Q & A with Raaheela Ahmed, District 5 Board of Education Candidate

Lamp Left Media-92 (2)This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2020 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Raaheela Ahmed is a candidate from District 5 (see district map here) running in the November 3 general election. Ms. Ahmed 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 am running for the Board of Education because I avidly want to create a better educational foundation for the youth of Prince George’s County. As a lifelong Prince Georgian, District 5 resident, millennial, and K-12 product of PGCPS, I am highly committed to the success of our community, and feel that I have the necessary skills to propel us forward:

  • I have a passion for education and learning. I am currently working for a nonprofit that focuses on institutionalizing civic engagement with college students.
  • I am a meticulous worker, and am steadfast in bringing issues to light, even if it is unpopular.
  • I work hard to listen to my community, and do what is in the best interest of our kids.
  • I am unbought by other politicians. My campaigns have all been strong grassroots efforts; I have never received nor depended on political establishment support for electoral success.
  • I have degrees in Finance & Economics: an asset when it comes to analyzing and amending our $2+ billion budget.

What do you believe are the most important characteristics of an effective school board?

An effective school board is one where its members land on common ground: the success of children & young people. It is one where vision and mission supersede politics. It is one whose leadership is dynamic and infectious, even precedent setting.

Essentially, an effective Board of Education goes beyond the job description. The job of a school board is to oversee the system’s superintendent, pass policies and affirm a budget for the school district, but individual members assuming the roles of advocates and activists is what sets the board as a leadership body.

To me, that means board members that:

  1. Come prepared to board meetings with questions that hold our system accountable
  2. Respond empathetically to community needs and requests
  3. Stay present in the community at different events and activities
  4. Spread information and sharing knowledge in a transparent way
  5. Offer opportunities for people to access power, and engage in the civic process

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Elections 2016: Ahmed, Burroughs, Eubanks, Wallace, Murray Win Board Seats

Five seats on the Prince George’s County Board of Education were up for grabs in today’s general election. Incumbents Edward Burroughs (Dist. 8), K. Alexander Wallace (Dist. 7), and Patricia Eubanks (Dist. 4) successfully defended their seats on the Board, while Raaheela Ahmed won the open seat in District 5. David Murray ran unopposed for the District 1 seat, after his opponent moved out of state.

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

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Q & A with District 5 Board of Education Candidate Cheryl Landis

image_cherylLandisThis is part of an ongoing series of interviews with PGCPS Board of Education candidates. Cheryl Landis is a candidate from District 5 (see district map here). Ms. Landis 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.

For the past 37 years, I’ve been an active volunteer, community organizer, and servant leader in Prince George’s County. I made a deliberate and decisive decision well over 10 years ago that upon my retirement from Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), I would transition to serve as an elected member of the Board of Education. On November 1, 2016, I will officially retire from PGCPS with 27 years of service. For 17 years (1989 to 2006) I served as the Executive Administrative Officer to the very same Board of Education I seek election to. During that time, I worked directly with numerous boards of education, both elected and appointed. For the past 10 years (2006 to present) I have served as the school system’s Strategic Business Partnerships Specialist, as well as Administrator for the Excellence in Education Foundation for PGCPS, Inc. I’ve also had the honor of serving as Chair of the Education Workforce Development Committee of the Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce. I was recently selected by Junior Achievement of Greater Washington to serve on the Junior Achievement Finance Park Prince George’s County Advisory Council.

Each and every step that I have taken over the past 37 years has successfully prepared me to serve as an elected member of the Board. I realize the awesome responsibility and commitment of time that will ultimately come with the position. I understand that the mission of the Board of Education is to advance the academic achievement of all students through community engagement, sound policy governance, accountability, and fiscal responsibility. Because of my many years of experience, I have a very clear and concise understanding of the role of a Board Member. I have already defined my scope and purpose for working collaboratively with the Administration and my colleagues as an elected member of the Board. I will hit the ground running!

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?

Challenge No. 1 — Family & Community Engagement: Family and community engagement are important components to the academic success of a student. That is why educating our youth must be viewed as a shared responsibility between the school system, parents, and students. As an elected member of the Board of Education, I will take a “grassroots approach” to effectively increase family and community engagement by implementing the following strategies in District 5 schools:

  • Beginning January 2017, I will meet individually and on an ongoing basis with District 5 principals and PTA/PTO to assess the needs of the District.
  • I will work with District 5 schools to establish a fully engaged, highly functioning PTA/PTO where none exist
  • I will attend monthly scheduled PTA/PTO meetings on a rotating basis. The goal is to encourage, motivate and inspire parents in their efforts to support their children academically.
  • I will work collaboratively with the respective school principal and the established PTA/PTO to develop partnerships with the business community, nonprofits, community organizations, etc., that will supplement and support the academic achievement of District 5 students. All partnerships will be established in accordance with Board Policy and PGCPS Administrative Procedures
  • I will work with the Administration to develop programs and services that will enhance and expand academic opportunities to ensure that our students will graduate from PGCPS College AND Career Ready.
  • I will seek to develop partnerships that will provide academic enrichment opportunities for students such as: After School Programs, Conflict Resolution and Mediation, Health Care, Wellness and Fitness, Dental Support, Literacy Support, Gang Prevention and Intervention, Internships, Youth Employment, Student Service Learning Opportunities, Tobacco Free, Alcohol Free, Drug Free, Mentoring and Tutoring, Parent Engagement, Tennis Education, Youth Development Engagement, etc.
  • I will create parent, family and community engagement opportunities through meetings, workshops, listening sessions, etc.
  • I will provide professional development training to District 5 PTA/PTO on the process of fundraising for donations both in-kind and monetary in accordance with Board Policy.
  • I will work to bring needed resources to District 5 schools.
  • I will produce a quarterly District 5 Newsletter which will include appropriate information from each District 5 school to keep parents informed and engaged.
  • I will host an annual event to bring District 5 schools together which will include workshops for parents and students, sharing of information sharing, opportunities for networking, invited guest speakers, games and activities, etc.

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Q & A with Raaheela Ahmed, District 5 Board of Education Candidate

img_1060This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with PGCPS Board of Education candidates. Raaheela Ahmed is a candidate from District 5 (see district map here). Ms. Ahmed 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.

My name is Raaheela, and I am a lifelong Prince Georgian and resident of Bowie who is a product of Prince George’s County’s public elementary, middle and high schools. I hold degrees from the University of Maryland in Finance and Economics. I am running for the school board because I feel that my current and fresh perspectives will have a positive impact on the District in improving student success. I believe in the potential of our students and will work hard to ensure that our students are not only college and career ready, but also culturally competent and globally competitive.

My professional experience as a federal financial consultant for the Department of Homeland Security, boardroom experience on the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, and volunteer work focused on enhancing the lives and education of our county’s students (America Reads*America Counts, Health Leads, Moneythink Maryland, and Court Appointed Special Advocate) enhance my effectiveness as your representative on the board. This is my second bid for the Prince George’s County Board of Education. In 2012, I came 3% shy of winning the general election after winning the primary election with the top number of votes. Over the course of my School Board races, I’ve canvassed over 10,000 homes, engaging parents, teachers, students and stakeholders in dialogue about our school system and ways to improve it. I’ve recently gained the endorsement of our teachers via the Prince George’s County Educators Association. Together we can ensure a bright future for our children and our communities!

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?

Community Engagement:

I believe in the statement: It takes a village to raise a child. This proverb highlights the need for collaborative effort in making change….the necessity of not one, but several caring individuals and institutions in human growth and development. K-12 education systems are grounds for this kind of development. Whether we like it or not, our schools are responsible for teaching hard subjects like math and science as well as intangible skills like work ethic and acceptable societal behaviors. It takes effort from all stakeholders in building our schools and our community. That is why efforts to encourage parental involvement in schools and develop partnerships with local universities and businesses are important to the progress of our schools and students. To encourage community engagement, I’d like to spearhead the establishment of active formal parent-teacher organizations in all schools, corporate partnerships to provide internship and other academic opportunities for our students, and personally engaging in community outreach as I have been doing on the campaign trail.

Transparency and Accountability:

Prince George’s County has a history of corrupt elected figureheads, mismanagement of money and general public distrust. In order to overcome these issues and thrive as a community, both transparency and accountability must be prioritized. I believe fiscal transparency is needed with the school budget so that individuals know not only how their taxpayer dollars are being spent, but whether that spending has a good return on investment given demographic metrics (test scores, graduation rates, etc.) I support having a thorough evaluation of our academic programs. Understanding what works and what doesn’t will allow PGCPS to align resources and funding efficiently and increase academic excellence. Additionally, I’d like to see more advanced technology use in sharing detailed information, similar to the UNC Data Dashboard.

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Party Politics, Exhibit A: Sample Ballots

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

2016 sample ballot mailer2

Last week, I eagerly listened to a segment on Kojo Nnamdi’s WAMU radio show that addressed our politicized school board elections. David Cahn, Co-Chair of Citizens for an Elected Board, and Cheryl Landis, District 5 Board of Education Candidate and Chair of the Democratic Central Committee for Prince George’s County were guests on the show.

At one point, Mr. Nnamdi seemed to understate—or even misstate—the concern that so many of us have about partisan meddling in our school board elections. Speaking to Cheryl Landis, Mr. Nnamdi said, “Mr. Cahn and presumably others are concerned that you make it clear in some of your campaigning that you are a Democrat.”

If Mr. Nnamdi thinks that simply stating one’s party affiliation sums up the problem with partisan campaigns for school board, he is sadly missing the point.

Among the campaign literature for April’s primary election was a mailer sent to District 5 residents touting County Executive Baker’s endorsed candidates. Note the “sample ballot” on page 2 (pictured above), with the banner at the top reading, “2016 Democratic Primary Sample Ballot, Take this with you when you vote.” Names of the preferred candidates are highlighted; names of the other candidates are printed so lightly that only those with sharp eyesight can read them.

When a school board candidate is presented on a sample ballot as the preferred choice (or, in this case, the only choice) of party leaders, it is nearly impossible for any other candidate to prevail. This is the kind of partisan meddling that has led many county residents to conclude that party leaders are stacking the board with hand-selected members, members who owe them their loyalty.


Elections 2016: Ahmed, Landis, Burroughs, and Hinton Prevail in Districts 5 and 8

Residents of Prince George’s County Board of Education Districts 5 and 8 had the opportunity to vote for a school board candidate in the Maryland primary election on Tuesday. The two candidates with the most votes will go on to the general election in November.

Here are the Maryland State Board of Elections‘s unofficial results for the two school board races:

District 5:

*Raaheela Ahmed, 36.5%

*Cheryl Landis, 30.6%

Jeana Jacobs, 22.8%

Robert Johnson, 10.1%

District 8:

*Edward Burroughs, III, 59.9%

*Stephanie Hinton, 25.3%

Carlton C. Carter, 14.8%

(*) Candidates will appear on the ballot in the general election.

In all, there will be five school board races in the general election this November. Candidates from Board of Education Districts 1, 4, and 7 did not participate in the primary election, because there are only two candidates vying for each seat in those districts. See the candidate listing on the State Board of Elections site for the full list of candidates for each district.

School board seats in Districts 2, 3, 6, and 9 will be up for election in 2018. For a map of the Board of Education districts, click here.

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Q & A with Robert Johnson, District 5 Board of Education Candidate

p11893ta105407_5Robert Johnson is one of four candidates from District 5 (see district map here) whose names will be on the ballot in the April 26th primary election. Mr. Johnson 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 are running for the Board of Education.

I have been a resident of Prince George’s County since 1994. I live in the city of Bowie with my wife and two daughters. Currently I serve as Campus Director at ITT Technical College in Springfield, VA. Previously I have served as a classroom teacher in Prince George’s county, administrator, principal, and various leadership positions in higher education for over 16 years. I have earned a certificate of completion of SUPES Academy Chicago with a focus on Urban School Leadership, Education Policy and Administration. I hold an advanced Graduate certificate in Educational Leadership and Supervision from the University of the District of Columbia, Masters of Education degree in Special Education at Bowie State University, and a Bachelors of Arts degree at State University of New York at Albany. However even with all my degrees in education, I realize it is now time to serve the community of which I have been a long time resident. I truly believe Prince Georges County Public Schools can accomplish great things in education with the right type of leadership. I am a new candidate, with new ideas, new direction and strong leadership.

What are your top three goals for PGCPS, and how do you plan to accomplish them if elected?

As candidate for District 5 School Board Member I am looking to accomplish many goals, however my top three goals are:

  1. Reduce classroom size
  2. Make our schools safer
  3. Improve college acceptance rates for all students

What experience do you have working with parents or parent organizations, and how will you increase parent engagement with the system? 

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