerns, as well as accomplishments. In addition, it will allow me, as the Board member, to inform the community about things occurring at the Board and within the county. 

Low performing schools are a major concern within our district, especially within elementary schools. Approximately 85% of District 8 elementary schools are low performing. We have to change this around immediately. Three of my eight points speak directly to this issue. For instance, ensuring that students have adequate resources, reducing class sizes, and retaining quality teachers will help. 

Special education is an issue that many parents, students, and teachers find challenging. It is important that parents are aware of their rights in order to advocate for their students. As the District 8 member, I will fight to ensure that the parents are able to speak to someone without traveling two hours one way on public transportation. I will fight to bring a parent resource center to District 8. 

The school system has recently been under fire for several alleged incidents of abuse and neglect. How will you work to increase a sense of respect and security, for children and their families, in our school system?

One of the biggest issues in our school system is a lack of communication. My goal is to open the lines of communication with town hall meetings and an anonymous tip line for teachers and staff. Parents have to feel they can trust the system, and speaking to them directly will strengthen this bond. This is also a good opportunity to give them direction on what resources they have if they feel their child has been a victim of abuse or neglect at school.

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Q & A with Raaheela Ahmed, District 5 Board of Education Candidate

img_1060This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with PGCPS Board of Education candidates. Raaheela Ahmed is a candidate from District 5 (see district map here). Ms. Ahmed 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 why you feel that you would be an effective member of the Board of Education.

My name is Raaheela, and I am a lifelong Prince Georgian and resident of Bowie who is a product of Prince George’s County’s public elementary, middle and high schools. I hold degrees from the University of Maryland in Finance and Economics. I am running for the school board because I feel that my current and fresh perspectives will have a positive impact on the District in improving student success. I believe in the potential of our students and will work hard to ensure that our students are not only college and career ready, but also culturally competent and globally competitive.

My professional experience as a federal financial consultant for the Department of Homeland Security, boardroom experience on the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, and volunteer work focused on enhancing the lives and education of our county’s students (America Reads*America Counts, Health Leads, Moneythink Maryland, and Court Appointed Special Advocate) enhance my effectiveness as your representative on the board. This is my second bid for the Prince George’s County Board of Education. In 2012, I came 3% shy of winning the general election after winning the primary election with the top number of votes. Over the course of my School Board races, I’ve canvassed over 10,000 homes, engaging parents, teachers, students and stakeholders in dialogue about our school system and ways to improve it. I’ve recently gained the endorsement of our teachers via the Prince George’s County Educators Association. Together we can ensure a bright future for our children and our communities!

What are two or three special challenges that you see in your school board district, and how would you work with the community to address them?

Community Engagement:

I believe in the statement: It takes a village to raise a child. This proverb highlights the need for collaborative effort in making change….the necessity of not one, but several caring individuals and institutions in human growth and development. K-12 education systems are grounds for this kind of development. Whether we like it or not, our schools are responsible for teaching hard subjects like math and science as well as intangible skills like work ethic and acceptable societal behaviors. It takes effort from all stakeholders in building our schools and our community. That is why efforts to encourage parental involvement in schools and develop partnerships with local universities and businesses are important to the progress of our schools and students. To encourage community engagement, I’d like to spearhead the establishment of active formal parent-teacher organizations in all schools, corporate partnerships to provide internship and other academic opportunities for our students, and personally engaging in community outreach as I have been doing on the campaign trail.

Transparency and Accountability:

Prince George’s County has a history of corrupt elected figureheads, mismanagement of money and general public distrust. In order to overcome these issues and thrive as a community, both transparency and accountability must be prioritized. I believe fiscal transparency is needed with the school budget so that individuals know not only how their taxpayer dollars are being spent, but whether that spending has a good return on investment given demographic metrics (test scores, graduation rates, etc.) I support having a thorough evaluation of our academic programs. Understanding what works and what doesn’t will allow PGCPS to align resources and funding efficiently and increase academic excellence. Additionally, I’d like to see more advanced technology use in sharing detailed information, similar to the UNC Data Dashboard.

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Q & A with K. Alexander Wallace, District 7 Board of Education Candidate

img_0010_0This is part of a series of interviews with PGCPS Board of Education candidates. K. Alexander Wallace was appointed to the Board of Education in November 2015 and is one of two candidates from District 7 (see district map here) whose names will be on the ballot in the general 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 Board of Education candidates.

Tell us about your background and why you are running for the Board of Education.

In the spring of 2015, I went to the Board of Elections and filed for my candidacy to run for the District 7 seat on the Board of Education for Prince George’s County, a county that I was born and raised in. In November of 2015, the County Executive appointed me to represent District 7 and the County Council voted to affirm my confirmation, 9-0. I am proud to say that I currently represent District 7, a district where I was born and a district where I graduated.

I am running to remain on the Board of Education because I have the necessary experience it takes to fulfill the duties of a Board member. The Board is required to increase academic achievement, engage the families and communities, approve educational policies and procedures, and to oversee the nearly $2 billion budget. Throughout my nearly 15 years of combined education policy, community engagement, and grassroots advocacy experience, I have had the honor of working in the Maryland General Assembly and on Capitol Hill where I helped advocate for better educational polices and equitable funding and resources for children of color and children living in poverty – many of whom live in District 7.

I am a product of the county school system, K-12 (Patuxent Elementary, Gwynn Park Middle, Frederick Douglass High, Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High). I furthered my education at Towson University (Undergraduate) and the University of Baltimore (Graduate) where I spent countless years working with the University System of Maryland, the Maryland Higher Education Commission, and the Maryland Youth Advisory Council to advocate for pathways to higher education for Maryland’s youth by making sure education was affordable, accessible, and of high quality.

What are your top three goals for PGCPS, and how do you plan to accomplish them if elected?

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