Q & A with Gary Lee Falls, District 8 Board of Education Candidate

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2020 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Gary Lee Falls is a candidate from District 8 (see district map here) running in the November 3 general election. Mr. Falls 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?

EAT a government paid “free full course breakfast, lunch and dinner.” Then get to classes and learn “Greek, Latin, Differential Equations, Calculus , Quantum Mechanics and Dark Matter .”

What do you believe are the most important characteristics of an effective school board?

Ensure that the schools “Billions of Dollars Budget is spent toward accomplishing the Goal mention in question 1.”

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

Student Meals, Student  Proficiency in Greek, Latin, Differential Equations, Calculus, Quantum Mechanics and Dark Matter, after 14 years of learning !

What are your impressions of the current level of parent engagement in our schools, and what ideas do you have for improving/encouraging parent and community engagement?

Encourage Parents to steer their children  toward mastering the mention curriculum !

Many specialty programs (e.g.  language immersion, performing arts programs) have waitlists because demand exceeds the current capacity, and some students travel long distances to attend a specialty school. Do you support the expansion of specialty schools? Why or why not?

Each school should have Teachers that are Proficient in Greek, Latin, Differential Equations, Calculus, Quantum Mechanics, and Dark Matter!

Continue reading

Q & A with Alexis Branch, District 7 Board of Education Candidate

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2020 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Alexis Branch is a candidate from District 7 (see district map here) running in the June 2 primary election. Ms. Branch 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?

First and foremost, I am a woman of God. I am also a 2019 graduate from Bennett College, the first HBCU for women. While there I served as the Student Government Association President, NAACP Vice President, Fresh-woman Class President, and a member of The Board of Trustees where I was an instrumental part of the #StandWithBennett campaign. During this campaign, I assisted my institution in raising 8.5 million dollars in 50 days when we were at the risk of losing our accreditation due to a lack of finances. I also have worked for various non-profits around the world in places like Israel and China where I advocated for clean energy and against discrimination in grade school textbooks. I am a former Kindergarten teacher in the county, and I am currently employed for the federal government at the Department of Transportation. I am a product of the Prince Georges County Public School System, graduating from Gwynn Park High School in 2015.

I would like to be on the Board of Education because I am a true advocate for the people I represent and in this case, it would be the children, teacher, and staff of Prince Georges County. I truly care about their well-being and concerned about the life-long foundation we are in installing in them.  I am the only candidate that has been a teacher in the county and has experience in the classroom serving as a kindergarten teacher and a before and aftercare teacher since high school. I believe that it is hard to advocate for change if you have not experienced it yourself and had those heart to heart moments with the children in this County. I am a true believer that a lot of what these will retain will not be the curriculum being taught in our classrooms, it will be the life lessons that they learn along the way that will truly impact, and shape their lives.

I want to change the way the world sees Prince George’s County. By providing more opportunities for our children like study abroad programs, free scholarship grants, and mentorship. I want the citizens of our community to be proud to say their child goes to a Prince Georges County Public School. I also do not agree with the Lottery program, I think every child in our County should have the same opportunity at a successful future. That is taken away with the lottery program. I am an advocate for bilingual education in every elementary school classroom.  I also would like to advocate for the reopening of Skyland Elementary, a school created for students with disabilities. Also, I would like to see an increase in funding per pupil. Especially when it comes to resources in the classroom such as textbooks, and information technology. In conclusion, I believe the only way we will be able to see the change in our school system that our community needs and our future relies on. Would be to have more community involvement. I plan to work with my fellow board members if elected to fix this gap between our school system and our community to help mold and shape the young minds of our kids.

Continue reading

Q & A with Kenneth Harris, District 7 Board of Education Candidate

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2020 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Kenneth Harris II is a candidate from District 7 (see district map here) running in the June 2 primary election. Mr. Harris 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 graduate of Eleanor Roosevelt High School! I then went on to receive my Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and finally my Masters degree from Johns Hopkins University. I have been working at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center since I was 16 years old, and for the past 12 years I have been assisting in the development, fabrication, budgeting, and launch of 6 missions. My passion outside of the Science field is inspiring the education of students through mentorship. I have had the opportunity to travel locally and internationally to speak with teachers and students about the importance of mentorship and early education. I hope to bring my experience with managing large budgets and passion for education to the Prince Georges County School Board. One of my main goals is to develop a classroom to internship pipeline for our students. As well as implement strong mentorship programs to encourage early exposure to amazing careers. My early exposure to the sciences helped me to establish a phenomenal career and I vividly recall visits from professionals to our schools, helping to motivate me to continue my studies. I want to be on the school board to rebuild the confidence of our residents in sending their children through the Prince Georges County School System.

What do you believe are the most important characteristics of an effective school board?

I think one of the most important characteristics of an effective school board is a shared vision for the County. Too often are representatives on different accords when it comes to plans for our schools and how to resolve situations. As a community we need to come together and create a clear and feasible path forward with achievable milestones to track our progress toward a better educational system.

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

A. Develop a classroom to internship pipeline for our students to set them up for long and impact careers in whichever field(s) they come to love.

B. Targeting the need for universal pre-k and advocating concerning the importance of early education

C. Focusing on the retention of our Administrative Staff and Teachers within the county by providing fair salaries and educational/certification assistance where needed.

Continue reading

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

IMG_0286 (1)

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2020 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. K. Alexander Wallace is a candidate from District 7 (see district map here) running in the June 2 primary 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 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?

Prior to my appointment in 2015 and election in 2016 to serve on the Board of Education, I spent nearly a decade advocating for the issues facing students and the youth of Maryland through my work serving on the Maryland Youth Advisory Council, the Maryland Higher Education Commission, and the University System of Maryland. For four years prior to my serve on the Board of Education, I also served in the Office of (late) State Senator Ulysses Currie (District 250 as his Legislative and Constituent Aide. It was through this position where I had, both, the pleasure and responsibility of briefing the senator on key educational issues facing the county and state, as well as advocate for students, families, and communities for educational equity, funding, and constituent services.

My academic background is rooted in Urban Public Policy and Administration with a study focus in Education, Housing, and Economic Policies. Through my academic career at Towson University (Undergraduate) and the University of Baltimore (Masters), I have been able to hone my intellectual understanding of educational policies and how they should be implemented.

Combining my experiences in advocacy, governmental affairs, and educational policy field of academic study, I have been able to be a meaningful voice to many of the impactful changes for our school system – from helping to develop our county’s Community Schools initiative and authoring the new Educational Equity policy to representing our county of the Board of Directors for the Maryland Association for Boards of Education and the Washington Areas Boards of Education, what I want to continue to bring to the Board of Education is a pillar of consistency in proper governing, an unapologetic nature towards educational equity, and a broad understanding of educational policy and law.

Continue reading

Make Sure You Are Counted: Census 2020

social-media-graphic-5

by T. Carter Ross

Despite the massive disruption we are all living with due to the current novel coronavirus pandemic, one American ritual is still happening — the decennial census. Making sure you and everyone in your household are counted is both a civic responsibility and critical to future funding for everything from public schools to public health to roads and bridges. Prince George’s County estimates that every person not counted means $1,825 less in federal funding per person per year. Not being counted costs our communities, including PGCPS, literally millions of dollars.

In addition, census count are used to determine the number of Congressional representatives for each state. The requirement for an “actual Enumeration” of everyone living in the United States is laid out in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution. The way the census is conducted and the level of detail included has varied over the years, but the count has been made every 10 years since 1790.

The 2020 Census is the first census to take a digital-first count. People are encouraged to fill out the questionnaire online at www.my2020census.gov. You may have received a letter with a census ID number, which helps with tracking responses, but you can use the site even if you do not have that number. If you prefer, you can also call the toll-free number 844-330-2020 to complete the census via telephone. In April, households that have not responded electronically will receive a paper questionnaire in the mail, and at some point in the summer they may receive an in-person visit from a census taker.

The questionnaire asks for basic information about who is living at an address on April 1, 2020, including name, gender, age, marital status, race and ethnicity, how people are related, and so forth. It does not ask about citizenship. (Some households are asked to fill out the American Community Survey, which is more detailed and asks more questions, including one about citizenship. Like the census, the ACS is used in distributing federal funding, as well as to assist state and local governments in long-term planning.)

There are scammers who will use the census to try and trick people into handing over personal information. The census never asks for banking or credit card information, your social security number, money or donations, or anything about political parties.

Continue reading

Prince George’s County Parent Appointed to State Board of Education

86426424_190174975421114_5863933452117606400_nCongratulations to PGCPS Parent and PGCABS Committee Member Lori Morrow on her selection as the parent member for the Maryland State Board of Education! Lori’s name was included in the list of  “Green Bag” appointments submitted to the State Senate by Governor Hogan on Friday, February 14th for Senate confirmation.

Last year, the Maryland General Assembly passed SB529/HB0087, State Board of Education — Membership — Teacher and Parent Members. This legislation added two members to the Maryland State Board of Education, a teacher member and a parent member. The teacher member, Rachel McCusker of Carroll County, was elected in November 2019 through a process outlined by the Maryland State Educators Association. As the parent member, Lori was chosen by the Governor from a list of three names the Maryland Parent Teacher Association submitted in December 2019. 

Both the parent and teacher members will serve abbreviated terms for their first term. The parent Member will serve until June 2023 and the teacher member will serve until June 2022. Subsequent appointments for the positions will be 4-year terms, as is standard for the regular Board of Education Members appointed by the Governor.

As the parent of two children in Prince George’s County public schools, Lori has served in many volunteer roles including PTA President at Tulip Grove Elementary School and PTSO President at Benjamin Tasker Middle School. She has also served on the PGCPS Board of Education’s Parent and Community Advisory Council. Lori is a frequent contributor to our PGCABS blog (www.pgcabs.org) and one of the managers of our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pgcabschools). You can also follow her on Twitter (@geauxdores). 

Continue reading

Changes Coming in PGCPS Transportation System

84311255_849402158833642_4989901109096087552_n

by Lori Morrow

How many PGCPS buses did you see during your morning commute today? According to Prince George’s County Public Schools administration, there are over 1,000 PGCPS drivers handling 5,000 bus routes to transport upwards of 85,000 students to and from school every day. This makes PGCPS the tenth largest school transportation system in the country.

Unfortunately  a large system combined with a nationwide shortage of qualified drivers with a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) has led to headaches for students, parents, PGCPS staff, and elected officials across Prince George’s County. It is a frequent topic for social media posts, emails, and Board of Education testimony. On February 6th, a parent testified about buses being so crowded that students resort to sitting in the aisle. Despite years of monthly hiring fairs, the shortage persists. Student enrollment has rebounded over the past decade and continues to grow. Four thousand new students enrolled in PGCPS since the September 30, 2019 report by Pupil Accounting. The growth in specialty program offerings also means more students are being transported beyond their neighborhood school.

On February 5th, the PGCPS Administration presented a briefing on Transportation to the Education and Workforce Development Committee of the Prince George’s County Council. Chief Operating Officer Barry Stanton, Associate Superintendent for Support Services Mark Fossett, and Director of Transportation Rudy Saunders provided the committee with an update on the current status of the PGCPS Transportation system, including current challenges and how the school system is working to overcome them.

Persistent vacancies and absences in PGCPS Transportation create a unique challenge. When a teacher is absent, there is a pool of substitutes or other school staff that can fill in. When someone on the executive team is absent, the work may wait for a day or two. Students who need to get to school, however, cannot be set aside. PGCPS does not have a pool of substitute bus drivers. Lot foremen with CDLs can fill in but that leaves offices unattended. Other bus drivers pick up the extra routes, but they do not have the ability to be in multiple places at the same time. As a result, students are late and missing out on instruction every day.

In tackling this ongoing issue, PGCPS Chief Executive Officer Dr. Monica Goldson established a Transportation Task Force this past fall. Composed of staff and parents, the Task Force has met three times so far and is set to finish their work in March of 2020. They expect to provide Dr. Goldson with preliminary proposals by the end of February.

Continue reading

Get Informed About This Year’s Operating Budget: Q & A Meeting on Jan. 22

Copy of Yellow Finance Money Accounting Photo Wattpad Cover

Budget season for Prince George’s County Public Schools is in full swing. The CEO’s proposed operating budget for Fiscal Year 2021 is now available on the PGCPS website. If you don’t have time to read the whole budget, consider reading the introduction, which includes specific changes in expenditures compared with last year’s budget (p. 15-17), as well as information on capital improvement projects (p. 19-23).  A less-detailed  Budget in Brief document is also available.

Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools (PGCABS) is hosting, in collaboration with PGCPS staff, a question and answer session about the proposed operating budget on Wednesday, January 22, 6:00-7:30 pm at Ernest Everett Just Middle School. This will be an excellent opportunity for interested residents to pose questions to the PGCPS budget office staff about the proposed operating budget in order to be more prepared for advocacy at the Board of Education Public Hearings.  Questions may also be submitted in advance to PGCABS at https://tinyurl.com/2021budgetquestions to allow the staff time to prepare specific answers and tailor their presentation to community concerns.

 

The Board of Education has scheduled three public hearings around the county to solicit community input regarding the CEO’s proposed budget. These hearings will be held on January 21 at Northwestern HS, January 28 at Charles H Flowers HS, and February 4 at Crossland HS, all at 7 pm. In addition, February 11 is on the Board calendar as a possible make-up date, should any event be canceled by inclement weather.

To sign up to speak at the hearings, call the BOE office at 301-952-6115, or sign up online. Generally, each speaker is allowed three minutes for public comment, although the Board may reduce the amount of time allowed if there is a large number of speakers registered. Individuals are also encouraged to bring a hard copy of their remarks to submit for the record.

Facebook event page for this year’s Budget Q & A: https://www.facebook.com/events/847007482416112/

Notes from last year’s (FY 2020) Budget Q&A: https://pgcabs.org/2019/01/23/notes-from-pgcps-budget-qa-session/

School Budget Questions Answered from 2019: https://pgcabs.org/2018/03/10/prince-georges-schools-budget-questions-answered-for-fy-2019/

Prince George’s County Education Community Roundtable Meets Monthly

Roundtable

Prince George’s County Education Community Roundtable is a group of residents, teachers, and community leaders created to form an alliance to support education in our county. The group meets monthly to discuss issues surrounding education in our community. Together, we can find solutions and get results on how to address these issues.

Education Roundtable Profile:

The Education Roundtable uses evidence-based research to address education issues within the community and implements those tools to develop solutions.

Goals:

• Meet Monthly to address issues and work together to create solutions.
• Give every member a voice to share ideas and together work to help solve issues.

Monthly meetings are usually held on the last Wednesday of the month. However, December’s meeting will be held on December 18, due to the holiday.

Join the Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/pgeducationroundtable/

Send us an email: Chair Anthony Tilghman anthonytilghman@gmail.com

Maryland Report Cards: What Should a Parent Know?

by Lori Morrow

On December 3rd, the Maryland State Department of Education released the 2019 Maryland Report Card ratings for all of the public schools in the state.  The Maryland Report Card is the accountability system that aligns with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Screen Shot 2019-12-11 at 9.19.39 PM

Here are a few highlights and links to help you understand the ratings and use this information to improve your school:

  1. 2019 is the second year that the Maryland Report Card ratings have been published, however there are additional items added this year, including performance on science tests; school improvement since 2018; and the school survey by students and educators. https://reportcard.msde.maryland.gov/HelpGuides/ReportCard_New_2019_v4a.pdf
  1. Maryland Report Card scores are available for each school at https://reportcard.msde.maryland.gov. In addition, there is an overall Report Card for each county although there is no star rating assigned at the county level.
  1. Each school receives a percent of the total points earned; a percentile ranking compared to other schools; and an overall star rating based on the point percentage. The Report Card breaks down the score by individual lines so that stakeholders can see how various factors impacted the overall score. The MSDE Guide to Understanding Your 2019 Maryland School Report Card goes into greater detail on how to interpret scores at each school level: https://reportcard.msde.maryland.gov/HelpGuides/MSDE_ReportCard_UserGuide_2019_v5.pdf
  1. The Maryland School Survey is worth 15 points of the 35-point School Quality and Student Success indicator. It is administered to all students in grades 5-11 and all educators. https://reportcard.msde.maryland.gov/HelpGuides/ReportCard_School_Survey_2019_v4.pdf
  1. Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) scores are incorporated into the Report Card in the Academic Achievement and Academic Progress components. Spring 2019 was the last year that Maryland administered the PARCC test for Math and English Language Arts (ELA), and the state is currently in the process of developing new tests that will take less time than the previous PARCC tests. View the October 2019 MCAP Update here: http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/stateboard/Documents/10222019/TabF-MdComprehensiveAssessmentProgram.pdf
  1. Want to hear more directly from MSDE? The slides and video of the presentation at the State Board of Education are available online. This portion of the meeting starts around the 42-minute mark. http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/stateboard/Pages/meeting-agendas/2019/2019-12-03.aspx

Continue reading