Q & A with Catherine Bennett Nwosu, District 3 Board of Education Candidate

Catherine Bennett Nwosu

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2018 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Catherine Bennett Nwosu is a candidate from District 3 (see district map here) running in the June 26 primary election. Ms. Nwosu 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?

My journey began as a K-12 student within the PGCPS system. I am a proud graduate of High Point HS and a first generation college graduate. During high school, I was inspired by my teachers to pursue education and graduated with my degree in English as a Second Language. I currently serve as Director of Extended Learning at a charter school network in Washington, DC, where I am responsible for afterschool programming across three elementary campuses. My daily responsibilities include staffing, compliance, budget, human resources, and curriculum.
I love the work I do currently, but I have continually seen the academic divide that exists in schools across our region. I’m tired of complaining about the challenges seen in my community and want to step up and work to bridge this divide in Prince George’s County. I know there is promise and potential here.

I am running for the Board of Education in Prince George’s County because of my concerns that we are not meeting the needs of ALL of our students in this district. Reforming our local schools is an urgent concern for me, especially since I myself am a mom with children in the school system. I want to push our thinking about the academic future of my children and children throughout our neighborhood because they deserve the absolute best everyday, and they are not receiving that now. But we can change that.

As a parent, I see how quickly our children grow both at home and in educational settings. We don’t have time to point fingers or make excuses. I’m ready to work collaboratively with parents, teachers, leaders, community members, students and board members to envision what we want to see in our schools, then work to make that a reality.

What would be your top three priorities while serving on the board, if elected?

The three major areas that I’d like to focus on as a board member are academic equality, collaboration, and capital improvement. Far too many schools in District 3 are overcrowded and academically underperforming, and it must be fixed.

We have recently been approved for a new elementary and middle school to be built in our area. Leveraging Public and Private Partnerships (P3) will go a long way to ensure that our schools are built efficiently, with quality, and within budget. However, it is not enough to focus solely on new school buildings that have been approved. The CIP budget must also be simultaneously used to make needed repairs to our existing schools. It’s not enough to create new seats – we have to improve the quality of the ones we have too.

We also know that there has been a lot of new home construction in our area recently without any planning for creating additional seats for the children living there. I will work collaboratively with the county council to ensure systems across our government that speak to one another and get proactive about school capacity needs.

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Q & A with Matt Green, District 9 Board of Education Candidate

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 10.39.16 AMThis is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2018 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Matt Green is a candidate from District 9 (see district map here) running in the June 26 primary election. Mr. Green 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 am a husband, family man, and father of four school age children vested in theirs and other children’s education, education choices and future. I am also a volunteer coach for a 3/4U flag football team, youth wrestling coach, President of a Youth Club, retired military leader, advocate and mentor. I am running with the encouragement and support of family, friends and neighbors.

Many feel based on my prior career as a Military Officer, I’d be a good fit for the Board of Education with my ability to prioritize, organize, be transparent, communicate, and make things happened. I have had the opportunity to interface with national and international governing officials at many levels from the start of my military career. I’ve also been in roles of diplomacy that included but weren’t limited to organization and nation building in both peacekeeping and combat environments. I’ve often been complimented on my demeanor to react calm and intelligently under pressure, while positively influencing the situation and others around me. I look for the opportunity to learn from not only my mistakes, but those of others and applying lessons learned.

What would be your top three priorities while serving on the board, if elected?

1) Along with a team of constituents, get into the schools with our students and educators to see things in action firsthand (this would include unannounced visits as the District 9 Board of Education Representative to keep a true prospective); next I’d prioritize and organize what needs to be done based on firsthand research, findings, parents and community feedback, research and align/reference policy and legislation; take action to fix problems.

2) Build rapport in the community; our community needs to know and understand their Board of Education representatives work for the students, educators, parents and community. This means having the tough conversations to solve problems, understanding that if it is torn down, there is the inherent responsibility to build back up (even stronger), going above and beyond to address and resolve concerns at local, state and possibly national level.

3) Bring Back the Pride; there are a lot of good news stories occurring across Prince George’s County Schools. We owe it to our students, educators, parents and community to highlight and share how great we are with the world. As well as continually growing Prince George’s County talent pool, we have a responsibility to share our positives with the world too.

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Q & A with Anthony Triplin, District 6 Board of Education Candidate

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This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2018 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Anthony Triplin is a candidate from District 6 (see district map here) running in the June 26 primary election. Mr. Triplin 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 have served in the United States Navy and in the Army National Guard. I have more than 10 years in accounting, auditing and budgeting experience. I see my mission on the Board of Education as helping explain where the actual money is going in the simplest terms and how we can better allocate it to serve our schools. Our school system is the bedrock of our community. I am passionate about bringing people together to plug into solutions that will strengthen our school system and improve opportunity for all children, because our community’s well being – our region’s prosperity – depends upon this. As an advocate for public education, I have worked collaboratively with people of many different backgrounds and worldviews. I have brought people around the table to find common ground and take action together on solutions. I believe that I can make a greater difference by bringing this approach to the school board.

I am committed to listening first, to leading thoughtfully and respectfully, and to building strong partnerships to find the best solutions for our children and the district. I am running for office because our school district is facing a number of challenges that require commitment and great leadership in the boardroom. I am committed to improving the quality of our public school system and realize that serving as a policy maker is one of the most direct ways to make a difference.

I feel that there is a need for quality and dedicated new leadership. I want to be on the school board because I care about children and their parents, I care about educators in this district and I care about the future of the county to attract and retain the best and brightest. I want to help mend the fences that have been broken in our community, to restore trust and integrity where it’s needed. I want to make sure that we continue the good things that happened under the previous administration.

What would be your top three priorities while serving on the board, if elected?

Provide a safe and effective learning environment for our students at every school. This includes making sure we have highly qualified teachers in every classroom and quality administration in every school. We need to identify and reward strong teachers and we need to expand our professional development offerings so all teachers can improve their performance in the classroom.

Utilize our resources more efficiently.​ Our “Weighted Student Staffing” and “Strategic Staffing” programs allow us to direct extra funding to the students who need additional resources to be successful. Give our students what they need to succeed by giving our teachers and principals what they need to succeed. We need to provide our teachers and principals with the right training, support, professional development, and resources to give our students what they each need to be successful.

Create a focused and strategic budget, that puts our money toward what works for students. We need to build strong community partnerships to ensure our entire community is pushing in one direction, for our students. Our students do their best when they have the entire community standing behind them. It’s easy to make promises, but living these promises IS what works, and I ask for your vote to continue to live these promises for the next four years and beyond.

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Q & A with Pat Fletcher, District 6 Board of Education Candidate

IMG_7196This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2018 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Pat Fletcher is a candidate from District 6 (see district map here) running in the June 26 primary election. Ms. Fletcher 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 am running to block administration and politicians from using our children and educators as political footballs. I am running to be the voice of the parents of our children who feel that their voices are not being heard. I am running for those parents, educators and children who receive little or no direction to be prepared to avoid incidents only to get them after the fact. I am running for that teacher who went in her pocket and spent her last $25 to ensure that a student had a pen, notebook and paper. I am running for that CEO who gave her all to the Head Start program and was terminated due to others in action (now going around the country inspecting Head Start programs for US Dept. of Education). I am running for that bus driver who rescued our babies from a burning bus and gets a dismal salary. I am running for that custodian who takes the extra time to actually talk and listen to our children. We have awesome children and staff. I am running to ensure they all have the resources they need so that our children will be competitive and succeed.

I started in the community and political arena when I was seven and perhaps earlier. Going to tenant association meetings, PTA, and commissioners’ meetings with my mom. She was active with the Toastmasters and a member of the Community Mental Health citizen’s advisory board. All of this took place in DC. I started in the political arena in Prince Georges’ County under Tommy Broadwater when he asked a group of us to volunteer for Steny Hoyer when he ran in the special election for Gladys Noon Spellman’s vacated seat. Assisted the statewide treasurer for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign (Carolyn Howard, Joanne Benson, Paul Pinsky, all teachers back then were Jackson Delegates and/or worked on the campaign). Treasurer for PGCDCC, School Board Member from 2006-2010; former president and vice president of Kentland/Columbia Park Boys and Girls Club; former PTA President of Forestville HS and G. James Gholson MS and presently president of Board of Directors for Village Green Mutual Homes, Inc. a cooperative in Landover for low to moderate income families. I have lived in Prince George’s County for over 40 years. Mother of two daughters and grandmother of 4. Both my daughters are graduates of county school system. Youngest daughter was an English teacher for 14 years in our school system. I have one grandchild presently attending a county school.

I bring with me a wealth of history of Prince George’s County school system. From directly experiencing the desegregation of the schools and the creation of magnet schools (which was segregation in disguise), the racism in selection of minority children in the TAG program, the building of a fence around Bowie annex when students from Bladensburg had to go there while Bladensburg HS was being rebuilt and were not allowed to walk in the Bowie neighborhood, minority students not being able to take AP courses, and the schools in my district getting little or no funding. I am a firm believer in that you need to know and understand where you have been before you can move forward.

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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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