Billy Bridges Discusses Appointment Priorities for Schools CEO and Board of Education

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In advance of the June 26 election primary election, Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools (PGCABS) sent the following question to all ten County Executive candidates.

What criteria will you use in filling the position of PGCPS CEO and the appointed positions on the Board of Education? Please be specific about what sort of people you will seek for these positions and whether or not you will replace the current board members.

Here is the response from Billy Bridges (Dem):

I pray all is well! I was so excited to receive your email and could hardly wait to sit down and respond. First, let me say that I have been employed with the Prince Georges County Public Schools for the past 20 years. I have been a para-professional educator, a classroom teacher, performed administrative duties, and currently with the IT Department. I said all of that to preface that I have seen all of the turmoil and disorder that is robbing our students of an excellent educational experience, demoralized staff, and left our school system at the mercy of the state or other forces. In fact, I will attach a letter that was sent in March 2013 to all of our elected and appointed officials that have a hand in educational decisions, before this current state of confusion with a hybrid board.

I have made it clear that my desire is to have a plan in place that includes a revamped curriculum; reorganization of and elimination of unnecessary departments; accelerated school construction; limiting class sizes to 25 or less; making special education self-contained in each school; bringing order, integrity, and compassion to our school system; instituting better security measures; demanding consistency in all that we do; requiring pay equity for employees; wiping out nepotism and corruption; and offering full accountability and transparency at all times. These are the initiatives and values that I will demand in any new Superintendent. I will request the State to change the governance structure back to a Superintendent and a fully elected Board of Education. There is no need for the title of CEO. The new Superintendent will not be required to create a plan, because we will already have a plan in place.

I have already called for the resignation of the Board Chair and appointed members. In addition, I will seek the resignation of the deputies and directors that serve on the Superintendent’s Executive Council. Many of these people are part of the problem in our school system. We need a fresh start and a half-hearted effort will not work. The people I will appoint must possess the same character traits and values that I mentioned for the Superintendent. These citizens must be dedicated to education, have a compassion for students and staff, and possess the highest levels of integrity and character with no conflicts of interest. The members will not be required to have any high level of degrees. We just want people that care and act selflessly to improve our schools!

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Angela Alsobrooks Discusses Appointment Priorities for Schools CEO and Board Members

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In advance of the June 26 election primary election, Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools (PGCABS) sent the following question to all ten County Executive candidates.

What criteria will you use in filling the position of PGCPS CEO and the appointed positions on the Board of Education? Please be specific about what sort of people you will seek for these positions and whether or not you will replace the current board members.

Here is the response from Angela Alsobrooks (Dem):

I think it is important that people understand the process for selecting the new CEO of our school system because the County Executive does not have sole authority over this. The way the legislation guiding this process calls for the Governor to appoint a task force to conduct the initial search. At the conclusion of that process, the top three candidates are forwarded to the County Executive who then chooses from those people.

When looking at the three people who are chosen by the task force, I will look for people who have achieved results wherever they have been. I am not as concerned about the qualifications on someone’s résumé, but rather I want to see tangible accomplishments that have been achieved where they have been. I want to choose someone who has made a school system more transparent and accountable, while also focusing heavily on students, teachers and parents. I want a person who is here to help educate our children, not someone who is focused on adults or any power or prestige that comes with the position.

In making the selection, I also feel it is important to include all stakeholders, to include the Board of Education, the County Council and the leadership of our delegation in Annapolis. The CEO needs to understand that they may report to the County Executive, but they are accountable to everyone. This includes administrators, teachers and parents, so I would like to find a way to include them in the process as well, at least to hear exactly what they would like to see in the next CEO.

When it comes to appointing Board members, I will look for the same qualities in them. I want people who are as passionate about educating our children as I am. I want people who are more concerned with student performance and teacher pay than they are with trying to settle a score or get one up on another Board member.

We need a major culture change within our school system and it must start at the top and filter all the way to the classroom. To do that, we need leadership that is focused on children, teachers and parents, not on adults and who has the power. Only by doing this will we ensure that our children have the resources they need to learn, our teachers are paid appropriately, and we have the resources to ensure our children are ready to learn when they walk through the door and they are in a safe environment.

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Paul Monteiro Discusses Appointment Priorities for Schools CEO and Board Members

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In advance of the June 26 election primary election, Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools (PGCABS) sent the following question to all ten County Executive candidates.

What criteria will you use in filling the position of PGCPS CEO and the appointed positions on the Board of Education? Please be specific about what sort of people you will seek for these positions and whether or not you will replace the current board members.

Here is the response from Paul Monteiro (Dem):

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the question.

A record of collaborative leadership — It’s important to identify a track record of working with a range of stakeholders and the courage to engage in the hard work of bringing diverse voices together and identifying a common vision accessible to all. PGCPS has become more balkanized with the hybrid Board of Education, the CEO, and various stakeholder groups of teachers, paraprofessionals, support staff, etc. There are no easy answers or quick fixes and the next head of PGCPS has to be prepared and comfortable building trust and modeling transparency to build relationships and generate buy-in as we identify a way forward for all.

Openness to innovation — Based on the “Together for Tomorrow” approach we pursued through President Obama’s Department of Education, it’s important to have someone who sees the surrounding neighborhood and broader ecosystem that’s needed to support our schools holistically. With the proper controls in place to ensure student safety at all levels, federal agencies, private sector employers, faith-based and non-profit organizations, community groups, etc. need to be leveraged in supporting the range of needs of our teachers, students, and staff. Many of the “inside the beltway” schools and others with high percentages of ELL and/or those on free/reduced lunch would be our first priority. Student safety is paramount. Period. With careful planning to build real and reasonable protections, we can move away from a fear-based/risk-averse status quo that inhibits the innovation that would allow our principals and teachers to engage broader parts of the “village” we need to deliver the world-class education we often talk about.

Integrity — PGCPS has seen a stunning lack of integrity by some associated with the system including a prior superintendent. In addition to supporting my call for an independent Inspector General, the new head of our schools should model integrity in all of their dealings and have no hint of scandal in any of their past positions. The way forward for our school system requires no less given the trust deficits that have built up over time because of broken promises and empty rhetoric.

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Middle School Talented and Gifted Programs Need Improvement

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The views expressed are the author’s own and do not represent the views of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.

by Khadija Bowen

My daughter wakes up at 6:30 every morning. She gets herself ready for school but she does not have to do much, because she has to wear a uniform — plain khaki pants and plain green polo shirt. She cannot make her hair fancy because the school dress code says headbands and other accessories that make her an individual are strictly prohibited. Before she runs out of the house, she grabs her mesh backpack and goes to her bus stop at 7:45. This school only allows clear or mesh backpacks for the children’s own protection. On her hour-and-a-half long bus ride, she must wear ear phones and play music to drown out the chaos and drama around her.

She hopes there will not be a fight, but she cannot tell because of all the noise and horseplay that is happening around her. She gets to school and keeps her head down because that was the advice she was given from older friends that also attended this school. “Keep your head down, try to ignore the drama and stay close to a few good friends,” they told her. Even though there are cameras everywhere, watching their every movement, somehow violence is still prevalent and random locker searches are still necessary. So she continues to follow the instructions and walk to her class hoping there will not be any drama today, but she has lost confidence that this advice will prove useful.

She used to be confident that her inside knowledge was key to navigating the hallways and common areas at this school, but that was prior to her good friend being trampled during an altercation that she was not a part of. Her friend was sent home from school and needed medical attention due to the incident. The young girl returned to school the next day with a boot on her foot. My daughter and her friends followed the instructions but my daughter’s friend still got hurt. Now my daughter wonders, “Will I be next?”

Today, she gets to her classes unscathed, but she is only partially stimulated because either she has a substitute or her teachers are so burnt out that they have lost the enthusiasm to develop stimulating lesson plans. She has had a substitute in English for most of the year, so she knows there won’t be much to do in that class, but she focuses on the instruction as much as she can and completes whatever she is tasked to do. In the past, math has been so unengaging that she and her friends paint their nails or just have side conversations to get through that class period. Finally, the day is nearly complete. After the last bell rings, she finds her iPod again, puts in her earphones, and prepares herself for the hour-and-a-half ride home.

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Upcoming Election Deadlines

IMG_2622by T. Carter Ross

As you may have noticed, there are a number of contested elections on the ballot in Prince George’s this June. Early voting starts on June 14 and runs through June 21 (10 am to 8 pm each day). A full list of early voting locations can be found here: https://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/DocumentCenter/View/11692/Early-Voting-Sites-PDF.

The Primary Election is June 26 (7 am to 8 pm). You can check to make sure you are registered and look up your primary day polling location here: https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/VoterSearch

If you are unable to make it to the polls to vote, you can request an absentee ballot online here: https://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/965/Absentee-Ballots

Because of Maryland’s closed primary system, if you wish to vote in the Democratic primary, you must be registered as a Democrat The same holds true if you wish to vote in the Republican primary, you must be registered as a Republican. Voters registered with a third-party, as independent, and/or as unaffiliated will be able to vote on school board candidates, but not any other races. If you are not registered as a Democrat and wish to vote, for example, in the County Executive or County Council races, you can change your party affiliation to Democrat by updating your information online: https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/OnlineVoterRegistration. It takes about five minutes and you will need your driver’s license as part of the process.

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With a New County Executive, What Comes Next for PGCPS?

100_3401by T. Carter Ross

Nine Democrats and one Republican are running for Prince George’s County Executive, and no matter who is elected, one of their first tasks will be exercising their responsibility for overseeing the county’s public school system. Regardless of public statements in favor or in opposition to HB 1107, because it and the hybrid school board it authorized remain the rule of the land, the next County Executive will continue to exercise great authority over PGCPS and will have the ability to shape school systems’ leadership through their appointments.

Over the next four years, the County Executive will most likely have the opportunity to name a new CEO for Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), appoint three people to the Board of Education, and name the Board of Education’s Chair and Vice Chair. However, the new County Executive cannot simply clear house; there are limits on these appointment powers.

Selecting the next PGCPS CEO

The process for selecting the CEO was set out in HB 1107 and codified as §4–201.1 in the Education Article of the Code of Maryland. This subsection, §4–201.1, applies only to Prince George’s County, but it is based on and largely parallels §4–201 (which governs all other county public school systems in Maryland) and §4–301 (which governs the public school system in Baltimore City).

The County Executive does not have an unrestricted right to name the PGCPS CEO. Under §4–201.1(c)(1), a three-person committee consisting of two residents of Prince George’s County appointed by the governor and chaired by a member of the Maryland State Board of Education appointed by the Maryland State Superintendent of Schools must recommend three candidates for the CEO position. It is from this list of three candidates that the County Executive choses the CEO.

After a CEO is selected, the Chair of the Board of Education is charged with negotiating a contract for the CEO’s term. The selection and contract must then be approved by the Maryland State Superintendent of Schools. If a contract is reached and the appointment approved, the CEO is in place for a four-year term, beginning on July 1.

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Q & A with Lupi Grady, District 2 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. 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.

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