Monthly Archives: October 2013

One twin dies, another survives PG car crash;

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Dr. Henry Wise High School

Students at Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School are mourning a former classmate who died Monday night in a fatal car crash.

Prince George’s County police say speed may have been a factor in the accident that killed 17-year-old Alex Edward Cole and injured three other people, including Alex’s twin brother. >>> Read more Washington post

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Maxwell addresses the Prince George’s County Council

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In his first public appearance before the Prince George’s County Council, Schools Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell said Tuesday that he is evaluating the district’s specialty programs, surveying underutilized schools and analyzing how grades are distributed in schools.

Maxwell said the district, which has experienced a drop in enrollment over the last several years, has a number of schools that are under capacity, and “there is some question of whether they should be closed.” >>> Read More Washington Post

OPINION:

School consolidation either fixes budget shortfalls and creates great schools or destroys a sense of community and adversely impacts local economies. An examination of the pros and cons reveals that each argument has it strengths and weaknesses. The issue of money and what makes a great school cuts both ways in the school consolidation discussion. We hope the agenda in Prince George’s County public school is not to sell any of them but to preserve as many as possible incase parents who have left with their children decide to come back. Closer examination sorts out the thrust of the pros and cons of consolidation.
1.      Education Quality
  • Proponents of school consolidation use the quality of education as a selling point. When two or more small schools consolidate, the resulting school will be able to offer more courses and hire more diverse faculty with teaching expertise in specialized areas. In particular, specialized courses that appeal to only a handful of students will likely generate interest from more students, allowing the school to offer them. This would include advanced classes in mathematics and science, and other areas of study such as drama or non-traditional foreign languages such as Russian or Japanese. Let us hope the Prince George’s County Public schools CEO and the Board members have a plan.

2.      Money

  • The ability to save money is another big selling point for schools considering consolidation. When schools are consolidated, unused school buildings can be sold or used for other purposes, and utility and maintenance costs are reduced, especially if the consolidated school is newer and more energy efficient. Transportation costs are also reduced as fewer school buses will be needed to cover overlapping routes.[I’d have to disagree on this one; most studies show an increase in transportation costs as students are bused past closed schools to the new one. -Ed] Employees needed for non-academic services such as office personnel, cafeteria workers and custodial services can also be reduced. That means, there is going to be job loses if the issue is taken heads on. We hope the Board of Education members will be transparent on this one.

3.      Loss of Identity

  • Local communities identify themselves with their school. Consolidation normally involves some smaller towns losing a school. While saving money is a pro, the loss of the school becomes a con. Parents want their children to attend the same small school they did. For community residents, the closing of the school they attended in the name of consolidation registers as a negative. They fear their children will be lost in the large consolidated school, and they feel they won’t be able to identify with the new school.

4.      Economic Impact

  • Some of the money saved as a result of consolidation is a result of cutting jobs. Small-town schools are often one of the largest employers in the town, and when a school closes it can have a negative effect on the community. School workers who are laid off will face much stiffer competition for those same positions in the consolidated school and face a good chance of not getting hired. David Thompson, a Kansas State University professor in education leadership, points out that the money spent on schools is partially returned to the local community as school employees spend their salaries at local businesses; by shuttering smaller schools, consolidation takes that money out of the small-town community.

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Prince George’s school board OKs textbooks…

…that students are already using. Misplaced paperwork caused education items to be distributed prior to approval, officials say

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by Jamie Anfenson-Comeau    Gazette Staff writer

By an 11-to-1 vote, the Prince George’s County school board gave final approval Oct. 24 to begin using two new textbooks — however, the books had already been purchased and distributed to students at the beginning of the school year.

The two textbooks, Algebra II and Geometry, had been approved by the school system’s textbook committees last spring, but were not brought to the board at that time.

“The procedures for the school system were not followed adequately in the case of the … Algebra II and geometry textbook adoption,” said school system CEO Kevin Maxwell. “They were approved [by the textbook committee] back in the spring, but there was a delay in bringing them to the board.”

Maxwell said the purchasing department ordered the books and delivered them to the schools in advance of final board approval.

The school system’s Administrative Procedure 6180.1 states that textbook selections are to be presented to the school board for approval by the end of March and prior to purchasing.

The procedural lapse occurred prior to the Aug. 1 start of Maxwell’s tenure.

The cost of the textbooks, $1.3 million, had already been budgeted into the current year budget.

Chief Academics Officer A. Duane Arbogast said the new textbooks are needed as they are aligned more closely with the Common Core education standards being adopted by Maryland.

“We felt that our old books were so far off the mark from where we needed to be with Common Core, we just needed to replace them,” Arbogast said.

Arbogast said that normally the school system replaces textbooks every eight to 10 years, and the previous Algebra II and geometry books should have been replaced a few years ago, but hadn’t been due to school system budget cuts. >>> Read More Gazette.

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Maryland schools struggle…

…in new ranking under poor leadership.

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By The Associated Press
October 24, 2013 – 05:30 am
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) – While Maryland’s school system has had the top spot in a  publication’s annual ranking of the nation’s schools for five years in a row,  the state is far from the top of a new report comparing eighth-graders in the  United States with other states and 38 other countries.
Massachusetts was the only state to score in a top rating in math in the study  being released Thursday by the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for  Education Statistics. Only eight -states – Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota,  Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin – scored in a top  rating for science.

Read more: http://www.wjla.com/articles/2013/10/maryland-schools-struggle-in-new-ranking-95847.html#ixzz2ig8QDtsO

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Dr. Lillian M. Lowery Maryland State Superintendent  of schools has been criticized for showing very poor leadership skills in various ways and received an F grade for Common Core meetings so far.

Parents protest proposed Wal-Mart…

…near two Prince George’s schools

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Courtesy Chase Cook/The Gazette
John Nelson of Accokeek holds an anti-Wal-Mart sign while Tamara Davis Brown of Clinton shouts into a megaphone to protest a proposal to build a Walmart next to John Hanson Montessori School and Oxon Hill High School.

They’ve been fighting a Wal-Mart coming to their neighborhood for two and a half years, and parents of Oxon Hill High School students came together again Thursday to reinforce their message regarding the proposed department store: Build somewhere else.

The store’s proposed site is in between John Hanson Montessori School and Oxon Hill High School, which parents say would bring in more traffic and pose safety challenges for students.

“There is a lot of land in Prince George’s County,” said Accokeek resident Nicole Nelson, vice president of the John Hanson Montessori School Parent Teacher Student Association. “They can build it somewhere else.”

Nelson joined about 20 other parents and students holding signs on the sidewalk in front of Hanson Montessori, chanting in opposition to the store. She said the protestors have been fighting the Wal-Mart since 2011 and will continue to do so until the proposed site is changed. >>> Read more Gazette

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Pr. George’s students punished for wearing pink…

…not uniforms, for Breast Cancer Month

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About 75 students at Friendly High School in Prince George’s County who supported Breast Cancer Awareness Month by wearing pink shirts were given in-school suspensions Friday for violating the school’s uniform policy.

Students said they were sent to a classroom and told that they would receive an unexcused absence and zeros for their classes. But Max Pugh, a spokesman for the school system, said the students would be excused for missing class and would be able to make up any missed work.

Raynah Adams, principal of the Fort Washington school, told the students Tuesday that they could not hold their annual “Pink Out” because it would violate the uniform policy and there were security concerns, the students said.

But on Friday, a number of students showed up wearing pink shirts, pink sweaters and, in some cases, pink ribbons painted on their cheeks. Students estimated that 20 percent of the school population participated, but that figure could not be confirmed. >>> Read More Washington Post

OPINION.

Any principal who lock-steps behind regulations and cannot encourage student support for righteous causes –especially for the young women in this particular school–is a principal who needs to be replaced. This was reprehensible on the part of the school.  Many of the Schools in PG county are still run by little Hitlers and connected to powerful friends.  And of course the students are aware of it.  In this case, it does teach a valuable life lesson.  Our experience has been when schools have a uniform policy, they always have dress down days, spirit wear days, St. Patrick’s green wear day and dress up days.  What’s the problem with having a “breast cancer awareness day?”

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Opinion concerning six-month plan….

…and the leadership involved in the process for Prince George’s schools

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Following the appointment of Dr. Lillian M. Lowery Maryland State Superintendent  of schools and Maryland State Board of Education President Dr. Charlene Dukes as the Transition Team Chair and co-chair respectfully,  We find the decision to appoint them into these positions to be illegal, a conflict of interest and also very unaesthetic. What is going on? Is this the kind of revolution we advocated for? Time has changed and we are no longer in 1970’s to take this unethical practice lying down.Time has changed and we are no longer in 1970’s to take this unethical practice lying down. Otherwise, if we do not react,  the school system will continue to suffer no matter who is put at the helm because the shakeup that’s needed the most is at levels well below that of the superintendent. Today’s world demands a culture of transparency and accountability. Our opinion as articulated in yesterday’s blog follows again below…… We plan to follow up with more analysis in the future…. stay involved and please demand changes. A luta continua! The transition team is scheduled to finish its work in December and submit a report to the Board of Education. >>> Read more Washington Post

OPINION

Reform Sasscer Movement for Prince George’s county is challenging Prince George’s county citizens to be prepared to make sacrifices for their county and to protect the gains already achieved while they seek for more. We must make sacrifices to build on the gains achieved so far and learn from America’s experiences especially in the field of protection of rights and decentralization of power and resources.

Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington and others who fought for freedom knew that freedom is not given; it must be won through struggle, persistence and faith in the future.

As we have mobilized political leaders, we have been a witness to history. In our own small way, we have contributed to the history of our county. We have been a witness as the tide of history turned in our county as a model for others. As participants in some of the events that changed our county school system. As residents and workers we have pushed forward toward freedom and we can tell you nothing comes easy, and surrender cannot be an option at this time.

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Dr. Lillian M. Lowery Maryland State Superintendent  of schools has been criticized for showing very poor leadership skills in various ways and received an F grade for Common Core meetings so far.

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Maryland State Board of Education President Dr. Charlene Dukes shown here has demonstrated a culture of corrupt leadership style and continues “an integrated pattern of pay to play” and manipulation.

Now this brings us to the raging debate on why an appointment was made of such a large group (32) to review an issue which led to the appointment of Dr. Kevin Maxwell as the CEO of Prince George’s County public schools. Before he interviewed and accepted the job, we had already identified “the top priorities“. So what happened?   In our honest opinion, this appointment of two of the top leadership (Dr. Lillian Lowery and Dr. Charlene Dukes) to run the affairs of the county is dishonest, misplaced and hypocritical. First, Charlene Dukes who served as a previous Board member during a time of high levels of corruption should be viewed with a lot of suspicion.  Why would any leader thrive in the suffering of his or her people who either freely elected him or her or surrendered all authority to him or her to govern? What was the purpose of appointing the expanded Board of Education and their supposedly expertise of some of the new members? If a grievance arose of such a group who will resolve it given Dr. Lillian Lowery and Dr. Charlene Dukes are supposedly neutral of which they are not? Isn’t what they are doing illegal and creates a conflict of interest? Why appoint someone and then follow him to throw your power/ weight around? Where is the outrage?

The current group led by Dr. Charlene Dukes and Dr. Lillian Lowery is comprised of a bunch of people without a clue of what has been going on. While some of them are good men and women, How are they going to make recommendations to solve a problem within the county they do not even understand or believe in themselves? The people of Prince George’s County needs a chance to come up with their own solutions. Top of their list should be eliminate the current group (32) which has their own selfish agenda to derail the progress made so far. The Unions need to be reformed first, we do not expect them to shoot themselves on their feet. Do you? How about Mr. Dwayne Jones (President ASASP) mentioned in our blogs? Does anyone in their right mind expect him to reform the principal’s union? Mr. Jones does not even have time to add a message to his followers on the website. We do not think so…

The Washington post article mentions that, “The transition team is scheduled to finish its work in December and submit a report to the Board of Education.”  The poor unfortunate Prince Georges children and their parents deserve better than this. Take a look at some of those names on the “team”. Same people with the same philosophy. This is the ultimate definition of insanity. This was never about anything but raw political power to some of these people.

Power, they say, does not flow along the lines of an organization’s organograms; power is fluid and often asymmetrical.

Access is power, those who have unlimited access to leaders often tend to have more power and influence on decision-making processes than elected leaders holding seemingly powerful positions.

As political historian Hedrick Smith writes in his book, The Power Game – HowWashington Works’ access to a president means involvement in major decisions and actions of the State. Smith writes the most vital ingredients of power are often intangible. Information is power. Visibility around the president or his deputy is power and so is access to the inner sanctums of government.

The fear of political manipulation and arbitrariness in Prince George’s County Board of Education duties has led several Board members to question the new order of doing Business. They are correct.  The HB1107 did not create space to include such a large number of personal friends to investigate themselves.

A great deal of criticism should be directed at the Maryland state Board of Education by various parties as a result of several errors committed by the state agency in managing the affairs of the county and Maryland as a state.

In our view and consistent to those expressed by many others, beyond seeking justice, we must entertain self-preservation as a key motive of the Maryland state Board of Education. The Maryland state Board of Education must demonstrate results to funding county Boards and various interest groups. This motive raises the probability of miscarriage of justice and selective prosecution as is quite apparent in the several cases lately.

Under the current structure, Maryland state Board of Education is likely to continue losing support. Its scope of powers and especially the office of the Attorney General is too broad and wide open to political manipulation that it would be irrational to expect fair adjudication of justice.

Unless serious reforms are undertaken to ensure Maryland state Board of Education can be trusted to execute justice fairly, it will continue digging its own grave and in the process undermining justice.

In essence, Folks, there’s no more doubt. Maryland state Board of Education is its own worst enemy and living to the claims of a state agency. It does not have the capacity and the expertise to do what is right for the children of the state of Maryland.  The time to act is now.  We have got a runaway state board of education with no oversight, not subject to election, and doing reforms not subject to legislative review.  All without citizen input nor consent.  And wielding a billion dollar budget. The future of Maryland state Board of Education is either radical reforms or a funeral. We must say “NO” to the latest shenanigans.

When you see us pushing for these things, we hope you will understand where we are coming from. We have seen freedoms taken away and opportunities frustrated and killed and we have learnt that if we sit back, nobody will apologize and say sorry. The powerful just move on while the poor and the weak suffer.

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