Q & A with Arun Puracken, District 9 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. Arun Puracken is a candidate from District 9 (see district map here) running in the general election. Mr. Puracken answered questions generated by members of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools. An earlier version of this post was published in May.

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 a 7th/8th Grade Social Studies Teacher at Accokeek Academy. I graduated from Largo High School and UMBC. After college, I taught in Baltimore City for a year with Americorps, and then came back home to teach in Prince George’s County. Teaching has been my entire professional career.

I currently serve as the Social Studies Department Chair as well as the Advisor for the Student Government Association/ Debate Team, Teacher Representative for the PTSA, and Teacher’s Union representative at his school.

I am focused on more accessible and strengthened speciality academic/vocational programs, equitable technology access, raising educator compensation, creating community schools, fully staffing schools, prioritizing facility maintenance/renovation, and ensuring appropriate boundaries to reduce classroom size.

I want to be on the Board of Education because not one elected member of the Board has taught in a public school in this county. That is a very valuable perspective that is missing. Secondly, my experiences at Accokeek Academy has shown me the great inequity in the system. I teach in a $30 million building with a Chromebook for every child in my classroom. So many families, students, and my colleagues at other schools do not have the same access to this quality of educational experience. My goal with this campaign is to bring this equity and ethics back to PGCPS.

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

  • Strengthening and making more accessible high quality speciality academic/vocational programs
  • Raising educator compensation
  • Fully staffing/repairing schools

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

First, I believe that a Chief Executive Officer should be referred to as a Superintendent or another school-centered term/methodology instead of CEO, which to me, instills a singular business mindset. It is important that we do not turn schools completely into a business model as it can place economic incentives as leverage for decision making starting from the top tier leadership.

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Q & A with Belinda Queen, District 6 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. Belinda Queen is a candidate from District 6 (see district map here) running in the general election. Ms. Queen 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. Queen’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?

I am running for Board of Education because my heart and passion is for the growth and progress of our children. As for my background Growing up, I was an active member of the 4-H Club. I have internalized the essence of 4H: Hands, Head, Heart and Health. Hand for greater service, head for clearer thinking, heart for greater loyalty and health for better living. The 4H Motto is to “Make the Best Better” when I became of age, as a result of my 4H experience, I became a leader.

For over 35 years I have worked fulfill the 4H Motto. I would like the opportunity to apply that same concept within Prince George’s County Board of Education and for the Prince George’s County Schools.

I am a Proud PGCPS Graduate, mother of 12 Central High School graduates, 3 of my own, 5 of my stepchildren and 4 of my Foster/guardianship children. I currently have 2 still attending. I have eleven grandchildren in the school system as well. There can be no question that I have an invested interest in the successfulness of our school system.

I am ready to do all I can to see that, as a whole, We Win! I have volunteered in various PTA, PTSA and PTO positions along with being a past officer of the PGC Council of PTA’s. I’m still an active member of, at least, four schools. I have served and worked in the schools from North, South to Central from Wheatly ES, Thomas Claggett ES, Springhill Lake ES, Crossland. Walker Mill MS, Central HS and more.

I have worked as a substitute teacher, office worker or where I was needed for over two years and even served as Principal for a Day to get hands-on experience at the school.

As a believer of not just talking about it, but being about it I have gained a great deal of hands-on experience serving and giving back in the school system and to school-aged children (regardless if they were mine or not).

I have received many awards for my service as a parent and grandparent.  I am a strong community activist and involved in the Community as Chair of the District 3 Police Coffee Circle, VP of the Coalition of Central Civic Association, 37 years as an 4-H Leader and served as Wilburn VP for over 15 years in my Local Community.

In all this volunteer service, along with raising my family I have a real breadth of profound knowledge of the school system and will be able to draw from that experience and deliver as a school board member representing district 6.

Over the last 5 years I have learned so much in raising someone else’s children (diagnosed with several mental illnesses). For example, ADHD, Bi-Polar, Mood Disorder and Anger Management.

I have worked closely with the school, teachers and outside agencies to get them the education and help they deserve. My goal is for them to become productive citizens. All these experiences have prepared me to seek for this position.

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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 Lupi Grady, District 2 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. Lupi Grady is the incumbent from District 2 (see district map here) running in the general election. Ms. Grady answered questions generated by members of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools. An earlier version of this post was published in May.

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 seek to run for re-election to the Board of Education because this work matters.  As a parent of two children attending Prince George’s Public Schools, I am invested.  I believe in public education. I came to the United States at the age of 7 years old and did not speak English.  I still remember my teachers.  I am so grateful to them to this day.  My parents worked very hard to provide for my sister and younger brother, so it was difficult for them to have the time and to know how to support us in our academics.  My parents did not know how to navigate the education system or to advocate on our behalf.  We were encouraged to work hard and respect our teachers.  My sister and I had to learn to be very independent and as we set the path, it helped our younger brother succeed.  My personal experiences help me to understand the students that we serve.  I see myself in many of our students, who with the proper supports and guidance can excel in their academics and have a bright future.

The issues in our education system are complex and how the school board goes about doing the work is important.  A Strategic Plan was established for 2016-2020 (adopted March 2015) with five focus areas that include Academic Excellence, High-Performing Workforce, Safe and Supportive Environments, Family and Community Engagement and Organizational Effectiveness.  The Strategic Plan serves as a road map and our budget decisions must align with the aforementioned key priorities.  As we enter our fourth year as a Board of the strategic plan, it is imperative to assess the impact of our investment as it relates to budget decisions.   What is effective? How do we determine progress? What data points are we measuring? Are we measuring the right data points?   How is progress being monitored?  These are discussions that need to be examined to better determine how we move forward.  This year, I participated in an Equity Taskforce that was tasked to define what is equitable for our students.  The task force began its work of examining educational equity gaps and invited a series of presenters that informed the discussion.  The taskforce outlined specific recommendations for policy, establishing a diverse workforce, family & community engagement, quality instructions and budgetary resource allocations that are outlined in the report.  The recommendations will be shared with the entire Board and community in the coming months.

Relevant to moving our school system forward is the work of the Kirwan Commission.  As indicated in their preliminary report and potential recommendation on an increase of funding, there is an opportunity to align our work for optimum student success.

Being on the board for almost four years, it has its challenges and I am consistently learning and growing in my understanding of the issues.  The work is not done in a vacuum and the perspectives are many around a diversity of issues.  The issues brought to my attention have varied from recess, transportation, cell towers, the selection process of Principals, meetings with potential partners that can support our students’ academic success, the overcrowding of schools in the north, homelessness, language barriers; and bullying to mention a few.  As the issues are brought to my attention, I work towards solutions, addressing existing system or lack of systems in partnership with parents, administrators and Board colleagues.  This work cannot be accomplished in silos as an individual Board.  I am committed to this work and we have to be steadfast in our efforts to continue to move our school system forward.

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

Capitol Improvement Program (CIP)

Two of the biggest challenges we have is maintaining our facilities and building new schools to support the growth in enrollment in the county.  The Capital Improvement Program (CIP) is designed to resolve the overcrowding of the schools in the north which is a challenge for students and teachers.  The CIP is also designed to maintain our aging school buildings.  For example, in District 2 the majority of the schools are over capacity.  There is an Elementary school with up to 13 temporary classrooms (temps), a Middle School with 11 temps and a High School with up to 21 temps.  This poses real challenges to not being able to reduce classroom size, expand pre-k, increase of enrollment; and it impacts the day-to-day operations such as the scheduling for lunch periods and overall courses.  Teachers are actively engaging students in every classroom that is available to them.  The up keep of the facilities and the demands are great.  I recently visited a Middle School that has to have the floor gym replaced, that will cost $100,000 and this was not a planned “repair.”  This Board has increased funds to provide some flexibility in the budget when unprecedented repairs need to happen for the betterment of our teachers and students.  I am committed to continuing to advocate for these funds going forward.

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Board of Education Primary Election Results for Prince George’s County

Updated: Results for the 2018 general election are here.

Residents of Prince George’s County Board of Education Districts 2, 3, 6, and 9 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.

Incumbents did very well at the polls: In the three districts where incumbents ran for re-election (Districts 2, 6, and 9), incumbents won the most votes.

Here are the Maryland State Board of Elections unofficial results for the four school board races:

DISTRICT 2:

Rob Anthony, 16.4%

*Lupi Grady, 49.3%

*Joshua M. Thomas, 34.3%

DISTRICT 3:

* Juwan Blocker, 25.7%

*Pamela Boozer-Strother, 47.2%

Irene Holtzman, 12.4%

Catherine Bennett Nwosu, 14.7%

District 6:

*Carolyn Maria Boston, 29.4%

Caleb A. Camara, 4.6%

Pat Fletcher, 14.0%

*Belinda Queen, 24.8%

Ava Richardson, 7.4%

David Shelton, 4.9%

Anthony Triplin, 14.9%

District 9:

Matt Green, 8.1%

Don D. Massey, 8.9%

*Arun Puracken, 28.7%

*Sonya Williams, 54.3%

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

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Prince George’s County Executive Candidates’ Appointment Priorities

In the June 26 election, Prince George’s County will be selecting the person most likely to become our next County Executive. The Democratic primary has nine candidates, which will be winnowed down to one, to face the one Republican candidate and any third-party candidates who may be added to the November ballot.

As a grassroots organization focused on building parental and community engagement with Prince George’s County Public Schools, PGCABS does not endorse candidates, but we feel it is important to help the public learn how these candidates will approach their responsibility to shape the path forward for PGCPS and public education in our county through their appointments of PGCPS’s next CEO/superintendent and appointments to the Board of Education.

To this end, all ten current candidates were sent the following question:

What criteria will you use in filling the position of PGCPS CEO and the appointed positions on the Board of Education? Please be specific about what sort of people you will seek for these positions and whether or not you will replace the current board members.

The responses from Angela Alsobrooks, Billy Bridges, Donna Edwards, and Paul Monteiro are linked below, unedited except for light formatting adjustments. Sam Bogley replied with a biographical statement that did not address the question. Lewis Johnson, Michael Kennedy, C. Anthony Muse, and Tommie Thompson, as well as Republican candidate Jerry Mathis, did not reply to our request.

Candidates’ responses are linked below:

 

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Donna Edwards Discusses Appointment Priorities for Schools CEO and Board of Education

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Photo credit: Donna Edwards

In advance of the June 26 election primary election, Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools (PGCABS) sent the following question to all ten County Executive candidates:

What criteria will you use in filling the position of PGCPS CEO and the appointed positions on the Board of Education? Please be specific about what sort of people you will seek for these positions and whether or not you will replace the current board members.

Here is the response from Donna Edwards (Dem):

Some say that it doesn’t matter whether the board is elected, appointed or a hybrid. I disagree. It matters to those who work in the system and those who are affected by the system. We need to restore the voice of the voter when it comes to our School Board. We should establish criteria for board service. I have served on numerous national boards and on boards in higher education. I have never served on a board that does not have criteria for service and a description of the time and responsibility expected in service.

I would set up a process that includes current elected school board members, educators and parents to solicit and interview candidates for appointed positions. I would make my appointments with recommendations made through this process for all vacancies. I support enabling the board to select its own chair among the members. If we continue with the current CEO-CE structure, I will ensure that we have a CEO who has the confidence of parents, educators and taxpayers. As the County Executive, I would devote my attention to requiring the budget restructuring that I described above and have regular reporting requirements from the CEO to me and to the School Board, which would include policy and budget review. I would be a strong advocate within our delegation to restore an elected school board.

Search criteria for a CEO would include candidates with experience in:

  • K–12 teaching
  • Managing large scale organizations
  • Education public policy
  • Fiscal oversight of a multimillion dollar budgets

The one I select from among the three Superintendent nominees will then be part of a Town Hall Tour (in North, Central and South County) to hear public concerns and demonstrate the leadership and vision necessary to unite all stakeholders in common purpose.

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Billy Bridges Discusses Appointment Priorities for Schools CEO and Board of Education

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Photo credit: Facebook

In advance of the June 26 election primary election, Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools (PGCABS) sent the following question to all ten County Executive candidates.

What criteria will you use in filling the position of PGCPS CEO and the appointed positions on the Board of Education? Please be specific about what sort of people you will seek for these positions and whether or not you will replace the current board members.

Here is the response from Billy Bridges (Dem):

I pray all is well! I was so excited to receive your email and could hardly wait to sit down and respond. First, let me say that I have been employed with the Prince Georges County Public Schools for the past 20 years. I have been a para-professional educator, a classroom teacher, performed administrative duties, and currently with the IT Department. I said all of that to preface that I have seen all of the turmoil and disorder that is robbing our students of an excellent educational experience, demoralized staff, and left our school system at the mercy of the state or other forces. In fact, I will attach a letter that was sent in March 2013 to all of our elected and appointed officials that have a hand in educational decisions, before this current state of confusion with a hybrid board.

I have made it clear that my desire is to have a plan in place that includes a revamped curriculum; reorganization of and elimination of unnecessary departments; accelerated school construction; limiting class sizes to 25 or less; making special education self-contained in each school; bringing order, integrity, and compassion to our school system; instituting better security measures; demanding consistency in all that we do; requiring pay equity for employees; wiping out nepotism and corruption; and offering full accountability and transparency at all times. These are the initiatives and values that I will demand in any new Superintendent. I will request the State to change the governance structure back to a Superintendent and a fully elected Board of Education. There is no need for the title of CEO. The new Superintendent will not be required to create a plan, because we will already have a plan in place.

I have already called for the resignation of the Board Chair and appointed members. In addition, I will seek the resignation of the deputies and directors that serve on the Superintendent’s Executive Council. Many of these people are part of the problem in our school system. We need a fresh start and a half-hearted effort will not work. The people I will appoint must possess the same character traits and values that I mentioned for the Superintendent. These citizens must be dedicated to education, have a compassion for students and staff, and possess the highest levels of integrity and character with no conflicts of interest. The members will not be required to have any high level of degrees. We just want people that care and act selflessly to improve our schools!

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Angela Alsobrooks Discusses Appointment Priorities for Schools CEO and Board Members

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Photo credit: Facebook

In advance of the June 26 election primary election, Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools (PGCABS) sent the following question to all ten County Executive candidates.

What criteria will you use in filling the position of PGCPS CEO and the appointed positions on the Board of Education? Please be specific about what sort of people you will seek for these positions and whether or not you will replace the current board members.

Here is the response from Angela Alsobrooks (Dem):

I think it is important that people understand the process for selecting the new CEO of our school system because the County Executive does not have sole authority over this. The way the legislation guiding this process calls for the Governor to appoint a task force to conduct the initial search. At the conclusion of that process, the top three candidates are forwarded to the County Executive who then chooses from those people.

When looking at the three people who are chosen by the task force, I will look for people who have achieved results wherever they have been. I am not as concerned about the qualifications on someone’s résumé, but rather I want to see tangible accomplishments that have been achieved where they have been. I want to choose someone who has made a school system more transparent and accountable, while also focusing heavily on students, teachers and parents. I want a person who is here to help educate our children, not someone who is focused on adults or any power or prestige that comes with the position.

In making the selection, I also feel it is important to include all stakeholders, to include the Board of Education, the County Council and the leadership of our delegation in Annapolis. The CEO needs to understand that they may report to the County Executive, but they are accountable to everyone. This includes administrators, teachers and parents, so I would like to find a way to include them in the process as well, at least to hear exactly what they would like to see in the next CEO.

When it comes to appointing Board members, I will look for the same qualities in them. I want people who are as passionate about educating our children as I am. I want people who are more concerned with student performance and teacher pay than they are with trying to settle a score or get one up on another Board member.

We need a major culture change within our school system and it must start at the top and filter all the way to the classroom. To do that, we need leadership that is focused on children, teachers and parents, not on adults and who has the power. Only by doing this will we ensure that our children have the resources they need to learn, our teachers are paid appropriately, and we have the resources to ensure our children are ready to learn when they walk through the door and they are in a safe environment.

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Paul Monteiro Discusses Appointment Priorities for Schools CEO and Board Members

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Photo credit: Facebook

In advance of the June 26 election primary election, Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools (PGCABS) sent the following question to all ten County Executive candidates.

What criteria will you use in filling the position of PGCPS CEO and the appointed positions on the Board of Education? Please be specific about what sort of people you will seek for these positions and whether or not you will replace the current board members.

Here is the response from Paul Monteiro (Dem):

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the question.

A record of collaborative leadership — It’s important to identify a track record of working with a range of stakeholders and the courage to engage in the hard work of bringing diverse voices together and identifying a common vision accessible to all. PGCPS has become more balkanized with the hybrid Board of Education, the CEO, and various stakeholder groups of teachers, paraprofessionals, support staff, etc. There are no easy answers or quick fixes and the next head of PGCPS has to be prepared and comfortable building trust and modeling transparency to build relationships and generate buy-in as we identify a way forward for all.

Openness to innovation — Based on the “Together for Tomorrow” approach we pursued through President Obama’s Department of Education, it’s important to have someone who sees the surrounding neighborhood and broader ecosystem that’s needed to support our schools holistically. With the proper controls in place to ensure student safety at all levels, federal agencies, private sector employers, faith-based and non-profit organizations, community groups, etc. need to be leveraged in supporting the range of needs of our teachers, students, and staff. Many of the “inside the beltway” schools and others with high percentages of ELL and/or those on free/reduced lunch would be our first priority. Student safety is paramount. Period. With careful planning to build real and reasonable protections, we can move away from a fear-based/risk-averse status quo that inhibits the innovation that would allow our principals and teachers to engage broader parts of the “village” we need to deliver the world-class education we often talk about.

Integrity — PGCPS has seen a stunning lack of integrity by some associated with the system including a prior superintendent. In addition to supporting my call for an independent Inspector General, the new head of our schools should model integrity in all of their dealings and have no hint of scandal in any of their past positions. The way forward for our school system requires no less given the trust deficits that have built up over time because of broken promises and empty rhetoric.

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