Elections 2018: Thomas, Boozer-Strother, Queen, Williams Win Board Seats

Four seats on the Prince George’s County Board of Education were up for grabs in today’s general election. Challengers Joshua Thomas (Dist. 2) and Belinda Queen (Dist. 6) defeated incumbents, while Sonya Williams (Dist. 9) successfully defended her seat on the board. Newcomer Pamela Boozer-Strother won the District 3 seat left open after Dinora Hernandez declined to run for reelection.

Here are the Maryland State Board of Elections unofficial results for the four school board races in Prince George’s County:

DISTRICT 2:

Joshua Thomas, 57.1%

Lupi Grady, 42.6 %

DISTRICT 3:

Pamela Boozer-Strother, 56.0%

Juwan Blocker, 43.6%

DISTRICT 6:

Belinda Queen, 53.5%

Carolyn Boston, 46.0%

DISTRICT 9:

Sonya Williams, 65.5%

Arun Puracken, 33.7%

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Q & A with Pamela Boozer-Strother, District 3 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. Pamela Boozer-Strother is a candidate from District 3 (see district map here) running in the general election. Ms. Boozer-Strother answered questions generated by members of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools. An earlier version of the candidate’s responses to our questions was posted in May. The following are Ms. Boozer-Strother’s updated responses.

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?

Thank you to District 3 voters for placing me first in the Primary! The Board needs more parents that currently have children in our schools and our message clearly resonated at the doors and at the voting booth. PGCPS parents and teachers have been the core volunteers of my campaign and I am grateful for their support.

I am running for the Board of Education because District 3 needs a leader with organizational and financial management experience and is someone present in our District every day to advocate for children and families.

I was born in Prince George’s County and returned 13 years ago as a resident of Brentwood. At that time, I immediately became an active resident of community organizations and town committees focused on children, education and economic development.

I am now the parent of a 3rd grader at Mount Rainier Elementary and a dedicated activist who is determined to put children first as the District 3 representative on the PGCPS Board of Education.

I have been a voice of our District 3 community at Board of Education meetings for many years, advocating for equity in class size through a boundary change with Thomas S. Stone Elementary as well as increased investment in new school buildings, our dual-language immersion schools, second language learning options and social services.

I fully support the Board of Education Community School policy that will bring expanded heathcare and social services to our students and families in partnership with government and nonprofit organizations. This is critical opportunity to move our school system forward and I want to be a leader of this work.

I am a big believer in the power of the arts in education. I have contributed to raising more than $20,000 over the past three years to Mount Rainier and Thomas S. Stone Elementary Schools visiting artists programs. This year, I was awarded the Mighty Joe Impact Award from Joe’s Movement Emporium.

I served as a Board Member and President of the Gateway Community Development Corporation (Gateway CDC), which has driven the arts-centered economic revitalization of the Route 1 corridor. I have experience with building planning, budgeting and construction through my oversight of the Gateway Arts Center.

In my Gateway CDC leadership role, I worked successfully with elected officials at the municipal, county and state level to bring resources to the children of Prince George’s County. This is critical experience for the role as a Member of the PGCPS Board of Education. I am endorsed by Senate and Assembly leadership of the Maryland legislative districts that overlap with Board of Education District 3, including Senators Rosapepe (District 21) and Pinsky (District 22), and Delegates Jimmy Tarlau and Diana Fennell (District 47).

Having earned my MBA at American University while serving as the executive director of national association, I have strong fiscal management skills.

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Q & A with Irene Holtzman, District 3 Board of Education Candidate

IreneHolzman2018-73-minThis is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2018 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Irene Holtzman is a candidate from District 3 (see district map here) running in the June 26 primary election. Ms. Holtzman 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 was born in raised in Maryland, and have lived in Prince George’s County for over two decades. A proud graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, I’ve been working in public education for nearly twenty years – as a teacher, an administrator and an educational advocate. Prince George’s County schools are full of potential but the dynamics of power and politics are interfering with our ability to see that potential realized.

I am running for Board of Education because students, teachers, and parents deserve a board member who puts children at the center of their decision making.

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

  • Making Prince George’s County a world-class place to teach While there are a number of factors that contribute to student success, not one is more powerful than an excellent educator. How can we make Prince George’s County THE destination for amazing teachers in our region? We must make sure that compensation for teachers is competitive, that they have the resources they need in the classroom, and that their voice is heard, considered, and acted upon in their schools.
  • Centering community voices in decision making Our school system’s direction must be informed by those closest to it – our students, parents, and teachers. The lines of communication must be open and accessible to all. Instituting better structures and processes to ensure that these voices are elevated will lead to a school system that is better equipped to ensure students are successful.
  • Transparency and accountability Data regarding schools, school performance, finance, and anything else under the Board’s authority should be readily available in a format that is understandable by the general public. Only then will the community be able to independently assess the impact of their tax dollars on our County’s youth and hold the Board and leadership accountable.

What qualities do you believe are most important in a Chief Executive Officer?

The CEO must have a bold vision for the future of our County’s schools and a strategy for achieving that vision. This vision must be informed by the on-the-ground experiences of our students, parents, teachers, and administrators and the CEO must commit to transparent decision-making and data-informed course correction when necessary. The CEO must also have the practical skills of managing people, finances, and other resources to achieve the goals set out in the strategic plan. Most importantly, the CEO must have the ability to work across difference, balancing politics, pragmatics, and possibility across a wide range of stakeholders for the good of our students.

If you had the opportunity to chair one of the existing Board of Education committees, which would you choose and why?

If given the opportunity to chair one of the existing Board of Education committees, I would choose the Academic Achievement Committee. One, as a former teacher and administrator, it is the one where I have the most expertise. More importantly, academic achievement is the ultimate goal of our schools and the place where the board has an incredible responsibility to ensure that its policies are supporting schools in ensuring amazing outcomes for all students.

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? 

While there are many schools that enjoy high levels of parental engagement, we need to be mindful that our goal is for all parents to be engaged, not only in their child’s school, but in the vision setting and policy making for the County as a whole. Some ways to maximize that engagement include providing schools additional resources to engage their parents, holding board meetings at rotating locations throughout the County to facilitate parental participation, holding parent and community town hall meetings to allow an open forum for idea generation and exchange, and proactively surveying the community about what engagement opportunities are most meaningful and accessible to them.

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Q & A with Catherine Bennett Nwosu, District 3 Board of Education Candidate

Catherine Bennett Nwosu

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2018 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Catherine Bennett Nwosu is a candidate from District 3 (see district map here) running in the June 26 primary election. Ms. Nwosu 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?

My journey began as a K-12 student within the PGCPS system. I am a proud graduate of High Point HS and a first generation college graduate. During high school, I was inspired by my teachers to pursue education and graduated with my degree in English as a Second Language. I currently serve as Director of Extended Learning at a charter school network in Washington, DC, where I am responsible for afterschool programming across three elementary campuses. My daily responsibilities include staffing, compliance, budget, human resources, and curriculum.
I love the work I do currently, but I have continually seen the academic divide that exists in schools across our region. I’m tired of complaining about the challenges seen in my community and want to step up and work to bridge this divide in Prince George’s County. I know there is promise and potential here.

I am running for the Board of Education in Prince George’s County because of my concerns that we are not meeting the needs of ALL of our students in this district. Reforming our local schools is an urgent concern for me, especially since I myself am a mom with children in the school system. I want to push our thinking about the academic future of my children and children throughout our neighborhood because they deserve the absolute best everyday, and they are not receiving that now. But we can change that.

As a parent, I see how quickly our children grow both at home and in educational settings. We don’t have time to point fingers or make excuses. I’m ready to work collaboratively with parents, teachers, leaders, community members, students and board members to envision what we want to see in our schools, then work to make that a reality.

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

The three major areas that I’d like to focus on as a board member are academic equality, collaboration, and capital improvement. Far too many schools in District 3 are overcrowded and academically underperforming, and it must be fixed.

We have recently been approved for a new elementary and middle school to be built in our area. Leveraging Public and Private Partnerships (P3) will go a long way to ensure that our schools are built efficiently, with quality, and within budget. However, it is not enough to focus solely on new school buildings that have been approved. The CIP budget must also be simultaneously used to make needed repairs to our existing schools. It’s not enough to create new seats – we have to improve the quality of the ones we have too.

We also know that there has been a lot of new home construction in our area recently without any planning for creating additional seats for the children living there. I will work collaboratively with the county council to ensure systems across our government that speak to one another and get proactive about school capacity needs.

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