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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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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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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Q & A with Matt Green, District 9 Board of Education Candidate

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 10.39.16 AMThis is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2018 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Matt Green is a candidate from District 9 (see district map here) running in the June 26 primary election. Mr. Green 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 a husband, family man, and father of four school age children vested in theirs and other children’s education, education choices and future. I am also a volunteer coach for a 3/4U flag football team, youth wrestling coach, President of a Youth Club, retired military leader, advocate and mentor. I am running with the encouragement and support of family, friends and neighbors.

Many feel based on my prior career as a Military Officer, I’d be a good fit for the Board of Education with my ability to prioritize, organize, be transparent, communicate, and make things happened. I have had the opportunity to interface with national and international governing officials at many levels from the start of my military career. I’ve also been in roles of diplomacy that included but weren’t limited to organization and nation building in both peacekeeping and combat environments. I’ve often been complimented on my demeanor to react calm and intelligently under pressure, while positively influencing the situation and others around me. I look for the opportunity to learn from not only my mistakes, but those of others and applying lessons learned.

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

1) Along with a team of constituents, get into the schools with our students and educators to see things in action firsthand (this would include unannounced visits as the District 9 Board of Education Representative to keep a true prospective); next I’d prioritize and organize what needs to be done based on firsthand research, findings, parents and community feedback, research and align/reference policy and legislation; take action to fix problems.

2) Build rapport in the community; our community needs to know and understand their Board of Education representatives work for the students, educators, parents and community. This means having the tough conversations to solve problems, understanding that if it is torn down, there is the inherent responsibility to build back up (even stronger), going above and beyond to address and resolve concerns at local, state and possibly national level.

3) Bring Back the Pride; there are a lot of good news stories occurring across Prince George’s County Schools. We owe it to our students, educators, parents and community to highlight and share how great we are with the world. As well as continually growing Prince George’s County talent pool, we have a responsibility to share our positives with the world too.

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