Monthly Archives: May 2015

City schools lay off employees in central office shake-up


CEO Gregory Thornton

So the Baltimore City school CEO Gregory Thornton lays off 159 hard-working, dedicated teachers because the school system “misplaced” $70+ million – the second such misuse of dollars over $50 million in the past decade – and yet the Sun only points to Governor Hogan’s decision not to allocate $12M more $$ to a system that has yet to answer for where that $$ went? Why aren’t city leaders calling “emergency council hearings” and investigations into this theft of tax – payer money?

The same situation goes for Prince George’s County Public Schools where Kevin Maxwell invaded children reserve fund to pay off connected close friends and buddies to a tune of $18 million without any oversight. Both Prince George’s County and Baltimore City are the epicenter for corruption in Maryland with Prince George’s County leading the way. The media and our local politicians don’t even raise this issue any more…and once again, they steal millions of dollars causing layoffs to great teachers, staff and nobody is held accountable for it?! Smdh…a damn shame?!#‎RealRant‬ ‪#‎Accountability‬ ‪#‎MrPolitics‬ #PGCPSMESS


Dr. Kevin Maxwell

More than 150 Baltimore city school employees received layoff notices Wednesday, part of a promised cost-saving measure in city schools CEO Gregory Thornton’s first budget.

School officials said that 159 staff positions were eliminated and another 16 employees have been reassigned. The layoffs were the first in the district in at least a decade.

Thornton, who took over as school system CEO last summer, said in previous budget discussions that at least 100 central office staff would be let go this year. He has been working to close a $108 million gap in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Thornton said in a statement that the decision to cut jobs was a “challenging” one. Some staff, he said, were let go immediately; others will go June 30.

The layoffs, he said, are “necessary not only to balance the budget for the upcoming year, but to put the district on the path to financial stability for the long term.”

“By taking this difficult step today, we’re investing in our students for tomorrow.”

City school officials declined to answer questions about the layoffs, including how much the job cuts would save the district.

Thornton had hired consultants to identify inefficiencies at the central office, such as duplicate jobs and services. In a letter to staff Wednesday, he wrote that the decisions were not based on performance, and the district would help those who were laid off find jobs.

About 930 central office administrators remain. They are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the district, from payroll to academic support.

The central office will continue to go through a shake-up, including the creation of new positions that union officials hope some of their displaced members can fill.

Jimmy Gittings, president of the union that represents school district administrators, said he hopes to get members who have lost their jobs placed in other positions.

Baltimore Teachers Union President Marietta English said in a statement the union also would try to place its members in open positions.

“There are vacancies in the district that have not been filled, and it makes sense to us that these members should fill those voids,” English said.

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said she is concerned about the layoffs.

“We try to avoid layoffs, but apparently in this case the school board couldn’t avoid it,” she said. “Everyone who is laid off is devastated and rightly so, and it’s another person without work in Baltimore City. I am not trying to second-guess the school board, but I hope they find positions for those people” who were displaced.

Thornton has said the layoffs would primarily be at the central office, but that teachers also could be affected.

He planned to deplete the district’s “surplus pool” — teachers and staff who are paid by the system but don’t have permanent placements. Thornton has said the district has spent millions in recent years to maintain the pool, which accounted for 200 position as of March.

English said the surplus workforce was created “because principals were allowed to eliminate positions they didn’t want at will, thus these members were put in a surplus pool. Our union has been fighting the surplus pool, asking simply: ‘Why weren’t these people placed in vacant positions?’

“It is our hope that those surplus employees will find another position in another school,” she said.

Thornton formally presented his budget package to the City Council on Wednesday. At the hearing, he was quizzed about summer programs, recreation centers and other academic programs.

The district lost out on $11.6 million in state funding that Gov. Larry Hogan declined to release to the city after the General Assembly set aside the money in the state budget. That money would have gone toward increasing the per-pupil spending allocations in neighborhood schools.

Hogan said he wants to use $68 million that lawmakers set aside for schools statewide to shore up what he calls an underfunded state employee pension system.

Reporter Yvonne Wenger contributed to this story.

Read more >>> Thornton tells lawmakers city schools will lay off 100 central office staff



Md. school mistakenly sends unedited email to mother concerned about mold in the classrooms.


TEMPLE HILLS, Md. (WJLA) — A Prince George’s County mom who pulled her child out of school because she said mold in the building was making her daughter sick may be onto something. The 7 On Your Side I-Team obtained a document the district accidentally released explaining how mold could possibly have been in the school.

In this age of spreadsheets and word documents it’s easy to see how someone could send the wrong attachment in an email. But in this case that wrong attachment included information the Prince George’s County School District apparently did not want public.

For now, all 8-year-old Kelis Goodwine can do is talk to her friends through a fence.

“It’s really sad because I can’t send her back,” said her mother Linetra Jackson.

For the last two weeks, this second grader has remained at home. Her mother will not allow her back inside Samuel Chase Elementary after the young girl kept getting sick inside the school with headaches, dizziness, and elevated heart rates. Three times she was rushed to the hospital. Doctors said it could be a mold allergy.

“It’s a lot. It’s really a lot,” said a sobbing Jackson. “And they make me feel like I’m doing something wrong. Who would be comfortable with sending their child back there like that?”

Despite pictures Jackson took of water damage, the district has maintained there is no known health hazard. But that may not have been the entire story.

In a letter recently emailed to Jackson by Monica Goldson, the district’s chief of operations, Goldson mistakenly included the unedited version. And whoever corrected the document wanted one entire paragraph taken out. That paragraph explained how the environment for mold to grow was found in the school in January of this year. But it doesn’t say when the problem was fixed.

“I was shocked,” stated Jackson. “Something’s going on. I just don’t know what it is, yet. But I’m not going to stop until we figure out what it is.”

Jackson told ABC 7 her daughter’s doctor will soon write a note medically excusing her from school.

Prince George County Public Schools sent a statement to ABC 7 saying the letter was inadvertently sent. There was no malicious intent. The district has an environmental team who performs routine inspections and recently found no evidence of surface mold in the classroom at Samuel Chase Elementary.

Read more:


Ms. Monica Goldson - Public Enemy number 1

Ms. Monica Goldson – involved in a variety of corruption related episodes within PGCPS



Residents Question Legality of Prince George’s Property Tax Hike.


It was an attempt to raise money for Prince George’s County Public Schools, but a property tax hike isn’t big enough to cover anything more than state mandated pensions. Now some residents are questioning the legality of the hike. County Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins has the impact of the hike.

By Tracee Wilkins

Mel Franklin (D- Upper Marlboro), chairman of the council.
rushern-baker-head-111010wPrince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III

With school funding rejected, Baker accuses council of misplaced priorities

Council calls for a proper audit and demands accountability and transparency in the future action.


Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III lashed out at lawmakers Friday for rejecting his dramatic school spending plan and accused them of having misplaced priorities for approving a smaller tax hike to benefit county parks and planning.

In addition to a 4-cent property tax increase that will generate far less for public schools than Baker had asked for, the County Council on Thursday approved a 1 1/2- cent tax increase to provide additional revenue for the ­Maryland- National Capital Park and Planning Commission. The council rejected 15% and the 7% advanced suspiciously by the County Executive after a recent Federal lawsuit brought against the county in recent weeks.

“Why parks are more important than schools, I don’t know,” Baker (D) said in an interview. “Park and Planning is a luxury.” However, the council emphasized on a proper audit of the school system which has not been conducted in more than 20 years. The council also stressed  on a proper accountability and transparency of the county schools which has been lacking for many years. “This is one reason county citizenry are suspicious of County Executive Rushern Baker III”, one parent said recently in our streets.

The council also included small increases in the county’s hotel and telecommunications taxes in the budget it approved Thursday. Lawmakers rejected furloughs and layoffs proposed by Baker, introduced legislation to earmark revenues from the soon-to-open MGM casino for education, and established a commission to study ways to fix a structural budget deficit.

The council did away with a 37-year-old property tax cap by approving a 4-cent boost in the property tax rate, which will generate about $34 million more for public schools. Baker had sought a $133 million increase.

 “The county executive’s focus has been on education which is suspicious because high level administrators at Sasscer administrative building have been “eating” from the children reserve fund without accountability. But the council thinks that is too myopic a focus,” said Mel Franklin (D- Upper Marlboro), chairman of the council. “Our budget focuses on the entire government.”

The park and planning department — which is responsible for land-use, zoning and the county’s more than 1,250 recreational facilities — is facing a structural deficit, officials said. The agency is funded by a tax that is tied to property assessments. The tax will rise from 27.9 cents to 29.4 cents per $100 of assessed value unless Baker vetoes that provision of the budget.

During budget hearings, agency heads told the legislature they would have to make “drastic reductions” without more funding, saying that sagging housing values have cut into their revenue base.

According to Tom Dernog a former council man in Prince George’s County, some of the tax hike is meant to benefits the parks and an expensive project in Franklin’s District called the . See the tweet below! We are not sure of the Park in the southern Maryland but since Mel Franklin is approachable in some respect, we will find out as the time goes and report our findings right here. We asked Mr. Rushern Baker III for his comment but he refused to respond.


Md. man to be sentenced for setting home on fire after divorce


UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (WJLA) – A Maryland man is scheduled to be sentenced Friday for setting fire to his home and shooting at sheriff’s deputies following a 2014 divorce.

Police said sheriff’s deputies were enforcing an eviction notice on Coley on May 1 at his home that he shared with his wife before they were divorced. The home was supposed to be sold in the divorce. When officers attempted to get Coley out of the home, he told police he had a gun and refused to leave.

The incident escalated into a barricade situation. Police said officers had to take cover after Coley fired several shots from inside his home. Smoke soon became visible from an upstairs bedroom.

Police were able to apprehend Coley minutes later when he exited the home.

Coley faces up to 60 years in prison.

Read more:



Md. Police Chief Accused of Voiding Elected Official’s Parking Ticket Faces Charges


Edmonston Police Chief Stephen E. Walker has been charged with two counts of malfeasance in office, according to a summons issued on Monday. (Edmonston Police Department)

A Prince George’s County, Maryland, police chief is facing criminal charges, accused of voiding a parking ticket issued to an elected official.

Edmonston Mayor Tracy Gant was issued a parking ticket when she was still a council woman, according to court documents. Soon after, in January 2014, Police Chief Stephen Walker sent an email to the department saying, “Do not tell violators that the ticket can be voided by the chief of police.” But a month later, Walker voided Gant’s ticket because she was an elected official, according to court documents.

Officers continued to notice Gant’s car had expired tags, but the chief sent a memo out to the police department in August 2014 prohibiting police from enforcing parking regulations in the community where Gant lives, according to court documents.

Action wasn’t taken until February 2014, when a WTOP reported started asking questions about the unpaid ticket, investigators said. It was partially paid in cash.

Walker’s attorney, Bob Bonsib, says his client is innocent and the charges are ridiculous.

In the next few weeks, the State’s Attorney’s Office will screen the charges to see if there’s enough evidence to move forward.

>>> Read more WTOP


Edmonston Mayor Tracy Gant – car had expired tags



Prince George’s School Board Member Opposes Property Tax Increase to Fund Schools


School Board Chair Segun Eubanks (see above) is a brother in law in County Executive Rushern Baker III and has been running the Board of Education with very little accountability and transparency. He censored fellow Bd member opposed to increase, ordered him to fall in line:

A Prince George’s County Public School Board member opposed to a property tax hike to raise money for schools was ordered to cancel a town hall meeting where he would have heard from voters about the issue.

“I got an email from the board chair saying I could not host a town hall,” Ed Burroughs said.

Burroughs was not in attendance when the board voted to increase its budget and said he does not support the way the county is proposing it gets done.

“Our issue is managing the resources we do have, and throwing money at the problem is not going to fix it,” he said.

County Executive Rushern Baker is asking the County Council to pass a 15.6 percent increase in property taxes yielding $104.9 million per year. All of that money would go to education.

It would cost owners of $200,000 homes $300 more per year in taxes.

School Board Chair Segun Eubanks said while he didn’t say Burroughs couldn’t host a town hall, he did say Burroughs couldn’t use school resources to do it since the board agreed to support its budget regardless of how it’s funded.

“Any board member can speak as a board member about any issue they would like, but they are not allowed to use board resources to contradict the board on an official position,” Eubanks said.

via NBC4


Pr. George’s Council approves 4% raise in Property taxes.


A divided Prince George’s County Council passed a budget Thursday that would require a a four-percent increase in the property tax rate to generate revenue for public schools — far less money than proposed by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, but still the first property tax hike in the county since voters approved a tax cap 37 years ago.

In a meeting that started more than two hours later than scheduled, council members rejected Baker’s proposal to raise taxes by a whopping 15 percent, generating $133 million in new money for public schools.

They also refused to consider a compromise plan — put forward by Baker on Wednesday — that called for $65 million in new schools funding.

Instead, the council voted 6-to-3 in favor of a budget that would raise the tax rate by 4 percent, generating $34 million in new schools money.

In order to take effect, the proposed tax rate must be the subject of a public hearing and another council vote before the start of the fiscal year on July 1.

>>> Read more Washington Post.


High schools charge senior students “mandatory” fees in order to graduate


As the school year comes to an end, students from high schools across the county have walked the stage to pick up their diplomas—but it might have cost them and their families a price to do so.

According to documents obtained by The Sentinel through the Maryland Public Information Act, the school system “requires” all seniors to pay a fee for a cap and gown, while schools also charge “optional” fees for events such as senior banquets, picnics and panoramas.

“Schools have a ‘basic’ package, which includes a cap and gown that are mandatory for graduation,” Shauna Battle, General Counsel for PGCPS, said. “There are no senior fees or dues for students who graduate from regional centers.”

Documents show the fees vary from school to school. At most schools the “mandatory” basic package, which includes just a cap and gown, costs $40, but at Eleanor Roosevelt it costs $45. At Surrattsville the cap and gown costs $70 while at Laurel and Oxon Hill it costs $50. At Parkdale the cap and gown costs $47 and at Largo it costs only $30. Northwestern Evening High School charges students $27.83.

According to the school system’s documents, each high school offers students the option to purchase packages in varying amounts and with different options.

Eleanor Roosevelt High School has a “deluxe” package featuring a class ring for $240. The package comes with 25 graduation announcements, a box of matching name cards, an ERHS senior shirt, a cap and gown package with a tassel and a class ring.

The “deluxe” package is Eleanor Roosevelt’s most expensive, and students may pay for it in two installments. Another package costs students $120 but does not include the class ring. In addition, yearbooks at Roosevelt cost $75 for a hardcover and $65 for a softcover. Students must also pay $40 for the class picnic, $25 for a graduation night celebration and $10 for senior portraits.

Meanwhile, at Bowie High School students are not offered any packages and instead must pay $50 to Jostens for their cap and gown.

Although some students can afford to pay graduation costs, it might not be so easy for others, said Julian Robinson, a parent of a senior at Central High School.

At Central, students can pay $40 for just the cap and gown, or pay for different packages. The “silver” package costs $80 and includes a tee shirt, “graduation fees” and a panoramic photo, while the most expensive “platinum” package costs $325 and includes 25 announcements, a yearbook and the end-of-year event.

“I’m not saying I can’t afford to pay for things. I can. But I do know folks who could barely buy the basic package,” Robinson said. “They managed to work things out, but still. It’s rough.”

Angela Smith, a parent of a senior at Bladensburg High School, said she has had to make tough choices for her child’s education experience. Smith does not want to pay the extra money, but she said she also wants her daughter to have the memories of finishing high school with her friends. She said she thinks it’s unfair the school system put her in the position to make choices between finances and allowing her child to have the best experience possible.

“I don’t like these fees or packages. I think they’re too much. I have to pay the bills, pay for prom and now pay for a picnic and other things. It’s tough. I’ve made sacrifices,” Smith said. “If you ask me, we shouldn’t have to pay for these things.”

At Bladensburg, a $125 package includes a tee shirt, hooded sweatshirt, panoramic photo and costs for “carnival/field day,” while a $400 package includes a yearbook, prom ticket and a ticket for Six Flags on graduation night.

Prince George’s County Public Schools officials did not respond to repeated requests for comments for this story.

Charly Carter, the Maryland director of Working Families, an organization dedicated to fighting for the values and needs of working households in Maryland, said some expenses are necessary for school and it is good to give children fun things to do before they graduate to make their experiences better.

However, Carter said, she can see a situation where some families are unable to pay for their children to attend events such as cookouts, trips or prom. Some families struggle to make ends meet, Carter said, and parents cannot always buy the best for their children.

“When you’re a family and you’re struggling financially, any unexpected expense is enough to destabilize your family,” Carter said. “I can understand where some families might be concerned about having to come up with that additional money.”

As a parent of a child who will one day be a senior, Carter said, she knows it is not easy to make decisions involving a child’s experience.

“You want your child to participate in all of the senior activities that year because those memories are what they hang on to,” Carter said. “Being realistic and saying ‘Can I really afford to take this money out of my budget?’ is tough. My heart just goes out to the parents who feel that.”

Steffanie Jackson, president of the Parent Teacher Association at Frederick Douglass High School, said that school allows students to decide “what they want their senior year to look like” during their freshmen year. The students are asked what activities they want to include in their senior year, if any at all, Jackson said. Students select the activities and the school staff lets them know what the costs are going to be.

Students are encouraged to participate in fundraising to offset the costs.

At Frederick Douglass, the $228 Eagle package includes the cap and gown, senior picnic, 25 name cards, 25 announcements, a panoramic photo, a tee shirt and other items. The $99 dollar Maroon package includes just the picnic and tee shirt, as well as the cap and gown. The cap and gown, individually, costs $40 and students can also pay separately for a $30 ticket to the picnic.

A flyer from the school notes that the cap and gown are “mandatory” to participate in graduation and also mentions that “senior dues are mandatory in order to participate in the senior picnic.”

“The money (students) contributes goes to their after-graduation experiences after they’ve met all of their criteria for graduating,” Jackson said. “The students can also offset that funding with fundraising. We encourage students to fund raise so that maybe they get a free prom ticket or they don’t pay senior fees. These are extra-curricular activities our students have that they agreed they wanted.”

Every person is aware of their particular financial situation, Jackson said, so if a family is in a position where a graduate cannot participate in a particular event at Frederick Douglass, then parents can contact the school system and discuss ways to help their children.

It is possible for students to be left out and get bullied, Jackson said, but if the family and their child advocate for their particular situation the school does its best to find a way to ensure the child is able to participate.

“We make a way. If we have to, we find a way. We find donors. There’s always a way to find for us to make sure that these children participate in, what we think, are important experiences at the end of their high school career,” Jackson said. “This is not about the affluent having access to things that our children who are struggling do not have. I can only speak for my school, but when we have children who are vocal about their needs we help them.”

via sentinel


Family Files $10M Lawsuit After 9-Year-Old Daughter Attacked on School Bus


A 9-year-old girl says she’s afraid to go back to school or ride the bus after she was attacked by a classmate as their bus left Highland Park Elementary School in Landover, Maryland.

Saraia Collins hasn’t returned to school since the beating May.

“She is scared to go back to school, and I’m not sure how it is that they compensate her for that,” attorney Brian McDaniel said. “She’s scared to have interaction with other students. I’m not sure how they compensate her for that.”

Wednesday, her family filed a $10 million lawsuit against Prince George’s County, the school system, the administration of her school and the bus driver.

“The bus driver continued to drive,” McDaniel said. “He did not stop. He did not make sure that Saraia was OK. In essence, he just allowed the attack to take place.”

Tierra Holland, Saraia’s mother, said the bullying was an ongoing issue previously reported to school administrators.

“It’s not about the money for us,” Holland said. “We are not suing for money. We’re worried about Prince George’s County Public Schools acknowledging bullying going on in her school.”

School and county officials said they could not comment on the pending litigation but said the driver is on leave.

Via NBC4