Making Advocacy More Effective

Printby Lori Morrow

After much feedback from constituents — including the Parent and Community Advisory Council — the Prince George’s County Board of Education’s Policy, Legal and Legislative Committee voted not to revise the Board Policy 8345 – Public Comment at this time. Board members acknowledged that the changes were being perceived as limiting public comment, and that this was not their intention. Instead, there is an understanding that many people speak at Board of Education meetings because they are not feeling heard elsewhere. That is something that the system needs to address.


I’ve been a PGCPS parent for nine years, including three years as a PTA/PTSO President, two years on a PTA/PTSO Executive Board, and this past year as a member of the Parent & Community Advisory Council.  I have found myself in front of the Board of Education more times than I can count, and I want to offer some suggestions for parents who are looking to be heard:

  1. Work with your school’s parent organization. Ask to add the issue of concern as a meeting agenda item, so that you canget input from other families. Members of your Parent Teacher Association/Organization (PTA/PTO) Board may have heard from other parents dealing with the same situation or may know if school staff is already working on a resolution.
  2. For PTA/PTO leaders, network with other parent organizations in your area. Find out if they have dealt with similar issues and how they have been able to resolve them.  PGCABS is a great resource to find out what is going on at other schools as well!
  3. Refer to the Ombudsman’s “Guide to Addressing Questions and Concerns”. Finding the right office may help solve your issue sooner.
  4. If you have thoughts on a Board of Education meeting agenda item, consider submitting your testimony to your Board of Education Member a day or two in advance of any vote. This allows the members time to review the information and follow-up with any questions for you or other PGCPS offices.
  5. Take advantage of opportunities to speak with members of the administration or Board of Education at community forums, Family Institute events, and public hearings.
  6. If you plan to speak at a Board of Education meeting as a group, coordinate your message and identify your strongest speakers. Bring other community members to support you in the audience, but often your points can be made with 2-4 speakers.
  7. Suggest a solution or a desired outcome whenever possible. You may have insight or a fresh perspective that members of the administration or Board of Education may not have considered.
  8. When you do speak during the public comment portion of a board meeting, be concise and direct. Respect the time limits and Board of Education guidelines to keep the process running smoothly. Showing that we understand and respect the process will help keep it available as an avenue for engaging school leadership.

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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 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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Democratic Central Committee Decides Not to Endorse BOE Candidates

By Tommi Makila

At a rather contentious and chaotic meeting on September 20, 2016, the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee voted against making endorsements in the general election races for the Board of Education (BOE).

At the previous Central Committee meeting—held on July 19, 2016—the school board endorsements had been on the agenda. The Committee had voted on the Democratic “sample ballot” as a whole, including candidates for congressional and BOE races as well as ballot questions. At the July meeting, sixteen Central Committee members voted for the sample ballot and eleven voted against it. Apparently Central Committee members had left the July meeting thinking that the sample ballot, including the BOE endorsements, had been approved. However, someone realized only after the meeting that the sample ballot approval required a two-thirds majority. Thus, it was determined that the vote on the sample ballot had failed.

At the September 20 meeting of the Central Committee, a motion was made to reconsider the July 19 vote on the sample ballot. The motion to reconsider failed. After this, two new motions related to sample ballots were made, but the Committee Chair ruled the motions out of order.

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Notes on the Sept. 8th Board of Education Meeting, Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

by Laura Rammelsberg

To view the agenda for the September 8th Board of Education meeting in BoardDocs, go here. Video of the entire meeting is below.

See notes on the first portion of the meeting here.

AGENDA ITEMS, at 1:22:01.

4.1 Head Start Update / 11.2 Head Start Policy Council Minutes and Follow UP

CEO: On August 29, Head Start opened up for 2017 school year. Very few problems. Members of executive team visited every Head Start classroom in district and will continue to do so. In the summer, all Head Start staff received training on suspected child abuse and neglect and additional training for positive behavior techniques, which is requirement for Head Start. Trainings will continue throughout the year. Issues are being sent to Deputy Superintendents. Conducted several unannounced observations and will continue them throughout the school year. Discussions are underway with Administration for Children and Families, PGCPS administration, four school board members and members of the County Council. Special Section on PGCPS website with updates. Their priority is that Head Start children remain in school with no disruptions.

Questions, beginning at 1:24:34.

Mr. Blocker: What are next steps for Head Start Program? Clarity into the investigation. Internal investigation? How are you will inform the public? He is disappointed how the situation is being handled by administration.

CEO Response: We have been doing fact-finding and investigation, identified people who were a part of the original concerns. Also doing additional trainings and continuing conversation. There is an internal investigation. They will continue to update as additional information becomes available to them. Pieces of personnel investigations that can be public and others not. Taking action, but there are things that they cannot legally discuss in public about individual employees. There can be appeals to BOE (and some already have been appealed). “So I’m glad that you’re disappointed, Mr. Blocker, but you should wait until you have all the facts to be disappointed.”

Mr. Burroughs, at 1:28:50: What is being done to keep our students are safe? Original report from Federal Government mentioned there are cases that weren’t reported so what about the non-Head Start classes? Telling parents that policies have changed is not sufficient. Initial notice was sent to Administration in February. What actions were taken then? What corrective measures taken then?

CEO Response: We have been very clear publicly that we went through the entire process of retraining the staff over the past couple of months. Also, the Student Safety Task Force results are known, Board acted and changed policy. They have been evaluating the training since.

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Notes on the Sept. 8th Board of Education Meeting, Part 1

These notes cover the first hour and twenty minutes of the September 8th Prince George’s County Board of Education meeting, including the public comment portion of the meeting. Notes on the remainder of the meeting are here.

by Laura Rammelsberg

To view the agenda for the Board of Education meeting in BoardDocs, go here. Video of the entire meeting is below.

REPORT OF THE CHAIR, at 17:01 in the video

Attendance Awareness Month is September. Showing up is half the battle.

Buck Lodge Middle School Science Teacher Lazaro was selected for President Obama’s Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. She is among 212 educators from across the nation to win this award. She received a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation and a letter from President Obama.

Statement about Head Start Program, at 18:38: Board wants the Head Start students to continue to receive a high quality education and services this year and beyond. They recognize a close review and examination of what led to the situation must take place. Disciplinary actions were announced last week. This is a first step to keep students safe. They must provide full transparency into this situation. They must examine policies, procedures and actions, but also take stock at the underlying culture in the system and how it must be transformed. Dr. Maxwell and Administration have been asked to provide a full review and public written debriefing. He’s inviting the Federal Government’s Administration for Children and Families to address the Board of Education at an upcoming public meeting. Their external investigation shined light on an area in which we must clearly improve. The Board and Public should hear how they arrived at their conclusions and what solutions they offer.

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Notes on the August 25th Board of Education Meeting

by Laura Rammelsberg

To view the agenda for the August 25th Board Meeting in BoardDocs, go here.

 

At 3:33 in the video. Student Board Member Juwan Blocker called for a Motion (Emergency Item) to discuss Head Start; Jacobs seconded the motion to discuss Head Start. Chairman Eubanks said it should be an Agenda Item so that the CEO and Board have time to prepare. Request was denied.

MOTION: At 9:15. Board Member Burroughs requested a Federal & State External Investigation into Head Start Case. Motion required 2/3 majority vote.
Yes – Anderson, Blocker, Burroughs, Epps, Jacobs
No –Boston ?, Eubanks, Hernandez, Quinteros-Grady, Valentine, Chairman Eubanks
Abstain – Roche, Wallace, Williams
Motion failed.

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