Notes on the Jan 19 Board of Education Meeting

by Laura Rammelsberg

To view the agenda for the January 19th Board Meeting in BoardDocs, go here.

Board Members Dr. Segun Eubanks (chair), Dr. Beverly Anderson, and Dinora Hernandez were not present.

At 5:13 in the video. Elimination of Creative Writing Program at Hyattsville Middle School next year is being discussed, and many members of the public were present to show their support for the program. Families are in the dark about why the decision is being made and came to get some answers. The BOE Member representing that school’s district is not present. Disagreement amongst board members whether to add it as a discussion item this evening. Many BOE members expressed concerns that more information is needed and discussions need to take place with the Administration before it is discussed at a BOE Meeting.

At 15:25. Motion to put Elimination of Creative Writing Program on as a discussion item, proposed by Juwan Blocker.
4 yes, 7 no. Motion not passed.

At 18:02. Video shown celebrating the arts integration program in PGCPS. PGCPS is the only school system with an Arts Integration Office.

At 23:16. BOE Member Wallace commended Head of Security Services Rex Barrett and his handling of incident outside of Suitland High School last Friday. He also publicly thanked Barack Obama Elementary School and three students received a certificate of recognition for the help they provided 1,000 homeless children in the community with care packages that students collected and made.

At 28:52. Report of the Chair (Boston)

Whitehall Elementary received MD State Department of Education EGATE School Award which recognizes Gifted and Talented Programs (click here). She congratulated the school.

Sign up for Text Alerts for Weather Delays / Closures.

Series of public hearings on FY2018 Budget:

  • Jan 24 Charles Flowers HS Work Session 5:00 pm / Public Hearing 7:00
  • Jan 31 NW High School Work Session 5:00 pm / Public Hearing 7:00
  • Feb 7 Oxon Hill High School Work Session 5:00 pm / Public Hearing 7:00
  • Feb 22 Next BOE Work Session. 

At 33:52. Report of the CEO

Discover PGCPS event highlighted showcase of Immersion and Art Schools at Eleanor Roosevelt HS.

Eight High School Students received a full Scholarship to College.

Jan 23 6:30 – 8:30 Budget Walk Through for parents at Ernest Everett Just Middle School. No RSVP is required. Spanish interpreters will be available. 

At 35:57. BOARD COMMITTEE REPORTS

Identified top 5 budget priorities for FY2018:

  • Early Start – Pre/ K
  • Expansion of teaching staff
  • Literacy and Math
  • Transportation / Bus Drivers
  • More Maintenance Workers

PUBLIC COMMENT ON AGENDA ITEMS – 2 Speakers

At 40:40. Accokeek Academy Parent. Proposed boundary changes to school. Consensus approach is Option B that was presented to CEO which would create new K-8 school. The CEO is proposing to move forward with Option A – changing boundaries. Community does not agree.  It does not make Accokeek Academy a K-8 school. Having feeder schools defeats the main purpose of the school. Ms. Williams tried to find a plan the community would be happy it, which is Option B. The boundary changes splits Accokeek neighborhoods – some away from the Academy. Asked CEO to choose Option B. Ft. Washington Elementary PTSA supports Option B as well. Need to find a new long-term solution (new school).

At 43:54. Ft. Washington Elementary School last renovation in 1969 – nearly 50 years ago.  School requires maintenance now.  Photos were sent to School District.   Why does it take half a year to paint and replace things in the school?  Minor fixes.  All 2016 / 2017 work orders should be done by 2018.

PUBLIC COMMENT ON NON-AGENDA ITEMS – 21 Speakers (comments are combined in some cases)

Beginning at 46:10. Hyattsville Middle School – Creative Writing Program 
Current students, including President of Student Council, spoke of their experience – students should be able to participate in the CPA Creative Writing programs. Creative Writing is the backbone for other arts. Students experience a level of writing and reading that they don’t in other classes. This program makes Hyattsville unique.  It’s not offered in other CPA schools; that is the reason they are told it is being taken away.

Many families have had positive experience at Hyattsville Middle School, especially with the refinement of CPA (and Creative Writing) program. Parents are drawn to the school because of that program and parents are upset it might be eliminated. Parents asking that the CPA major be continued.

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Thoughts After a Boisterous Hearing on School Closings and Boundary Changes

by Tommi Makila

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

The Prince George’s County Board of Education’s Public Hearing on Boundary Changes and Proposed School Consolidations on February 23, 2016 was an amazing and wild affair. If you were not able to attend the hearing, you may view a recording of it online.

The hearing was eye opening and thought provoking. The issues that generated the most comments were the proposed closures of Forestville High School and Skyline Elementary, as well as boundary changes in the Accokeek and Fort Washington areas.

As I was sitting at the hearing, many thoughts came to mind. It is hard to organize those feelings into a chronological narrative, so I am providing the following rather random list of thoughts:

  • CEO Kevin Maxwell did not attend the hearing. Yet, since 2013, when the school board was restructured (see Maryland House Bill 1107), it is the CEO — not the Board of Education — who has authority to close schools. Moreover, it was the CEO who introduced these proposals for school consolidations and boundary changes (see p. 17 of this document) to the Board of Education. It was a surprise not to see him there.
  • Sometimes people power works! The hearing was one of the most powerful public hearings I have ever attended—powerful enough to push the BOE to postpone all boundary decisions until next year. But residents and parents only seem to get involved when these kinds of drastic problems come up, issues that dramatically impact their children and families. In many ways this is natural, but we need to be engaged at other times too.
  • We need to keep the needs of our students first and foremost. The Skyline Elementary closure proposal was the most striking example of student needs getting lost in the shuffle. Skyline has a large population of autistic kids, and parents convincingly argued that the school provides high-quality services for them. Testimony from the Skyline parents was heartbreaking. It is obvious that we must find a way to maintain the existing special services for these kids.
  • Schools are important for communities. When we are looking at school closures or major boundary changes, we must work with the impacted communities and always try to find community solutions. Try to keep Accokeek students in Accokeek, Ft. Washington kids in Ft. Washington, Forestville in Forestville, and so forth. I believe that for local schools, strong community support and school pride are factors in their success.
  • When looking at school closures and boundary changes, central office personnel comes up with solutions that look fine on their spreadsheets and maps. But they may not be such great solutions for the people impacted. It is the responsibility of the CEO and Board of Education (BOE) members to work with communities to really understand all the issues and find the best solutions.
  • The process for handling these issues—school closures and major boundary changes—must be longer. While some community hearings on these issues were held in early December 2015, no specific plans were shared at that time. The first time actual proposals were made public was when the CEO presented his recommendations at the January 21 BOE meeting. The public hearing was held on February 23, and the BOE vote was originally scheduled for February 25. Considering the impact these changes have on communities, the process must be much longer and entail significant outreach and collaboration with local communities.

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Board Votes to Postpone Decision on Boundary Changes

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

It was standing room only at last night’s public hearing on the proposed boundary changes, school closings, and grade reorganizations. At three and a half hours, the meeting lasted so long that video of the proceedings was posted in two separate parts on PGCPS’s Youtube channel.

You may watch Part 1 here (the first three hours) and Part 2 (the last thirty minutes) here.

After nearly two hours of testimony, Board Member Verjeana Jacobs (District 5) made a motion to postpone the voting on the boundary changes — originally scheduled for February 25th — until this time next year. (Watch Ms. Jacobs’s motion and the ensuing discussion beginning at 1:51 in Part 1 of the video.) The motion was met with loud, sustained applause from the audience, with many in the crowd rising from their seats. Though opposed by Board Chair Segun Eubanks, the motion carried with a near-consensus. The item appears to have been removed from the agenda for the February 25th meeting. After the vote on the motion to postpone the meeting, public testimony continued for the next one and a half hours.

Alternatives to School Closings: One Resident’s View

The following is written testimony submitted by community member and longtime youth advocate Denise Joseph in advance of tonight’s Public Hearing on the proposed boundary changes, and school consolidations. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.

Greetings,

I would like to provide some ideas and suggestions as testimony for upcoming school decisions to be considered to help improve schools:

I would like to see PGCPS apply for grants to renovate and improve schools. Some grants to be considered are from the Gates Foundation, Microsoft, U.S. Department of Education or other organizations that specialize in grants for CIP funding.

I propose that Fort Washington Forest Elementary should become an ESOL or Spanish Immersion School to help populate the school so that it does not have to be part of the consolidation plan. I think that you should also consider a home school partnership program to help with the under enrollment, since the home school population is high in this area.

Please consider creating a middle years program at Stephen Decatur Middle to help with the enrollment and reduce the overcrowding of nearby schools.

I would like to see the creation of a 6-12 grade model, secondary school at Friendly High School, similar to Hayfield Secondary in Fairfax County Public Schools

Bring back the military academy to Forestville High School and make it a military career academy and partner with several branches of the military and possibly Andrews Air Force base. You can also partner with colleges that specialize in the military like VMI and Navy to encourage high school graduation and help students to become college and career ready. This will help with enrollment but will also help capture a portion of the students that might not go directly to college after graduation or drop out before graduating. This in turn will help the Prince George’s economy and tax base and provide hope to students that feel hopeless and trapped, because they feel like their only option is college.

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The December School Boundaries Community Discussion

by Natalie Barnes

On December 15, 2015, I attended the Community Discussion on School Boundaries, Modernization, and Consolidation held at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville.  The meeting consisted of three parts: a PowerPoint presentation by district personnel, small group discussion to share concerns and to brainstorm potential solutions, and brief presentations by each group to share the highlights of their discussion.

The PowerPoint presentation by district personnel reviewed the Educational Facilities Master Plan and the Capital Improvement Program.  Pupil Accounting and School Boundaries then shared information about funding, enrollment trends, concerns about current facility usage, and potential solutions to consider.

The small group discussions focused around the following:

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Speak up About Proposed Boundary Changes

In a news release dated Friday, February 19th, Prince George’s County Public Schools announced a public hearing about proposed school boundary changes and consolidations. The public hearing will be hosted by the Board of Education on Tuesday, February 23rd at 7 pm, in the Board room of the Sasscer Administration Building.

To register to speak at the meeting, sign up by calling 301-952-6300 before 4:30 p.m. the day of the hearing. Speakers will be limited to three minutes.

The CEO’s recommendations include consolidating Forestville High School into Suitland High School and consolidating Skyline Elementary School into William Beanes Elementary. It is also proposed that the 6th grade at certain K-6 elementary schools be reassigned to the feeder middle schools. The Board of Education will vote on the CEO’s proposed boundary changes at its February 25th meeting.

Keep reading to find more specifics about the boundary changes, consolidations, and grade  reorganizations that are on the table. Scroll to the end to find links to documents with more details about the proposed changes.

Recommended Changes:

New feeder pattern. Assign all Calverton Elementary School students to Martin L. King Jr. Middle School for grades 6-8. Currently, Calverton students feed into Buck Lodge Middle School, which is over capacity. Martin L. King Jr. has open seats.

Consolidations. Consolidate Forestville High School into Suitland High. Consolidate Skyline Elementary School into William Beanes Elementary. Assign 6th grades from both schools to Drew-Freeman Middle School.

Accokeek Area Boundary Changes. 

  • Change the boundaries of Accokeek Academy so that some neighborhoods are reassigned to Fort Washington Forest Elementary School and Gwynn Park Middle School.
  • Fort Washington Forest Elementary students will feed into Gwynn Park Middle and Gwynn Park High School.
  • Potomac Landing Elementary School will feed into Gwynn Park Middle and Gwynn Park High, instead of Accokeek Academy and Friendly High.

Grade adjustments. For the following elementary schools, the 6th grade will be reassigned to the feeder middle school:

Francis S. Key Elementary, Longfields Elementary, William Beanes Elementary, Ardmore Elementary, Kingsford Elementary, Cora L. Rice Elementary, Highland Park Elementary, Rose Valley Elementary, Flintstone Elementary, Glassmanor Elementary, Oxon Hill Elementary, Valley View Elementary

Read more:

Find the January 21st presentation to the Board of Education on the proposed boundary changes here: School Boundaries Board Presentation 2016 (1)

Find the community discussions on school boundaries, consolidations, and modernizations presentation here: Community Discussions Presentation (12-14-15)