Burroughs comes out on top, other school board incumbents in serious trouble

Voters in Prince George’s County have sent a clear message to the members of the Prince George’s County Board of Education, we value an aggressive approach to governing that requires questioning the superintendent.

In tonight’s elections five of the nine seats on the board were up for election. In four of them incumbents defended themselves against aggressive challengers. Rosalind Johnson who represents District 1 decided not to run for reelection. As of reporting time only Edward Burroughs was winning the top spot despite a challenger who was endorsed by the Washington Post and the teachers union. Burroughs was endorsed by all of the other unions who represent school system employees.

Not only was Burroughs winning in his bid to remain on the board, he was winning big. As of reporting Burroughs led his closest challenger Andrew Nottingham 66% to 15%. This was after a colleague of his, Peggy Higgins, took to the editorial page of the Gazette imploring residents to defeat him. It was also after Burroughs was censored by the rest of the board after investigating parent complaints at a school despite being asked not to by Superintendent Hite. Voters disagreed and tonight are rewarding him with a huge victory.

Burroughs will face off against Nottingham in the November general election as they are the top two winners tonight.

In District 1 David Murray, close friend of Edward Burroughs, also is having a great night. Murray lost in 2010 to incumbent Rosalind Johnson by a few percent and this time without her in the race appears to be on the verge to winning her seat. Murray as of reporting leads Zabrina Epps 55% to 31%. He and Epps will embark on a final face off in November as well after emerging from tonight’s primary.

In District 4 incumbent Patrica Eubanks stands a very good chance of losing her seat. Former Cheverly Councilman Micah Watson leads the field with 33% and two other challengers, former Glenarden Councilman Dennis Smith and Sandy Vaughn are in a close race for second with 21.11% and 20.92% respectively. Eubanks is not far behind with 20.96%. The winner out of those three will face Watson in the November general.

In District 5 Board Chair Jacobs is getting spanked badly by University of Maryland freshman Raaheela Ahmed. Jacobs who is in her second term on the board and fifth as chair is running behind Ahmed with only 25% of the vote compared to her 34%. Fellow Board Member Higgins who implored county voters to reelect Jacobs and defeat Burroughs, Ahmed and Murray campaigned hard for Jacobs and it appears it is not working. Ahmed will have to maintain that led against Jacobs in November when the two face off one-on-one.

In District 7 incumbent Henry Armwood also is losing to newcomer Carletta Fellows by a large amount. Armwood has 24% to Fellows 32%. Fellows has made accountability a theme of her campaign and has taken that message to Armwood for his strong defense of the administration. The two will face each other one-on-one in November.

So all in all the message from tonight is clear, voters expect their board members to ask the tough questions Edward Burroughs has been asking, they demand accountability, and when necessary they hope their representatives will vote against proposals of the superintendent. Those who have worked hard not to do that are seeing the results of that tonight.

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From the Editor-in-Chief: Peggy Higgins comes out against Burroughs, plays age card against Murray and Ahmed

They did it two years ago and with Ms. Higgins they are planning to do it again.

In today’s Gazette Peggy Higgins, who owes her Vice-Chairmanship to the vote of Edward Burroughs, today endorsed the anyone but Edward proposition. Why? Well it is not because he has not represented the voices of the 8th district well, it is not that he hasn’t been an advocate for teachers and students, it is also not that he has not been able to understand the information presented to the board, her sole reason for being against Board Member Burroughs is he is too young.

Remember when Steve Morris played this card in 2010 against Edward Burroughs? The voters in the 8th district showed their contempt for that type of dismissal of a young man who has been on the board twice as long as Higgins by electing him with over 58% of the vote or 3,710 votes more than the older, more mature, Morris. Actually if you look at the numbers the only candidates who won their seats with more votes were Higgins, Jacobs, Boston, and Beck. Burroughs did better than Johnson, Waller, Armwood, and Eubanks. We say this to say, the people in his district have examined his age and ruled it doesn’t matter. He has the experience and judgement they wanted.

The craziest thing the Vice-Chair says in this attack on Burroughs as well as candidates David Murray (District 1) and Ahmed (District 2) is that;

Board members who have not had self-supporting jobs and have not paid taxes and mortgages are not able to bring knowledgeable perspective when taking action on taxpayer dollars.

Want to know why this is crazy? The board has nine elected members, only three of them have jobs and only four own homes. Is she saying that the other members who are retired or on unemployment should be booted from the board? How about the one that rents a home or rents a trailer?

Last December when Ms. Higgins took her seat as Vice-Chair some in the county said for a community overwhelmingly black, it was wrong to have a white person in the vice-chair seat. When she was elected in 2010 some said in a deeply social conservative county like Prince George’s her being gay should deprive her the right to serve on the board. The people who said both of those things were wrong. Had they decided to vote against her because she would become a rubber stamp for the superintendent, they might have a point. Had they said she would lack the backbone to stand up for teachers and students who weren’t being served well in schools in her own district, that might be a valid point. Since they only opposed her election to these offices because of her race and sexual orientation they were wrong. She is wrong for opposing these fine upstanding citizens, not because of their positions on the issues, but solely on their age.

Peggy Higgins should be a more thoughtful leader for the county, that she is not makes one question her readiness to lead. You really have to question how she will be able to “form consensus” with Burroughs and Murray should they both be elected in November. God bless her should Ahmed be successful at knocking off Jacobs and joining them.

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Our Endorsements

For the Prince George’s County Board of Education

District 1

David Murray is clearly the most experienced and connected candidate for the vacant seat being left by Rosalind Johnson. Two years ago Murray came close to defeating Johnson in her reelection bid and since that time has remained connected and in touch with the community he wants to represent. His drive and vision for a system that aggressively pursues innovation as a way to improve student achievement is what the Board of Education needs. Additionally he will join a board that has failed to hold senior administrators accountable and deliver on a real reform package everyone says they want. Prince George’s needs new energy as well as new ideas and David Murray is the best chance we have to do that in the 1st District.

District 4

None of the candidates in the race for this seat currently held by Patricia Eubanks brings the experience or vision we believe is necessary to improve Prince George’s County Public Schools. However, one of them is at least more prepared than the others, Micah Watson. As the former Vice Mayor of Cheverly and member of the Democratic Central Committee, Watson does come with a wealth of budget experience unmatched by the other contenders. While Dennis Smith also served as a member of the Glenarden City Council in the past, during his time as a leader in the city he never distinguished himself in fiscal or program matters. Watson played instrumental roles in developing and passing the Cheverly budget as Vice Mayor and a councilman. What concerns us is a disturbingly detached community outreach strategy and real educational experience.

District 5

For the last five years Verjeana Jacobs has been the chair of the Board of Education and should be reelected. None of the candidates running against her have been able to layout a clear vision of why she should be replaced or what they would do better. Jacobs has made a lot of mistakes in her two terms on the school board, but as chair she has been able to bring a diverse group of people together that has done a lot of good. Jacobs has not been as tough on Dr. Hite as she could have been but she has been effective.

District 7

No Endorsement

District 8

Edward Burroughs has been the most outspoken and passionate member of the school board on issues of community involvement, transparency, and most importantly accountability. He has been criticized for not voting the party line and often being the lone voice of dissent but we recommend is reelection. The problem has not been that Burroughs votes no on things like changes to the popular Reading Recovery Program, a budget that grows class sizes, or retaining a lawyer making millions of dollars who donated to the reelection of another board member, the problem is that not enough of his colleagues are joining him. That will change when he is joined by people like his best friend David Murray.

United States House of Representatives

District 4

We support Rep. Donna Edwards for re-nomination to the United States Congress as a Democrat.

No Endorsement in the Republican nomination race.

District 5

We support Rep. Steny Hoyer for re-nomination to the United States Congress as a Democrat.

We believe Delegate Tony O’Donnell has the best chance to give Rep. Hoyer a run for his money. We therefore support his nomination in the Republican Primary.

United States Senate

State Senator C. Anthony Muse (Democrat)

Ben Cardin has been in Washington for over two decades. In that time the support this county has received from the federal government, including the six years he’s been in the Senate has been poor. His casework for the county has been almost as equal to his presence in the county, non-existent. About six years ago Cardin was handed his hat by fmr. Representative Kwesi Mfume by voters in Prince George’s County, but after beating Mfume statewide the best any county resident has seen of their junior senator was likely in their church this year now that he is up for reelection. Senator Muse is not an excellent candidate but he is a better candidate more in touch with the needs of county residents. A strong vote for Muse, even if he does lose to Cardin, will send the message that we as a county are dissatisfied with our representation and we demand more.

Republican Primary (No Endorsement)

For President of the United States of America

Democratic Primary

We support the re-nomination of President Barack Obama

Republican Primary

We support fmr. Governor Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination

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It’s municipal…technology and those who use it best, 2011 Outstanding Browser

If you live in Greenbelt do you know who is responsible for your roads? How about your local property taxes? Guess what it is not the county or even the state (unless they are state or county roads).

Starting today the publisher and editorial board of The Real Prince George’s will begin looking for the municipality in Prince George’s who use their website and social media networks to interact best with the public. We want to find that municipality who goes above and beyond to inform their citizens on events, programs, and other government actions. In today’s day and age where people are more busy than ever before, people are getting their news in a variety of ways including online and through social media.

How can you get involved? Go to http://www.ballotbin.com/voterReg.php?b=24128 and register to be an official voter. The balloting will begin June 28th through July 31st. Go to our Our Municipalities Page for links to websites and social networks.

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Troubled High Point High Alumni Focus on Future, Demand Say in New Principal

For much of the last year High Point High School in Prince George’s County has been in the news and not for anything good. In March we reported that Dr. Hite, the superintendent of schools, and School Board Member Rosalind Johnson who represents the area the school is in, was under fire after a YouTube video online showed a riot in the hallway and became an example of a school community out of control. We also reported that as a result of his investigation, School Board Member Edward Burroughs was secretly censored by the board and it was later upheld by the Maryland State Board. We then reported that despite defending the principal’s leadership, Dr. Hite had replaced the schools leader and named an interim principal to calm the situation. However now things appear to have changed.

Since Acting Principal Rebecca Garcia took over in the spring and with additional support services from the central administration, attention from parents and the community, high point high school seems to be back on track and alumni of the school want it to continue. Lifting High Point Higher is an alumni volunteer/mentoring group who some say are committed to making their school strong again. Most recently during a PTSA members blasted the Director of School Leadership Douglas Anthony on plans from the central office to school programs such as the academic center as ripping the school of their identity. However most of their time has been spent on playing a key role in who should be the next principle.

Acting Principal Rebecca Garcia is very popular among students, parents, and even the community but according to leaders of Lifting High Point Higher she has no interest in the job full-time. That has led this group and dozens of other alums to collate behind another alum who has been a county teacher and assistant principal Edgar Batenga at the school. In a letter they have been sending to Dr. Hite and Mr. Anderson group leaders say they “are looking forward to volunteering within High Point and have a vested interest in who will be the leader we collaborate with.” They go onto say “the only candidate who could effectively heal and lead High Point during this critical stage of transition is Mr. Edgar Batenga. Mr. Batenga is a High Point graduate with experience within the school as a coach, teacher and vice principal. He is a respected leader by all of the students, parents, faculty and alumni who know him. His commitment to High Point’s students and the Beltsville community makes him the only choice for principal.”

To learn more about the group or get involved join their Facebook Page.

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FROM THE EDITOR IN CHIEF

Earlier today a number of post under the assumed name Greeneyes0305 were posted to our blog in response to earlier post relating to High Point High School, the principal being removed, and the censure of School Board Member Edward Burroughs. It is not often that we respond to commentators on this blog and in fact almost all comments are approved without delay. Today became the first time we have drawn a line of distinction and the below email to the poster explains why.

Good Afternoon;

After meeting with the members of our Editorial Board this morning and afternoon, we have decided to selectively approve some and reject some of your recent comments to our Blog.
We created our blog to allow both readers and writers to openly share and discuss events and issues dealing with Prince George’s County by our own residents. As apart of the agreement we made with each other and the public in doing so, we decided it would be a free and open forum that is welcoming of all voices and opinions. That said some of your comments are threatening in both nature and tone. They represent a true violation of the environment we are hoping to create and foster.

After reviewing these comments it seems clear to us that you are either a person close to the principal in question or the person in general. We, collectively, feel that you should be offered an opportunity to defend yourself and your record. Should you feel the need to provide a full statement of the facts as you see them we would be very interested in running it, in full, un-edited.

Sincerely;

Editor in Chief

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It’s unconstitutional, MD AG opinion calls PGCPS plan on school bus fees

Delegate Jolene Ivey (D-47)

District 47 Delegate Jolene Ivey announced today that on the request of Prince George’s County Superintendent Dr. William Hite she sought an Attorney General opinion on his plan to require a fee for specialty school busing programs. The result of that opinion isn’t good news for the superintendent or the board of education who continues to struggle with balancing their budget.

Specialty programs are schools students attend that are not their regular district school. Most students attend these schools for performance arts or other such programs and because the schools are open to students all over the county transportation costs are far higher than traditional buses. According to numbers from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer of PGCPS the system pays about $1,900 per student a year in these programs for buses compared to just over $400 for students who take buses to their district boundary schools.

Earlier this month to balance the school system’s budget Dr. Hite and a majority of the board approved a budget eliminating transportation for specialty programs. Before the board voted Dr. Hite responded to a question from members his administration is working on plans to reconstitute transportation for the schools but based on a fee scale which they would adopt after the budget came back from the County Council. With news of the Attorney General’s opinion today it seems like that option might be off the table.

In a statement emailed to constituents and community groups today, Delegate Ivey announced that the Attorney General’s opinion found that any fee to transport students to or from school would be in violation of the constitution. In her statement she writes that she and the rest of the delegation are working hard to “bring more money back from Annapolis for our schools”.

Dr. Hite nor members from the Prince George’s County Board of Education have responded to news of the ruling. On February 25th the board adopted Dr. Hite’s proposed budget 8-1 with Edward Burroughs voting no. The budget has been sent to the county council who must now decide just how much county funds will be given to supply the budget. Executive Rushern Baker proposed a modest increase in his proposal to the council who have promised to review it closely before signing off.

Full Statement from Jolene Ivey

Dear Parents,
Dr. Hite recently asked me to request an opinion from the Attorney General about the constitutionality of charging for transporting students to school.  The short answer is that it is not constitutional.  The full answer is attached.
We’re doing all we can to bring more money back from Annapolis for our schools, so perhaps this path wouldn’t have been taken, anyway.  I hate the idea of only offering half-day kindergarten, cutting reading specialists for struggling first-graders or having fewer media specialists.  None of these is a good idea, but they’re all constitutional.
I have 4 children in specialty programs and wasn’t relishing the idea of paying for transportation, so I’m relieved, just like many of you are, that the Attorney General has found that we can’t take this path.  I know the money will have to come from somewhere to pay for all the programs that make for a great education for our children.  In my opinion, cuts shouldn’t impact the youngest learners.  We’re doing all we can here in Annapolis to minimize cuts to education, and I hope you’re all thinking about how to find the money to pay for our priorities, too.
Sincerely,
Jolene Ivey

Delegate, District 47

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Was BOE Member Edward Burroughs Censored Over High Point?

District 8 Board Member Edward Burroughs

So what was the majority of the members of the Prince George’s County Board of Education doing when the stories of violence and truancy were really starting to heat up? Well not protecting the students if reports from a Maryland Delegate and a leader of the PTA are true.

After spending weeks trying to get Superintendent Dr. Hite and Board Member Rosalind Johnson to move on reports of daily fights and high truancy at High Point High School, parents and community leaders turned to writing the entire board and even members of their delegation to the General Assembly. Of the nine elected members only one responded to their concerns, Edward Burroughs, and he may have paid a price for it.

A parent member of the High Point High School PTA reported and it was later confirmed by a member of the Maryland General Assembly, that after people in the community sent numerous emails asking for help Edward Burroughs agreed. The parent said their emails outlined documented instances of students seen arriving at High Point High School, getting off the bus and entering the community, and then returning to the school at the end of the day to take the bus home. Burroughs who formerly served as a two-term student member of the board was elected as a full member from District 8 last year decided to see for himself if the reports were true when he went to the school a few weeks ago. After seeing that they had not misled the board but the board was being misled by Johnson and Hite, parents said they had learned Burroughs had been censored. The board took the vote in a closed meeting after saying Burroughs violated board policy for going to the school without the approval of the superintendent. This was shocking to the parent since they say how is a board member supposed to oversee the system if they need administration approval to go to the schools?

The PTA leader says she was told numerous times by her board member Rosalind Johnson and Dr. Hite that the situation at the school was under control and their concerns had been “over stated”. She went on to say that Mr. Burroughs has not confirmed to them that he was in fact censored but they have confirmed the information much like we have from a member of the House of Delegates close to Mr. Burroughs.

Prince George’s County Superintendent William Hite and District 1 Board Member Rosalind Johnson have been under fire from community leaders after a video of a hallway fight ended up on Youtube. School Board leaders Verjeana Jacobs who chairs the group and Donna Beck who is the Vice-Chair have also been facing complaints their lack of action to respond to the reports before they made television and media reports. Another parent reported being told my members of the board they wanted to come to the school to investigate their claims but policy prohibited them from visiting schools to observe without approval from the superintendent.

Last week Dr. Hite announced he was replacing Principal Michael Brooks with Assistant Principal Rebecca Garcia. In a letter to parents the superintendent wrote the school system plans to conduct a national search for a full-time replacement who “has experience in addressing the issues at hand, and who will best serve the diverse student population at High Point High School”.

Requests for comment from Edward Burroughs and school system administrators have not been returned. We held this story in order to work hard to get a comment from the board of education or Mr. Burroughs but none have been supplied.

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New video of fight at High Point HS has Rosalind Johnson and Hite under fire

Video of a fight at High Point High School uploaded to Youtube has Dr. Hite and School Board Member Rosalind Johnson in the hot seat.

In a video recently uploaded to Youtube a group of black students appear to target a group of Hispanic students in a fight recorded inside the High Point High School hallway. The clip is more than a minute long and starts in a classroom door with an argument and then the eventual beat down. Despite the fact that the clip shows the fight moving down three different halls for a good amount of time without the presence of any administrators, teachers, or campus security. The tape has alarmed parents in the community.

Ros is such a waste and does nothing but take up for the principal…i plan ok taking my daughter out…when videos like this surface…where is the principal and leadership!! Hiding! Ros only comes around during election season

Another parent leader blasted Dr. Hite, Rosalind Johnson, and even members of their legislative delegation.

Look for months we’ve complained about the lack of real administrative leadership at this school. We’ve talked to everybody, Dr. Hite, Ros Johnson, Barbara Frush, hell everybody. Nobody has listened to us. Nobody. We then sought out the help of one board member who did help us, Edward Burroughs, and the rest of the board punished him for it.

Another parent said her son is too afraid to attend classes and he won’t until the Principal is removed.

I just do not trust anything Dr. Hite has to say anymore. He promised our school would be safe and this proves it is not. My son told me in December he was afraid to go to school. Seeing this video I know why. At no point did any teacher or security ever appear.

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