Q & A with District 4 Board of Education Candidate Abel Olivo

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with PGCPS Board of Education candidates. Abel Olivo is a candidate from District 4 (see district map here). Mr. Olivo 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.

I am a graduate of The Ohio State University with a degree in political science. I worked in government relations for many years on a variety of issues, most recently as the VP of a nonprofit that worked to increase homeownership. Now I’m a stay-at-home dad. I’m an active volunteer in my community. 

I could go on. But I won’t, because the key word in your question is “effective.”

The residents of District 4 deserve an effective member of the Board of Education. Here’s how I will be effective:

  1. I will show up. I will attend the Board of Education meetings. I will attend PTA meetings. I will attend community meetings. I will be present in our schools and in the community.
  2. I will be engaged. I will know the members of our community and they will know me.
  3. I will be responsive. If you contact me you will get a response. If you ask for help, I will help you. If you share an idea or concern, I will take that seriously.

The incumbent has been on the BOE for six years. She has, most recently, missed approximately 25% of BOE meetings. I hear over and over again from people who have never received a response from her. The Carraway and Head Start abuse happened in District 4 schools: Judge Sylvania Woods ES and H. Winship Wheatley Early Childhood Center. I have to wonder  if those parents and community members knew and had a relationship with their BOE member, would the abuse have come to light and been swiftly acted upon much earlier?   

The most important thing voters need to know about me is that I am the dad of two PGCPS students. Lucas is in 5th grade and Nathaniel is in 1st grade. I have been volunteering in our neighborhood school since Lucas was 2 years old. I will work hard for every single child in PGCPS as if they were my own.

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?

As a member of the Board of Education, my top priorities are the following:

  • Ensuring the safety of every single one of our children.
  • Increasing parent and community engagement with our schools.
  • Making the academic achievement of all students the focus of the School Board.

I will work with the community to address these priorities in the same manner listed above in question #1: by being present, engaged, and responsive.

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 allegations of sexual abuse are nothing short of appalling. That the teachers, staff, and administration at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary were not trained to spot suspect behavior is beyond ridiculous and borders culpable neglect. I cannot imagine how difficult it is for the students and their families to recover, though I suspect they will never fully recover. We have let down our children and have lost public trust.

On the whole, I support the findings of the Student Safety Task Force. One area that I feel needs to be emphasized are the procedures to immediately remove anyone who is accused. Once removed, Child Protective Services should conduct a thorough investigation in an expeditious manner. The Washington Post reported recently that the Head Start teacher who forced the child to mop was moved by PGCPS to a new school (also in District 4, by the way) rather than put on administrative leave or fired. That is absolutely unacceptable!

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