Ten Things PGCPS Can Do to Rebuild Community Confidence

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by Lori Morrow

This past weekend I read the graduation rate audit report from Alvarez & Marsal. Unfortunately I was not surprised by the findings. Over the past 9+ years, I’ve noticed a disconnect between Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) leadership/central offices and the way individual schools operate on a daily basis.

I suspect that any PGCPS parent could provide anecdotes about inconsistent policy and procedure compliance at the school level — from issues like withholding elementary school recess as punishment and discrepancies in meeting volunteer/visitor requirements, to inconsistencies in grading procedures or the abuse incidents in recent years. While the report did not find system-wide fraud, I believe we need a system-wide solution to balancing effective policies and procedures without drowning staff in processes and paperwork.

Earlier this week I wrote a list of things that I believe parents/guardians should do. Parents own a piece of the issues identified in the audit if they aren’t paying attention to grades and attendance, if they ask to have their child promoted when they shouldn’t be, or if they are focused just on the diploma instead of the education. Sadly what I often hear from parents and teachers is that it doesn’t matter what we do because we are powerless to change PGCPS. I spend too much time attending PGCPS events and meetings to accept that there is nothing we can do.

Here are my suggestions for ways PGCPS can partner with parents and staff to help rebuild trust and confidence in our school system:

  1. Host forums like last year’s “Community Summit on Safety & Accountability” to involve the community in identifying problems and searching for solutions.
  2. Involve PTA/PTO leaders in reviewing climate survey results at the school level so that they can assist in resolving ongoing concerns.
  3. Add an item to parent and teacher climate surveys that asks about staff adherence to policies and procedures.
  4. Implement new Administrative Procedures in the spring or beginning of the summer (instead of right before school starts) so that principals and central offices are thoroughly prepared to communicate them to parents and teachers by Back-to-School Night.
  5. Create an interactive video/training module on the Students Rights & Responsibilities Handbook for parents and students that can be posted online and shared at Back-to-School Nights or PTA meetings.
  6. Reach out to the Board of Education Parent and Community Advisory Council to provide feedback on policy and procedure changes.
  7. Host forums with PTA/PTO leaders at least twice during the school year to identify system-wide issues.
  8. Clarify the role of instructional directors as it relates to policy and administrative procedure compliance, and share that information with the community.
  9. Educate the community on the formal process for teachers, students, and parents/guardians who wish to report instances of non-compliance, and ensure that they will not face retaliation.
  10. Above all else, please put aside the politics and make our children’s EDUCATION the priority.

How to Find an Official PGCPS Policy or Procedure on Anything You Want

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

Prince George’s County schools have an official administrative procedure on nearly everything — from employee use of social media, to homecoming IMG_6358bonfires, to controlling head lice  — and you can find them all at the Office of General Counsel’s web page. More than one hundred Administrative Procedures (each is usually at least two pages long) are detailed on the website, as well as dozens of separate Board Policies that tend to be shorter and deal with governing principles rather than procedural minutiae.

The policies and procedures make for fascinating reading. For example, here are a few interesting details:

  • The guidelines for selecting read-aloud books for the elementary classroom include prohibitions against books that promote stereotypes (e.g. racial, gender, etc.), books with reference to sex education issues, and books “with reference to the supernatural (i.e., devils).”  Administrative Procedure 6180.4, Guidelines for Selecting Read-Aloud Books
  • Bonfires are permitted at homecoming athletic events but at no other time during the school year. The bonfires are heavily regulated to ensure safety and must be supervised by the Fire Department. Administrative Procedure 6146, Bonfires for Homecoming Athletic Event
  • Under certain conditions, teachers and other school personnel may use exclusion to address a student’s behavior, but each period of exclusion may not exceed 30 minutes. “Exclusion” is defined as “removal of a student to a supervised area for a limited period of time during which the student has an opportunity to regain self-control and is not receiving instruction including special education, related services, or support.” Administrative Procedure 5062, Student Behavior Interventions
  • Students found to have lice are excluded from school at the end of the day and may be readmitted with proof of treatment (e.g. note from medical provider or “empty package or box top from an over the counter medication and receipt of recent purchase.” The school nurse should re-screen affected children 7-14 days after treatment. Administrative Procedure 5162, Pediculosis (Head Lice) Control in Schools

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