Elections 2018: Thomas, Boozer-Strother, Queen, Williams Win Board Seats

Four seats on the Prince George’s County Board of Education were up for grabs in today’s general election. Challengers Joshua Thomas (Dist. 2) and Belinda Queen (Dist. 6) defeated incumbents, while Sonya Williams (Dist. 9) successfully defended her seat on the board. Newcomer Pamela Boozer-Strother won the District 3 seat left open after Dinora Hernandez declined to run for reelection.

Here are the Maryland State Board of Elections unofficial results for the four school board races in Prince George’s County:

DISTRICT 2:

Joshua Thomas, 57.1%

Lupi Grady, 42.6 %

DISTRICT 3:

Pamela Boozer-Strother, 56.0%

Juwan Blocker, 43.6%

DISTRICT 6:

Belinda Queen, 53.5%

Carolyn Boston, 46.0%

DISTRICT 9:

Sonya Williams, 65.5%

Arun Puracken, 33.7%

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Elections 2016: Ahmed, Burroughs, Eubanks, Wallace, Murray Win Board Seats

Five seats on the Prince George’s County Board of Education were up for grabs in today’s general election. Incumbents Edward Burroughs (Dist. 8), K. Alexander Wallace (Dist. 7), and Patricia Eubanks (Dist. 4) successfully defended their seats on the Board, while Raaheela Ahmed won the open seat in District 5. David Murray ran unopposed for the District 1 seat, after his opponent moved out of state.

Here are the Maryland State Board of Elections unofficial results for the five school board races in Prince George’s County:

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Groups Produce “Sample Ballots” Not Authorized by Democratic Party

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

Many Prince George’s County residents have received a mailer that contains what appears to be an official sample ballot for the Democratic party. Words in large letters across the top read, “2016 Democratic Sample Ballot; Take this with you when you vote.” The mailer even bears the Democratic logo: a red and blue donkey with white stars.

Predictably, voters are instructed to support the Democratic candidates for president, U.S. senator, and congressional representative. But voters are also told to vote for a particular slate of judicial candidates, as well as candidates for the Board of Education. This is highly misleading. School board elections and judicial elections are nonpartisan; candidates do not run as representatives of a political party.

Moreover, this sample ballot is not actually produced or authorized by the Democratic party. According to the fine print in the bottom left corner, the mailer is authorized by two committees: the Committee to Elect the Sitting Judge, a nonpartisan group advocating for election of the sitting judges of the Prince George’s County Circuit Court, and the Committee for ReCharge At-Large, a pro-Question-D group that supports adding two at-large candidates to the County Council.

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In previous election years, the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee has voted to endorse a slate of candidates for the Board of Education. This year, however, the Committee voted against endorsing school board candidates. The Committee also decided not to endorse a position on Question D, which would add two at-large seats to the County Council. But the mailer tells Prince George’s County residents to vote “yes” on Question D, suggesting that the Democratic party officially supports the proposal.

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Q & A with John Richardson, District 7 Board of Education Candidate

20160606_083607This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with PGCPS Board of Education candidates. John Richardson is a candidate from District 7 (see district map here). Mr. Richardson answered questions generated in advance of the primary election 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 why you are running for the Board of Education.

My passion is grounded in public service where all citizens’ quality of life, educational growth as well as development is a priority. I’m a veteran frontline educator with more than 17 years combined experience which include serving as a Career & Technical Education Teacher (formerly vocational education), Assistant Principal on the secondary level, Dean of Students, Testing Coordinator and Summer School Principal. It was a pleasure serving 2 ½ years in the Maryland General Assembly as a Constituent Services Liaison for Legislative District 25.

In addition, I have served in ministry for over 17 years in the capacity of Sunday School Teacher, Youth Pastor and Pastor. Moreover, my experience includes honorably serving our country in the United States Marine Reserves while matriculating at the University of The District of Columbia (UDC) where my Bachelor of Science Degree in Printing Management was obtained. Subsequently, my Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction Degree was obtained at National Louis University. 

I’m running for Board of Education because all of my professional experiences have prepared me to effectively represent the constituents of District 7. I am a proven leader who has prepared students for college and careers. I have improved the academic achievement of students, improved parental involvement, implemented policy and engaged the community in the educational process. Furthermore, as Chairman of the MD4 Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Project Community Task Force, I have collaborated with local and state government agency representatives along with concerned citizens on a $24 million dollar project currently in progress between Silver Hill Road and Forestville Road that will continue to save lives while enhancing our community!

What are your top three goals for PGCPS, and how do you plan to accomplish them, if elected?

In my opinion, academic achievement and our consistent ongoing ranking near the bottom quartile compared to other school districts in the state of Maryland despite incremental gains that are celebrated yearly is a significant problem. My top three goals are below:

  1. Improve overall academic achievement and ninth grade promotion rates.
  2. Engage the community in the educational process while improving parental involvement which can assist in creating safe welcoming environments.
  3. Improve communication between the Board of Education, schools and all stakeholders.

I’ve already started collaborating with stakeholders about accomplishing the aforementioned tasks. Upon being elected, with the help of a core group of diverse leaders, we will organize a Town Hall Meeting to provide stakeholders with an opportunity to provide feedback and input. Also, we will have ongoing sessions throughout the year not only assessing our weaknesses but creating strategies to maintain where we are strong and overcome all challenges. In addition, we will assess our progress and make changes as needed. 

Improving communication takes a conscious effort which includes being considerate of a parents’ time. Events must be planned way in advance with timely notification to parents, guardians, caregivers and students. Oftentimes, community leaders and the citizens at-large are unaware of the great things happening in our school system. I use most social media platforms to keep my family members, friends and the community informed which will continue during my term as a Board Member. I utilize email blast campaigns, group text messaging, instant messaging and a host of other forms of communication to keep people informed.

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Q & A with District 5 Board of Education Candidate Cheryl Landis

image_cherylLandisThis is part of an ongoing series of interviews with PGCPS Board of Education candidates. Cheryl Landis is a candidate from District 5 (see district map here). Ms. Landis 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 why you feel that you would be an effective member of the Board of Education.

For the past 37 years, I’ve been an active volunteer, community organizer, and servant leader in Prince George’s County. I made a deliberate and decisive decision well over 10 years ago that upon my retirement from Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), I would transition to serve as an elected member of the Board of Education. On November 1, 2016, I will officially retire from PGCPS with 27 years of service. For 17 years (1989 to 2006) I served as the Executive Administrative Officer to the very same Board of Education I seek election to. During that time, I worked directly with numerous boards of education, both elected and appointed. For the past 10 years (2006 to present) I have served as the school system’s Strategic Business Partnerships Specialist, as well as Administrator for the Excellence in Education Foundation for PGCPS, Inc. I’ve also had the honor of serving as Chair of the Education Workforce Development Committee of the Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce. I was recently selected by Junior Achievement of Greater Washington to serve on the Junior Achievement Finance Park Prince George’s County Advisory Council.

Each and every step that I have taken over the past 37 years has successfully prepared me to serve as an elected member of the Board. I realize the awesome responsibility and commitment of time that will ultimately come with the position. I understand that the mission of the Board of Education is to advance the academic achievement of all students through community engagement, sound policy governance, accountability, and fiscal responsibility. Because of my many years of experience, I have a very clear and concise understanding of the role of a Board Member. I have already defined my scope and purpose for working collaboratively with the Administration and my colleagues as an elected member of the Board. I will hit the ground running!

What are two or three special challenges that you see in your school board district, and how would you work with the community to address them?

Challenge No. 1 — Family & Community Engagement: Family and community engagement are important components to the academic success of a student. That is why educating our youth must be viewed as a shared responsibility between the school system, parents, and students. As an elected member of the Board of Education, I will take a “grassroots approach” to effectively increase family and community engagement by implementing the following strategies in District 5 schools:

  • Beginning January 2017, I will meet individually and on an ongoing basis with District 5 principals and PTA/PTO to assess the needs of the District.
  • I will work with District 5 schools to establish a fully engaged, highly functioning PTA/PTO where none exist
  • I will attend monthly scheduled PTA/PTO meetings on a rotating basis. The goal is to encourage, motivate and inspire parents in their efforts to support their children academically.
  • I will work collaboratively with the respective school principal and the established PTA/PTO to develop partnerships with the business community, nonprofits, community organizations, etc., that will supplement and support the academic achievement of District 5 students. All partnerships will be established in accordance with Board Policy and PGCPS Administrative Procedures
  • I will work with the Administration to develop programs and services that will enhance and expand academic opportunities to ensure that our students will graduate from PGCPS College AND Career Ready.
  • I will seek to develop partnerships that will provide academic enrichment opportunities for students such as: After School Programs, Conflict Resolution and Mediation, Health Care, Wellness and Fitness, Dental Support, Literacy Support, Gang Prevention and Intervention, Internships, Youth Employment, Student Service Learning Opportunities, Tobacco Free, Alcohol Free, Drug Free, Mentoring and Tutoring, Parent Engagement, Tennis Education, Youth Development Engagement, etc.
  • I will create parent, family and community engagement opportunities through meetings, workshops, listening sessions, etc.
  • I will provide professional development training to District 5 PTA/PTO on the process of fundraising for donations both in-kind and monetary in accordance with Board Policy.
  • I will work to bring needed resources to District 5 schools.
  • I will produce a quarterly District 5 Newsletter which will include appropriate information from each District 5 school to keep parents informed and engaged.
  • I will host an annual event to bring District 5 schools together which will include workshops for parents and students, sharing of information sharing, opportunities for networking, invited guest speakers, games and activities, etc.

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Q & A with David Murray, District 1 Board of Education Candidate

29429795831_e9ff633d2c_oThis is part of an ongoing series of interviews with PGCPS Board of Education candidates. David Murray is a candidate from District 1 (see district map here). Mr. Murray 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 why you feel that you would be an effective member of the Board of Education.

District 1 needs a leader who knows the community and has the background to solve the problems in our schools. I am running for the Board of Education because we face many unique challenges in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS). I can’t predict all of the issues that I will face as a board member but I know better than others the impact our decisions will have on the everyday lives of students and teachers.

My experience includes being appointed by Governor O’Malley and serving on the Maryland State Board of Education. I also served as an Educational Liaison for County Councilman Tom Dernoga and State Senator C. Anthony Muse. During this time I learned how things work in both Upper Marlboro and Annapolis. I know what it takes to get things done, and how to work with other elected officials. I have previously served on the Board of Directors for an education non-profit that serves elementary schools in Laurel. Additionally I have professional experience as a staff auditor at a public accounting firm, where I helped audit state and local governments. Currently I work as an analyst at an investment consulting firm in DC.

What are two or three special challenges that you see in your school board district, and how would you work with the community to address them?

I believe teacher turnover is one of the top two most significant problems facing our district. This is not a new issue facing our schools but one that must be addressed. Perpetual teacher turnover is not good for our students or for our teachers. We need to have a work environment that makes it hard for teachers to want to leave PGCPS, not hard to want to stay. I believe aside from teacher pay there is still more we can be doing. We must make a more concerted effort to listen to our teachers about what is and is not working, and find ways to incorporate their feedback. I will be extremely accessible to our teachers and will solicit input from them often.

The second problem is the lack of community engagement I see from our school board. Prince George’s county has a ton of things going for it that we need to capitalize on. I will work tirelessly to build partnerships with stakeholders in the community including nonprofits, churches, businesses, and the public generally. I am going to be seeking businesses in my district to sponsor schools and donate money, as well as to provide jobs and internship training to local students. I have already begun forging relationships with the faith based community so that we can increase mentoring and tutoring opportunities. I will also be reaching out to the community generally to give their time and talents back to PGCPS. We need to be connecting students with those who work in fields that they aspire to be in and asking people to come volunteer and help out with school events and clubs. I want to bring the community into our schools because I believe it is lacking now.

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

img_0010_0This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with PGCPS Board of Education candidates. K. Alexander Wallace is a candidate from District 7 (see district map here). 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 why you feel that you would be an effective member of the Board of Education.

In the spring of 2015, I went to the Board of Elections and filed for my candidacy to run for the District 7 seat on the Board of Education for Prince George’s County, a county that I was born and raised in. In November of 2015, the County Executive appointed me to represent District 7 and the County Council voted to affirm my confirmation, 9-0. I am proud to say that I currently represent District 7, a district where I was born and a district where I graduated.

I am running to remain on the Board of Education because I have the necessary experience it takes to fulfill the duties of a Board member. The Board is required to increase academic achievement, engage the families and communities, approve educational policies and procedures, and to oversee the nearly $2 billion budget. Throughout my nearly 15 years of combined education policy, community engagement, and grassroots advocacy experience, I have had the honor of working in the Maryland General Assembly and on Capitol Hill where I helped advocate for better educational polices and equitable funding and resources for children of color and children living in poverty – many of whom live in District 7.

I am a product of the county school system, K-12 (Patuxent Elementary, Gwynn Park Middle, Frederick Douglass High, Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High). I furthered my education at Towson University (Undergraduate) and the University of Baltimore (Graduate) where I spent countless years working with the University System of Maryland, the Maryland Higher Education Commission, and the Maryland Youth Advisory Council to advocate for pathways to higher education for Maryland’s youth by making sure education was affordable, accessible, and of high quality.

What are two or three special challenges that you see in your school board district, and how would you work with the community to address them?

One challenge is the high number of aging schools in District 7. While this district has received a handful of new schools and school renovations, such as Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School, Barack Obama Elementary School, North Forestville Elementary, and William Beanes Elementary Schools, there are still too many schools who have been overlooked by the county. We need to rebuild Suitland High School, as well as Drew Freeman and Benjamin Stoddert Middle Schools. Since my time on the Board, I have worked to push these three schools up on our priority list and construction/renovations in the coming years if we receive full funding from the State and County Council.

The school system has recently been under fire for several alleged incidents of abuse and neglect. How will you work to increase a sense of respect and security, for children and their families, in our school system?

The actions of the staff members that have been discovered have been outright disgusting and indefensible. It is because of these events, coupled with the unethical actions of previous PGCPS staff, from the Board of Education down, that has fractured the trust the community has. While these handful of staff members have been dealt with, for the nearly 20,000 staff members within PGCPS, we know that they wake up every day ready to teach, nurture, and grow our students. As Board Members, we need to promote that, governing by facts and not fears. We need to re-engage our stakeholders, on a macro and micro level. As the Chair of the Family and Community Engagement Committee, I have made this a top initiative for the committee.

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