Complete testimony of Tonya Wingfield to the Prince George’s County Board of Education.

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Tonya Wingfield
tvwingfield@gmail.com
Upper Marlboro, MD 20774

I am trying to understand the Strategic Plan the BOE plans to discuss tonight as a first reader and placed on the Consent Agenda to fast track its approval and its connection with the annual budget.

In times past, the BOE would revisit the Strategic Plan; make necessary adjustments, present a proposed plan to the school board as a first reader, give the public the opportunity to weigh-in as part of the democratic process promoting transparency; make recommended changes based on school board members and public comments and then present a final plan for approval. Once the board approved the plan, which usually happened by December, this plan was used to formulate the annual budget based on the goals and strategies outlined in the Strategic Plan.

Under this administration, we see more work in the dark coming to light. First you approve a budget in February, which magically was still being revised as late as last week (late March). You prevent the public from downloading the current budget on the website because we’re being told by those inside the administration that the budget has not be finalized, yet Dr. Maxwell is going around the county telling the public in open forums that the budget was approved by the School Board and County Executive.

Now back to the Strategic Plan, the process has always been the budget is driven by the approved Strategic Plan, yet in last night’s board meeting you’re scrambling to get something recorded in the books to say you had a public hearing of the Plan and voted to approve it. Approving a budget and then scrambling to build a strategic plan to support that budget in any business environment is a formula for failure. And for this board to work in cahoots with the County Executive to clean up all the rough edges you left dangling to purport this fake budget is shameful. Did you really think we would not notice that the $115 million dollars you claim to need almost equals the deficit our County Executive is trying to close? Did you not think we wouldn’t notice that you failed to address resolving the millions of dollars in waste noted in the recent audits and the duplicity in the budget that would more than likely provide this $115 million without raising our property taxes?

This Strategic Plan is just another example of how this board has failed in executing its fiduciary responsibility in ensuring our tax dollars are properly spent and just as we stood up to the last CEO, we will do the same with this CEO. The school board is to act in a non-partisan manner, but it is clear this board has joined itself to the hip of the County Executive and politicized our school system at the expense of innocent children.

The average homeowner in this county spends 30% of their income on their mortgage. This unnecessary tax will send homeowners into foreclosure and bankruptcy and we won’t even mention those struggling on a fixed income. The problem is since you will allow the CEO to fast-track the approval of this Plan, it leaves the public no opportunity to review the Plan and to see if it does match this budget or will it hide the black holes in the budget like the one that allowed Dr. Maxwell to find $38 million dollars to hire unnecessary personnel one of which was a former employee of the County Executive. Of course, you could do with the Strategic Plan as you did with the budget – approve it in front of the public and then request changes be made after the meeting is adjourned, but go back and demand that the CEO does what right for children; not politicians trying to hide their failed policies.

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