A Message to Our Community

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Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash

by Robyn Kravitz

To our Prince George’s County family,

Here at Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools (PGCABS), we have made the intentional decision to provide facts, to provide primary sources, and to help provide tools so you can advocate for what you feel is best for your student(s), your family, and your community. We haven’t endorsed individuals; we endorse ideas. We endorse giving equitable opportunities for all voices to rise. And we endorse our community.

We are united in the belief that every child has the right to a quality education and every family has the right to be heard. Right now, we are grieving, we are scared, we are empowered, we are one community. On the eve of the primary election, I am sitting in my dining room listening to sirens. I am tracking snap chat and twitter. I want to help my community right now. Should I stay in? Should I go out and be a body for change? But instead, I sit here. Not sure what to say and not sure what advice to offer. So much feels broken. So much is inspiring. The news feels scary. And I can’t hug my friends.

I hope everyone has voted in this primary election and plans to vote in November. Despite the turmoil, the government is still pushing forward. Progress is still happening. As community members, we all must stay engaged and vocal. There are so many initiatives both small and large that we will feel the effects of for years and generations to come. We must stay engaged over the Kirwan Commission recommendations. Conversations around restorative practices and the school-to-prison pipeline need our engagement and our voices.

While I am grieving George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and all of those who have suffered at the hands of the police, I am looking for ways to honor their lives. My heart tells me that I can use the passion, the anger, the sadness, and all other other emotions I’m experiencing to stay engaged with our school system. I won’t stop working toward an equitable education for all in our county. I hope you’ll join us.

In community,

Robyn Kravitz, PGCABS Chair

Q & A with Bryan Swann, District 4 Board of Education Candidate

20180401_104158 (1)This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2020 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Dr. Bryan Swann is a candidate from District 4 (see district map here) running in the June 2 primary election. Mr. Swann 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?

Product of & Parent of PGCPS

I was born and raised in Cheverly, Landover Hills and Glenn Dale, MD. I spent all of my childhood and the majority of my adulthood in District 4. I graduated salutatorian from Largo High School, Charles Carroll Middle School, and Bladensburg Elem, where my mother was a 5th/6th grade teacher for over 20 years and a principal/vice principal at various PGCPS elementary schools for 15 years. Being one of three sons of a phenomenal elementary teacher, we saw how education was used for greatness, passion, and service. Like many other students, school was our second home. We loved school! We saw how it literally transformed lives and families. I thank our mother every day for instilling in us a passion for education and service. This passion is the reason that I want to continue to serve our schools as the District 4 Board of Education Member and raise my two sons (Bryan-10 and Bryce-6) in PGCPS. We need the right servant leader on the board. I know I am that leader. I humbly ask and thank you for your vote!

Education & Experience

Immediately after graduating high school, I joined the US Marine Corps while enrolling at University of Maryland. I have always wanted to serve our community and country. After finishing a tour in Iraq and becoming a combat veteran, I earned a Bachelor’s in Business Management and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Maryland at College Park and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University.

You can see my complete resume: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bryanswann/. But in summary, I worked in the White House during the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of Defense, the private sector, and currently a Deputy Director of Financial Management at the U.S. Department of the Treasury headquarters. I manage and oversee billions of dollars through a variety of financial processes including budget forecasting, budget execution & reconciliation, and procurement to ensure accountability for successful results. My background in finance management uniquely qualifies me to oversee our multi-billion educational budget to ensure we achieve excellence for all.

Recently, I was selected from a pool of highly qualified candidates by County Executive Alsobrooks to finish the last year of the previous District 4 Board of Education seat and was unanimously approved by the Prince George’s County Council (click here for more information). I have already attended dozens of schools (during the school day), PTA and civic organization meetings and hosted several virtual educational meetings to support our community during this current time (see my FB page for more information and recordings).

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Q & A with Shayla Adams-Stafford, District 4 Board of Education Candidate

DSC_5110 (1)This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2020 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Shayla Adams-Stafford is a candidate from District 4 (see district map here) running in the June 2 primary election. Ms. Adams-Stafford 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 have spent my entire career focused on education and issues of educational equity. I began teaching over 10  years ago in North Carolina using project-based learning.  While there I obtained my National Board Teaching Certification. I then moved to Maryland where I worked in DCPS and became an award-winning educator and instructional coach speaking at the White House on behalf of teachers using project based learning in urban settings. I now travel nationally and internationally training teachers and school leaders on equitable, culturally relevant practices. I also operate a non profit, RemixEducation which has supported over 200 students across several states with mentorship and access to technology. In this role I have managed large teams and a budget of large grants.  I presently manage a software and consulting company where we work at the state level providing services to teachers and leaders.  I am encouraged by the immense resources and opportunities we have here in our County. With access to the nation’s capital and growing technology sector I think we are perfectly positioned to be the best district in Maryland.  However, I am realizing there is much work to be done to truly make this district equitable for all students. As I talk to parents in my community, many are frustrated with the disrepair of our schools, lack of support for Special Needs students and years of corruption and mismanagement. I am running because I believe that with my perspective as a national leader in education, I can leverage my networks and experience to bring innovative and proven solutions to our issues.

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

I think an effective school board will work together collaboratively and seek to engage all stakeholders in decision making processes. They would also hold the Superintendent accountable and strive to improve conditions for teaching and learning for all students.

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

My top three priorities while serving on the board would be reducing class sizes through the construction of new schools and renovation of older existing schools. I would also focus on recruiting and retaining the best and brightest teachers to work in our school system. We are facing a teacher shortage and we will ultimately need more teachers in order to meet the logistical challenges presented by reopening to COVID 19.  Lastly, I would prioritize ending the school to prison pipeline by supporting the training and expansion of restorative practices, and alternative disciplinary measures.

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Q & A with Mohammed Ali, District 4 Board of Education Candidate

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2020 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Dr. Mohammed Ali is a candidate from District 4 (see district map here) running in the June 2 primary election. Dr. Ali 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 have a B.S./M.S. in Computer Science, and Doctorate in Education from Morgan State University. My goal is to ensure that our youth can compete in the 21st I believe we can do that by providing them with the resources they need the teachers that are compassionate and qualified in the field of education.

I have spent my entire career focused on issues of educational equity. I am a qualified candidate because I value education and have lived in this district for over twenty years. I am a professor of mathematics and information technology at Prince George’s Community College and served in various committee positions at the college. I am a former elementary and secondary Teacher and served as School Education Board at Prince George’s Muslim Association in Lanham, Maryland. Additionally, I have served as a community chair in Maryland and authored of children’s books.

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

    1. Effectively school board should have a strong education background in the field of education.
    2. Having very good exposure in all levels of Educational decisions.
    3. Has the ability to integrate the communities, parents, educational administrators.
    4. Management of budget in the area of education.
    5. Strong leadership and guidance for parents, teachers and the community.

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Q & A with Alethia J. Simmons, District 4 Board of Education Candidate

alethiaj (1)This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2020 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Dr. Alethia J. Simmons is a candidate from District 4 (see district map here) running in the June 2 primary election. Dr. Branch 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 want to be a voice that articulates the​ Heart​ of students, teachers, staff and parents. My education and professional background of 40+ years as a public school student, educator, administrator, nonprofit organization founder/CEO, community leader, author, tv host, ordained minister, mother of a District 4 High School graduate and presently a grandmother of a PGCPS middle school student, I know firsthand the cry from those who are often overlooked in our busy quest to provide academic excellence. Hence, I am humbled by these experiences and look forward to the opportunity to dedicate myself to connecting the pieces that will strengthen Prince George’s County Public Schools.

  • DC Teachers College, Washington, DC, BS degree, Elementary Education
  • Trinity College, Washington, DC, MS degree, Guidance and Counseling
  • Maple Spring Seminary, Capitol Hgts, MD, MS degree, Biblical Studies
  • Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA, DMin degree, Theology
  • Classroom Teacher, DC Public Schools
  • Educational Counselor and Program Coordinator, EOC, Washington, DC
  • Teacher, Counselor, Principal, Training Development Specialist, Special Assistant, Administrator of Higher Education and Educational Services, DC Dept of Corrections
  • Substitute Teacher, PGCPS
  • CEO, 7 Keys to a Mother’s Heart Ministry, Wash, DC and MD, non profit organization
  • Associate Minister, TNMBC, Washington, DC

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

  • An effective school board establishes a clear vision, mission, defined goals, core values and a strategic organization plan for moving forward,
  • Operates as a team that is goal oriented, committed, flexible, dependable, helpful, supportive, willing to generate ideas/solutions, trustworthy and respectful of one another,
  • Develops program objectives and educational policies that will facilitate continuous. student achievement and classroom instructional excellence.
  • Maintains open channels of communication that engages relationships with staff, parents, students and community partners.

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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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Q & A with Gary Lee Falls, District 8 Board of Education Candidate

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2020 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Gary Lee Falls is a candidate from District 8 (see district map here) running in the November 3 general election. Mr. Falls 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?

EAT a government paid “free full course breakfast, lunch and dinner.” Then get to classes and learn “Greek, Latin, Differential Equations, Calculus , Quantum Mechanics and Dark Matter .”

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

Ensure that the schools “Billions of Dollars Budget is spent toward accomplishing the Goal mention in question 1.”

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

Student Meals, Student  Proficiency in Greek, Latin, Differential Equations, Calculus, Quantum Mechanics and Dark Matter, after 14 years of learning !

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?

Encourage Parents to steer their children  toward mastering the mention curriculum !

Many specialty programs (e.g.  language immersion, performing arts programs) have waitlists because demand exceeds the current capacity, and some students travel long distances to attend a specialty school. Do you support the expansion of specialty schools? Why or why not?

Each school should have Teachers that are Proficient in Greek, Latin, Differential Equations, Calculus, Quantum Mechanics, and Dark Matter!

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Q & A with Alexis Branch, District 7 Board of Education Candidate

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2020 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Alexis Branch is a candidate from District 7 (see district map here) running in the June 2 primary election. Ms. Branch 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?

First and foremost, I am a woman of God. I am also a 2019 graduate from Bennett College, the first HBCU for women. While there I served as the Student Government Association President, NAACP Vice President, Fresh-woman Class President, and a member of The Board of Trustees where I was an instrumental part of the #StandWithBennett campaign. During this campaign, I assisted my institution in raising 8.5 million dollars in 50 days when we were at the risk of losing our accreditation due to a lack of finances. I also have worked for various non-profits around the world in places like Israel and China where I advocated for clean energy and against discrimination in grade school textbooks. I am a former Kindergarten teacher in the county, and I am currently employed for the federal government at the Department of Transportation. I am a product of the Prince Georges County Public School System, graduating from Gwynn Park High School in 2015.

I would like to be on the Board of Education because I am a true advocate for the people I represent and in this case, it would be the children, teacher, and staff of Prince Georges County. I truly care about their well-being and concerned about the life-long foundation we are in installing in them.  I am the only candidate that has been a teacher in the county and has experience in the classroom serving as a kindergarten teacher and a before and aftercare teacher since high school. I believe that it is hard to advocate for change if you have not experienced it yourself and had those heart to heart moments with the children in this County. I am a true believer that a lot of what these will retain will not be the curriculum being taught in our classrooms, it will be the life lessons that they learn along the way that will truly impact, and shape their lives.

I want to change the way the world sees Prince George’s County. By providing more opportunities for our children like study abroad programs, free scholarship grants, and mentorship. I want the citizens of our community to be proud to say their child goes to a Prince Georges County Public School. I also do not agree with the Lottery program, I think every child in our County should have the same opportunity at a successful future. That is taken away with the lottery program. I am an advocate for bilingual education in every elementary school classroom.  I also would like to advocate for the reopening of Skyland Elementary, a school created for students with disabilities. Also, I would like to see an increase in funding per pupil. Especially when it comes to resources in the classroom such as textbooks, and information technology. In conclusion, I believe the only way we will be able to see the change in our school system that our community needs and our future relies on. Would be to have more community involvement. I plan to work with my fellow board members if elected to fix this gap between our school system and our community to help mold and shape the young minds of our kids.

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Q & A with Kenneth Harris, District 7 Board of Education Candidate

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2020 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. Kenneth Harris II is a candidate from District 7 (see district map here) running in the June 2 primary election. Mr. Harris 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 graduate of Eleanor Roosevelt High School! I then went on to receive my Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and finally my Masters degree from Johns Hopkins University. I have been working at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center since I was 16 years old, and for the past 12 years I have been assisting in the development, fabrication, budgeting, and launch of 6 missions. My passion outside of the Science field is inspiring the education of students through mentorship. I have had the opportunity to travel locally and internationally to speak with teachers and students about the importance of mentorship and early education. I hope to bring my experience with managing large budgets and passion for education to the Prince Georges County School Board. One of my main goals is to develop a classroom to internship pipeline for our students. As well as implement strong mentorship programs to encourage early exposure to amazing careers. My early exposure to the sciences helped me to establish a phenomenal career and I vividly recall visits from professionals to our schools, helping to motivate me to continue my studies. I want to be on the school board to rebuild the confidence of our residents in sending their children through the Prince Georges County School System.

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

I think one of the most important characteristics of an effective school board is a shared vision for the County. Too often are representatives on different accords when it comes to plans for our schools and how to resolve situations. As a community we need to come together and create a clear and feasible path forward with achievable milestones to track our progress toward a better educational system.

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

A. Develop a classroom to internship pipeline for our students to set them up for long and impact careers in whichever field(s) they come to love.

B. Targeting the need for universal pre-k and advocating concerning the importance of early education

C. Focusing on the retention of our Administrative Staff and Teachers within the county by providing fair salaries and educational/certification assistance where needed.

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Q & A with K. Alexander Wallace, District 7 Board of Education Candidate

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This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the 2020 Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. K. Alexander Wallace is a candidate from District 7 (see district map here) running in the June 2 primary election. Mr. Wallace 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?

Prior to my appointment in 2015 and election in 2016 to serve on the Board of Education, I spent nearly a decade advocating for the issues facing students and the youth of Maryland through my work serving on the Maryland Youth Advisory Council, the Maryland Higher Education Commission, and the University System of Maryland. For four years prior to my serve on the Board of Education, I also served in the Office of (late) State Senator Ulysses Currie (District 250 as his Legislative and Constituent Aide. It was through this position where I had, both, the pleasure and responsibility of briefing the senator on key educational issues facing the county and state, as well as advocate for students, families, and communities for educational equity, funding, and constituent services.

My academic background is rooted in Urban Public Policy and Administration with a study focus in Education, Housing, and Economic Policies. Through my academic career at Towson University (Undergraduate) and the University of Baltimore (Masters), I have been able to hone my intellectual understanding of educational policies and how they should be implemented.

Combining my experiences in advocacy, governmental affairs, and educational policy field of academic study, I have been able to be a meaningful voice to many of the impactful changes for our school system – from helping to develop our county’s Community Schools initiative and authoring the new Educational Equity policy to representing our county of the Board of Directors for the Maryland Association for Boards of Education and the Washington Areas Boards of Education, what I want to continue to bring to the Board of Education is a pillar of consistency in proper governing, an unapologetic nature towards educational equity, and a broad understanding of educational policy and law.

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