Thursday the Prince George’s County Board of Education moved to fire two holdovers from former superintendent Dr. Hite’s cabinet, CFO Matthew Stanski and Chief Legal Advisor/General Counsel Roger Thomas. According to sources the board was informed that after former HR chief Synthia Shilling resigned her post before facing charges of hitting and running from the scene of an accident in July, Stanski approved a six figure check as severance pay without the approval of the board. The resignations of Stanski and Thomas leave the school system with two more vacancies at a time when the board is struggling to fill roles already left open after Dr. Hite and his deputy Dr. Coleman-Potter departed this summer for other positions. In addition to searching for a new superintendent, deputy superintendent, now CFO, Chief Legal Counsel, and human resources head, the board also has a vacancy in the office of Student Services after the former chief resigned at the end of the summer as well. Oretha Bridgwaters-Simms, who recently retired from the system was named Acting Chief of Student Services. In the Office of the General Counsel alone now two of the four positions are now vacant. “They have to face the music, get from behind the closed door, and inform the public just what they are doing to fill these important posts,” said a source who works for the central office but asked not to be identified.
Today the leaders of the Prince George’s County Young Democrats went on the offensive to capture the four seats on the Board of Education they endorsed candidates in. Before the April primary PGCYD supported David Murray in District 1, Micah Watson in District 4, Raheela Ahmed in District 5, and the reelection of Edward Burroughs in District 8. All of these candidates won huge in the primary and appear to be on the path to winning in November. With that in mind the board majority, led by chairwoman Verjeana Jacobs who will face off against Raheela Ahmed, the sister of the newly elected Student Board Member, has sought to limit the influence of future students elected to represent their peers. That all came to a head at the last board meeting when Faith Jackson, the outgoing Student Board Member, sought to engage in the tradition of passing the torch to her successor. The board said no and…well Faith set them straight. Watch her farewell speech below. We will just say, the speech was so powerful that Faith’s photo was immediately removed from the board’s website after the meeting, something that historically didn’t happen until the new Student Board Member is sworn in. That won’t happen until August.
Also stay tuned for more from that meeting. We are still getting information on the behind the scenes Executive Session that was held previous to this public session.
Letter from PGCYD President Larry Stafford
As you read this, there is a battle brewing in Prince George’s. It’s a battle for our county’s schools, and therefore a battle for the future of young people in the place we call home. Recently immediate past student member of the board, Faith Jackson, stood up against the forces that oppose progress in our county’s schools and police were summoned and she was threatened with arrest for her actions.
In her final address to the public as student board member,(which you can watch here) Faith declared “Prince George’s County Public Schools will not advance from second from the bottom until my colleagues either remove the politics or remove themselves.” Unfortunately, Faith’s colleagues have refused to remove the politics, and they will not remove themselves.
On April 3rd 2012, the tectonic plates of Prince George’s County’s political landscape began to shift. Every incumbent member of the Board of Education on the ballot for re-election minus one (who happens to be one of the progressive agents of change on the board) finished second in their races. They each were beaten by much younger and less well known candidates. This has sent shockwaves through the political establishment.
We must elect Edward Burroughs, Raaheela Ahmed, David Murray, and Micah Watson because the citizens of Prince George’s County are tired of an education system that does not put students first. Many of those who will vote in November do not know about the role of the Board of Education, or that several of its members are obstacles in the way of progress for our schools. Some of the same board members are betting on this to keep them in office in November. It’s going to take a strong grassroots campaign to spread the word about what’s going on and to move our schools forward.
Dr. Bonita Coleman Potter who serves as the Deputy Superintendent for the Prince George’s County Public Schools will step down from her role later this month. She has been tapped as the new chief executive of the Ocean Springs School District in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
The change in post will be a change in pace for the second in command of Maryland’s second largest school district. Prince George’s County has 123,000 students, that is about fifteen times larger than the entire 18,000 people in the entire Ocean Springs town. Prince George’s County graduated 8,000 seniors this year, Ocean Springs graduated 375. Despite the change, according to the Ocean Springs School Board President she wants to return home. Coleman-Potter is a Mississippi native who taught middle school in Clinton, Mississippi and after that served as deputy superintendent of instruction for four years in the Jackson Public School District, and was a college professor at Tugaloo and Jackson State.
This proves the second time was the charm for Potter. Last June Potter was named a finalist to replace the Atlanta City Public Schools superintendent who retired after a testing scandal took over her tenure. The board there decided against selecting a new leader and named an interim for the year.
Dr. Coleman Potter is expected to return to Mississippi over the next few weeks to find a place to live, but doesn’t take the helm of the system full-time until July 1st. The Deputy Superintendent has held her position since Dr. Hite named her to the post in 2009.
With the special session of the Maryland General Assembly days away, the chiefs of Baltimore City, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County public schools have joined together to fight for a restoration of school funding. In a letter released today, the three superintendents urge the state leaders to remember their investments and restore cuts to public education.
The Prince George’s County Public Schools took it a step further unveiling a feature on their website urging community members to pressure the legislature to restore the cuts. The feature allows citizens use the PGCPS website and lobby their legislators and the governor. To view the page yourself go to http://www1.pgcps.org/budget/13.aspx
Press Release and Letter from PGCPS about combined efforts with BCPS and MCPS.
Superintendents of Baltimore City, Prince George’s County and MCPS Send Joint Letter to State LeadersMay 7, 2012For Immediate ReleaseCONTACT:
Office of Communications301-952-6001
The leaders of three of the largest school districts in Maryland sent a joint letter today to the Governor and the leaders of the State Senate and the State House of Delegates urging them to fully restore funding for public education during the special session of the General Assembly, which begins on May 14. The General Assembly failed to come to a budget agreement during its regular session, which ended last month, leading to the passage of a so-called “doomsday budget,” that would cut funding for schools and other services by more than $500 million. The letter stresses the importance of Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI) funds and other state education funding, and outlines the impact that such cuts could have for the three districts and the state, as a whole.
The letter is signed Dr. Andrés A. Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, Dr. William R. Hite, Jr., superintendent of Prince George’s County Public Schools, and Dr. Joshua P. Starr, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools. It is addressed to Governor Martin J. O’Malley, President of the Senate Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. and Speaker of the House of Delegates Michael E. Busch.
The text of the letter is below. A copy of the letter can be found here.
Dear Governor O’Malley, Senate President Miller and Speaker Busch:
We are writing to share our collective concern about the devastating impact the so-called “doomsday” budget would have on our three school systems and Maryland’s hard-earned standing as being “first in education.” As you prepare to gather for a special session of the General Assembly on May 14, we urge you to fully restore the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI) and other formula funding for public education.
Our districts, combined, educate more than one-third of Maryland’s students and, within that, nearly two-thirds of the African American and Hispanic students in the state and more than half of the students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals. The elimination of $93 million in GCEI funding would disproportionately harm our students, our ability to continue to narrow achievement gaps for those students who are minorities and poor, and student performance for the state as a whole.
Under the state’s Thornton formula in the past five years, our districts have received a majority of GCEI dollars that the state distributes to create equity in funding across jurisdictions. The GCEI offsets funding in districts where the cost of living—and, by extension, the cost of educating children—is higher. During those same five years, our three districts combined have shown significant student achievement gains—gains that have improved the educational and life prospects of tens of thousands of children and gone a long way to moving us toward financial and educational equity for our kids. These gains have also contributed heavily to Maryland’s continued status as having the best public education system in the country.
For instance, Maryland is rightfully proud of its position as a national leader in Advanced Placement participation and performance. Since 2007, the number of AP exams taken by Maryland students has increased 35 percent. Our three districts, combined, have accounted for about half of the state’s AP growth, having increased the number of AP exams taken by more than 40 percent since 2007.
And the GCEI funding has been critical to making this success happen; most importantly, it has been essential to our ability to deliver the education our students need and deserve. The elimination of the GCEI would be a huge setback in the gains our students have made. Collectively, our three districts would sustain 73 percent of what would be a $128.8 million cut to public education.
If we are to ensure that our students graduate from high school prepared for the workforce of the 21st century, and if we are to grow the pool of workers trained to enter the fast-emerging STEM professions in our state, then we cannot retreat on education funding. If we are to make good on our commitment to educating children equitably, regardless of their geographic location, we must maintain, and even increase, our investment in education. As our state’s leader-, you have demonstrated your commitment to education time and again. We ask you to maintain that commitment to our students during the special session.
Andrés A. Alonso, Ed.D.
CEO, Baltimore City Public Schools
William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D.
Superintendent, Prince George’s County Public Schools
Joshua P. Starr, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Montgomery County Public Schools
Thank you for letting me know about this incident. I was not aware of it, and have not heard from any other sources about it. It speaks to my greatest frustration with PGCPS, and one of my main reasons for running: lack of communication with the stakeholders of our public school system. That means families, parents, teachers and students. I would not support the administration reviewing students’ tweets without probable cause, and would not support taking any action against anyone based on a tweet except to prevent harm or potential harm to a person or property, bullying, or some other serious consequence. I will read the petition before deciding whether to sign it, and I want to know more about this.
Micah Watson, District 4 Candidate, cell 240-603-9366.
- Do you support the response of the administration? If so why? If you oppose it or have concerns what are they?
- Will you sign the petition some PGCPS students have organized demanding their leaders suspensions be lifted athttp://tinyurl.com/pgcpsstudents
- What other thoughts do you have?
This is actually one of the first times I have been contacted regarding this matter. First off, as a board member, I know for a fact that I should neither respond to or comment on this issue, and that I will subsequently be disdained for doing so. However, I continue to remind myself that I was elected to the Board not by the Board, and that if I ignore the needs of students for whatever reason or because of whatever bureaucracy I have failed to fulfill the duties I was elected by my peers to complete. While I understand the authority and purpose of the school’s administration and its actions, I think the right to protest is essential to avoid tyranny. I, of course, have to hear both sides of the story, but think that sometimes extreme measures are necessary to prove a point and bring needed attention. If there is any further discussion or appeal on this topic, I know that I face the risk of now having to recuse myself, but such is simply what comes with the territory. I plan to attend and hear from students at the upcoming student forum, and eagerly await any more contact. My duty is to serve and represent the students so if anyone has any further questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions I can be contacted at this email address, 240-472-3160, or via my twitter account, @KeeptheFaithJ. I thank you for contacting me, and hope to hear from students soon.
Remember earlier when we blogged about a recent student planned uprising that was crushed by Dr. Hite and other Prince George’s County Public School Officials? Well that suppression has been making a lot of headlines lately all across the country.
After it was first featured on The Black Star Project and then here on our blog, the news just took off. Today the AFL-CIO Metro DC Council featured the story to their email list of thousands of union members and supporters. They also featured it on their website. The Midwest Peace and Justice Caucus of the National Education Association (America’s largest teacher’s union) also featured the story on their blog. Here in Maryland, the progressive blog Maryland Juice (arguably one of the states most popular progressive blogs) also ran the story.
Now student leaders are turning up the pressure with a newly launched Change.org petition (sign it today at http://tinyurl.com/pgcpsstudents) demanding the suspensions of their leaders be lifted and wiped from their records.
Fighting for your rights is a key American principal. The right to petition your government through peaceful assembly is a value that this nation was founded on. So we plan to ask, how do the candidates running for the Board of Education feel about this issue? Do they think students should be given the right to petition their government, the Board of Education and school officials, or should they just shut up and learn about the rights nobody expects them to exercise? We’re sending an email to them all and will let you know what we hear back.
By the way where are the Prince George’s County Young Democrats? The Student Board Member what does she think? We will be asking them too.
What do you think? Tell us your opinion and if you support the students go to http://tinyurl.com/pgcpsstudents and add your voice to their voice.
For almost a month now the founder and leader of the group Parents and PGCPS Dr. Mike Robinson has been a vocal critic of a million dollar deal the Board of Education approved both on his groups website and on twitter. Now it appears the system just might be hitting back.
Recently the Board of Education voted to renew the contract for its attorney the Thatcher Law Firm for five years. Regardless of the fact they used a competitive bidding process to select the current firm, Dr. Robinson and to an extent School Board Member Edward Burroughs, have pushed to put the contract up for bid again. Why? Because since 2009 PGCPS has paid this firm about $2,144,744 in fees. “This is not a lot of money if they were the sole attorney,” a member of the PGCPS central administration staff told us, but they are not. The school system employees a counsel for Dr. Hite and an entire office of lawyers in their Office of the General Counsel.
Dr. Robinson, who formerly worked for the school system, has been focusing on this issue since that vote passed. So how does the school system respond? In comes @ilovegogomusic a twitter account founded today for the sole purpose it appears of attacking Dr. Mike Robinson.The first tweet read, is
@pgcpsparents the same person who “borrowed” money from the Flowers HS PTA & never paid it back? Please give our kids back their money!
One of the more interesting tweets said;
Why is that tweet so interesting? Well because a basic reading of the @pgcpsparents account will let you know Dr. Mike Robinson is a MAN and not a woman. “It is sad that they would do something to a man who has basically made his life’s work empowering parents,” a teacher at one of the county high schools told us after he reported the account to us today. “They will deny knowing anything about it but they do. It is them and it is wrong.”
So what do you think? Is someone at the school system behind this account? Take our poll and let us know.