Get Informed About This Year’s Operating Budget: Q & A Meeting on Jan. 22

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Budget season for Prince George’s County Public Schools is in full swing. The CEO’s proposed operating budget for Fiscal Year 2021 is now available on the PGCPS website. If you don’t have time to read the whole budget, consider reading the introduction, which includes specific changes in expenditures compared with last year’s budget (p. 15-17), as well as information on capital improvement projects (p. 19-23).  A less-detailed  Budget in Brief document is also available.

Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools (PGCABS) is hosting, in collaboration with PGCPS staff, a question and answer session about the proposed operating budget on Wednesday, January 22, 6:00-7:30 pm at Ernest Everett Just Middle School. This will be an excellent opportunity for interested residents to pose questions to the PGCPS budget office staff about the proposed operating budget in order to be more prepared for advocacy at the Board of Education Public Hearings.  Questions may also be submitted in advance to PGCABS at https://tinyurl.com/2021budgetquestions to allow the staff time to prepare specific answers and tailor their presentation to community concerns.

 

The Board of Education has scheduled three public hearings around the county to solicit community input regarding the CEO’s proposed budget. These hearings will be held on January 21 at Northwestern HS, January 28 at Charles H Flowers HS, and February 4 at Crossland HS, all at 7 pm. In addition, February 11 is on the Board calendar as a possible make-up date, should any event be canceled by inclement weather.

To sign up to speak at the hearings, call the BOE office at 301-952-6115, or sign up online. Generally, each speaker is allowed three minutes for public comment, although the Board may reduce the amount of time allowed if there is a large number of speakers registered. Individuals are also encouraged to bring a hard copy of their remarks to submit for the record.

Facebook event page for this year’s Budget Q & A: https://www.facebook.com/events/847007482416112/

Notes from last year’s (FY 2020) Budget Q&A: https://pgcabs.org/2019/01/23/notes-from-pgcps-budget-qa-session/

School Budget Questions Answered from 2019: https://pgcabs.org/2018/03/10/prince-georges-schools-budget-questions-answered-for-fy-2019/

Maryland Report Cards: What Should a Parent Know?

by Lori Morrow

On December 3rd, the Maryland State Department of Education released the 2019 Maryland Report Card ratings for all of the public schools in the state.  The Maryland Report Card is the accountability system that aligns with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

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Here are a few highlights and links to help you understand the ratings and use this information to improve your school:

  1. 2019 is the second year that the Maryland Report Card ratings have been published, however there are additional items added this year, including performance on science tests; school improvement since 2018; and the school survey by students and educators. https://reportcard.msde.maryland.gov/HelpGuides/ReportCard_New_2019_v4a.pdf
  1. Maryland Report Card scores are available for each school at https://reportcard.msde.maryland.gov. In addition, there is an overall Report Card for each county although there is no star rating assigned at the county level.
  1. Each school receives a percent of the total points earned; a percentile ranking compared to other schools; and an overall star rating based on the point percentage. The Report Card breaks down the score by individual lines so that stakeholders can see how various factors impacted the overall score. The MSDE Guide to Understanding Your 2019 Maryland School Report Card goes into greater detail on how to interpret scores at each school level: https://reportcard.msde.maryland.gov/HelpGuides/MSDE_ReportCard_UserGuide_2019_v5.pdf
  1. The Maryland School Survey is worth 15 points of the 35-point School Quality and Student Success indicator. It is administered to all students in grades 5-11 and all educators. https://reportcard.msde.maryland.gov/HelpGuides/ReportCard_School_Survey_2019_v4.pdf
  1. Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) scores are incorporated into the Report Card in the Academic Achievement and Academic Progress components. Spring 2019 was the last year that Maryland administered the PARCC test for Math and English Language Arts (ELA), and the state is currently in the process of developing new tests that will take less time than the previous PARCC tests. View the October 2019 MCAP Update here: http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/stateboard/Documents/10222019/TabF-MdComprehensiveAssessmentProgram.pdf
  1. Want to hear more directly from MSDE? The slides and video of the presentation at the State Board of Education are available online. This portion of the meeting starts around the 42-minute mark. http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/stateboard/Pages/meeting-agendas/2019/2019-12-03.aspx

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Board of Education Meeting Highlights from Nov. 7

by Khadija Bowen

Chair Dr. Thornton showed video from robot visit to Flowers High school. The event was organized by an alum of the school who now works for the robotics company that created the technology. The robot, very lifelike, was a hit with the students. The purpose of the event was to promote digital literacy and careers in STEM.

Upcoming Hearings/Meetings:

  • Nov. 11 Policy and Governance
  • Nov. 12 Public Boundary Hearing
  • Nov. 14 Academic Achievement Committee
  • Nov. 21 Financial Affairs meeting

All  meetings/ hearings are open to the public and anyone can sign up to speak by phone or by email.

Dr. Goldson report and highlights:

The last of her community listening sessions wrapped up. School bus transportation challenges remain at the top of the list of issues. A task force will be formed to analyze arrival times, hubs, routes and departure times. Task force will consist of parents, school board members, PGCPS staff, and union reps. An interim report is due to the CEO in January and will address break fix resolutions that can be implemented immediately.

Note: Bus driver job fairs are held every other week.

Listening session for employees wrapped up. Key takeaways were compensation, support staff, professional development, and compensation for substitute teachers.

Dr. Goldson thanked the board for passing the public-private partnership to build 18 schools in 7 years. With the private funding obtained, schools will be built in record time. Normal time to build one school is 7 years.

Administration is still pushing to promote and implement the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission as well as the building fund. The two are not separate and will both be implemented.

Deadline for specialty school lottery is Nov. 15. IB and Performing arts lottery has been extended to Dec 1. Charter school lottery open and will close January 31st.

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What I Wish I Had Known About IEPs

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by Katie Moran

I wish I knew then what I know now.  My daughter’s superpower is dyslexia, or a specific learning disability in reading.  We’ve been working so hard to bring awareness this month in honor of #DyslexiaAwarenessMonth! She also has a diagnosis of dysgraphia, ADHD, and executive functioning disorder. 

I’m writing this for those parents at the beginning, the middle, and the end of the fight. If you’ve never been a parent in this fight, know that it’s intimidating and heartbreaking.  We need support and empathy. And I’m writing this to thank all the teachers that try to speak up but don’t have the resources to help in all the ways they want to; I know you are doing the best you can.  I’m writing this for the special education aides who listen and remind our kids that even though they are different, they are just as good as every other neurotypical kid.

Here are some tips I’ve found useful for a successful and productive Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting:  

  • Prepare: Request all test scores prior to the meeting.  This includes any standardized tests such as Student Learning Objectives (SLOs), Measures of Academic Progress for Reading (MAP-R), or Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA).  It could also be helpful to loop in the testing coordinator at your school when doing this. I find myself being caught off guard when this information is presented in the meeting (whether it be a shockingly low or high score) when school staff has had time to prepare. It’s also good to have all your child’s grades printed from the Schoolmax Family Portal the day you request the IEP meeting. I like to print them the week before the IEP meeting. That will allow you to identify inconsistencies if grades were input right before an IEP meeting, although you hope that would never be the case.  Ask who will be in attendance at the meeting. I always find this to be very important in my mental preparation. 
  • Listen:  This was a hard one for me to learn.  We all feel so passionate about our children and usually by the time we’ve requested our IEP/504 meeting, our kid has already been struggling in school for some time.  As parents, we have our own preconceived notions about our children, sometimes contrary to the information being presented in the meeting. However, it’s really important to take notes, fully listen, and ask follow up questions during the teacher’s presentation.  Working as a team is in the best interest of your child. You each have a unique perspective that together, has a lot to offer.
  • Evidence:  Keep your child’s school papers, and not just the bad ones.  I used to go to IEP meetings and it felt like teachers brought all of my child’s very best work and I brought all of my child’s worst work.  We were both proving a point. I have learned to bring work that I’m proud of and I bring a few pieces that highlight what I’d like to discuss about the IEP.
  • When you get overwhelmed: Ask for a minute.  It is okay to step out of that meeting and take a breath. Go outside. Call a friend and ask for advice if something doesn’t sound right.  Google it. Know your rights. It is okay to reschedule meeting if you have lost control. It is okay to cry.
  • Never sign your 504 or IEP at the meeting.  Take it with you and read it over, read it over many times.  Make sure you put everything in writing. What I mean when I say that is to send an email summary of the meeting within 24 hours of when the meeting took place.  If it’s not documented in that time frame in writing (and email counts), it never happened. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend hiring an advocate if you can afford it. The conversation is so much different when you have an advocate present. I understand that is a luxury not everyone can afford so here are some additional websites that can help you know your rights as you prepare for your meetings. An alternative is to bring a friend who can take detailed notes during the meeting.  Get a binder and track everything!  

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Five Board of Ed Seats on the 2020 Ballot: Will You Run?

2020-Elections

by T. Carter Ross

PGCABS does not endorse candidates but aims to provide information to the Prince George’s County community about those who are running and the candidacy process. We will publish candidate profiles and Q&As in early spring. Although the April Democratic and Republican primaries are closed primaries, registered independent voters can vote on Board of Education races.

While the Democratic contest for the 2020 presidential may be the biggest political contest of the moment, decisions about down-ticket races here in Prince George’s County are being made over the coming weeks. Five of the nine elected seats on the Board of Education — Districts 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8 — are on the ballot in the April primary election with the top-two vote-getters in each race advancing to the November general election.

The seats are currently held by David Murray (District 1), Raaheela Ahmed (District 5), K. Alexander Wallace (District 7), and Edward Burroughs III (District 8). The District 4 seat is currently vacant, pending an appointment by County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. Any or all of the sitting board members may decide to seek re-election; however, anyone who files as a candidate may also run. The main requirement for a Board of Education seat is that the candidate must live in the district they are seeking to represent.

Board of Education races are non-partisan; however, to appear on the April 28, 2020, primary ballots, candidates must file in person with the Prince George’s County Board of Elections a certificate of candidacy before 9 p.m. on January 24, 2020.

As part of the filing process, candidates must fill out several forms outlining who they are, where they live, and the race they are entering. There is also a filing fee of $25. Candidates must also file a financial disclosure as part of the state of Maryland’s ethics rules. Additional forms and affidavits may be required, depending upon circumstances. The State Board of Elections candidacy information page outlines the full requirements and includes links to the required forms. (While the Board of Education races are non-partisan, the information under Democrat and/or Republican is the process used.)

Finally, candidates must also establish a Candidate Campaign Committee, which can be done electronically via the Maryland Campaign Reporting Information (MCRIS) website. As part of this a dedicated campaign bank account must be established. Before any money is spent or raised for a campaign, this committee must be organized and approved by the State Board of Elections. The MCRIS system is used throughout the election cycle to report contributions and expenditures as part of required filings. The public can use the same system to view current and past campaign finance reports, as well as information about any actions taken by the state regarding problems with campaign finance reporting.

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Conversation with Dr. Goldson Touches on Transportation Task Force, Homework Survey, Anti-Bullying App

by Robyn Kravitz

On Monday, October 14, parent leaders gathered for the Quarterly Conversation facilitated by the  PGCPS Family and School Partnership Office. This meeting offered the opportunity to hear updates directly from Dr. Goldson and allow the parent leaders to ask her questions through a parking lot format. Those in attendance were invited to write their questions on post-it notes, then the staff organized them into topics for Dr. Goldson to answer directly. 

During Dr. Goldson’s update, the parent leaders learned that:

  • At the request of many parents last year, a working draft has been created of a Parent Code of Conduct. We can expect to see the draft of that in the next week or so.
  • Principal’s annual reviews will include whether or not they have parent leaders in place working to organize parents within their school community.
  • Overall county-wide enrolled has increased from last year. The exact numbers, however, are not available yet.
  • Dr. Goldson will be hosting listening sessions again this fall. The format will be the same as last year. Parents and community members will have the opportunity to give opinions and Dr. Goldson will take notes. She also plans to, again, summarize what she’s heard at each session at the end.
  • A homework survey will be coming out next week. She hopes parents will share their honest experiences. PGCPS is looking to provide a health school-home life balance while still maintaining high standards of education and academic opportunities for the students.
  • Every principal has created 3 goals for their individual school this year. Dr. Goldson encourages all parents to learn what those three goals are for their school and find ways to support them. 
  • Dr. Goldson reminded parents that she can always be reached at ceo@pgcps.org. It is helpful if parents say which particular school they are referring to when emailing her. She likes to confidentially have directed conversations with the administration at those specific schools when there are issues that are brought to her attention.
  • She encourages parents groups to think outside the box when it comes to engaging the community: digital meetings, short meetings before a performance, etc.
  • Dr. Goldson gave a reminder that PGCPS has translators and they are ready to be available for parent group meetings. Inclusiveness is important when organizing families.
  • Should you need assistance or see a problem, you are encouraged to reach out to the Outreach Specialist —
    • Elementary: 301-952-6583
    • Middle School: 301-952-6584
    • High School: 301-952-6585
    • Charter & Academies can call whichever number the issues feels it best falls under.
  • Parents can sign up for PGCPS news on the PGCPS homepage. Dr. Goldson will also be posting inclement weather announcements on her personal twitter page
  • There will be a transportation task force starting. They are tasked with finding creative and outside-the-box solutions to the transportation problems.
  • A second task force is also being created. Dr. Goldson wants a parent to lead the calendar creation team instead of central office. She took names at the meeting of parents that are interested in participating.
  • And finally, PGCPS is currently piloting an anti-bullying app at a few schools right now. This app allows students to anonymously or intentionally report bully directly on their phones. The program will be expanded to more schools in January with the hopes of pushing it out to all students at the beginning of next school year. 

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We Need Transportation Solutions in Prince George’s County Schools

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by Janna Parker and Lori Morrow

The Prince George’s County Public Schools system has two hundred and seven schools spread over an area of five hundred miles of rural farmland, bustling cities, quiet suburbs and vibrant college towns, serving a community with a population of almost one million people just outside of the Nation’s capital. With statistics like that, it is imperative that the transportation for our school system be one of the best in the Country. Yet Prince George’s County Public Schools has struggled with meeting the demand for Transportation services in our county since at least 2015. Every year, the school system’s theme for September is “Attendance Awareness Month”, but this theme is greatly overshadowed by the volume of frustrating complaints from parents, students, and community members as buses arrive late, overcrowded, or not at all. 

While the national shortage of bus drivers extends well beyond the borders of Prince George’s County and Maryland, the working conditions of  bus drivers varies greatly from state to state, district to district. For months, PGCPS bus drivers have spoken before the Board of Education about the various issues that impact the retention of current employees and the recruiting of more drivers to our system. We greatly encourage the PGCPS Administration to work with the drivers in finding immediate solutions to address concerns including salary, benefits, working conditions in the bus lots, and the management of bus routes. Leadership must ensure all students are provided reliable transportation, as well as providing those trusted with our most precious cargo a proper compensation and safe and healthy work conditions.  

Through listening to testimony and conversations with bus drivers, we have heard about many possible solutions that could improve the working conditions of our drivers, thereby improving recruitment and retention to fill remaining vacancies: 

  • Providing drivers and attendants a livable wage to show the people transporting our children that they are valuable members of our PGCPS community. (The current rate of pay from the pay scale is x route hours (6-8) x 185 days / 22 pay periods, (https://www.pgcps.org/employee-and-labor-relations/), not including tax deductions, health insurance, etc.) 
  • Making salary proration an option instead of mandatory to provide employees more control over their pay
  • Guaranteeing all drivers and attendants a minimum of eight hours of pay per day 
  • Spreading health insurance deductions over all paychecks instead of 20
  • Allowing paid professional development days for drivers to participate in student safety training
  • Ensuring all bus lot facilities provide a safe, healthy work environments for employees, including adequate restrooms and cleaning services
  • Ensuring that drivers have input when scheduling routes, including making sure subsequent route times do not overlap and have realistic student loading/unloading times factored into the route timing 
  • Allowing summer work to accrue towards retirement
  • Considering hub system/routes where it makes sense for neighborhoods to consolidate routes which can be aligned to under the distance for those who walk to school
  • Providing compensation for drivers who pick up other routes during their shift to cover for absences/vacancies, similar to teachers who are compensated for having to cover additional classes due to lack of a substitute
  • Enforcing a 2-year commitment for drivers who receive Commercial Driver License training through PGCPS

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