Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Ongoing Struggle of Teacher Retention


Standing in front of my eighth-grade class, my heart palpitated to near-panic-attack speed as I watched second hand of the clock. Please bellring early, I prayed. It was my second day of teaching, and some of my middle-school male students were putting me to the test.

In a span of three minutes, the group in room 204 had morphed from contained to out of control. Two boys were shooting dice in the back of the room, and as I instructed them to put their crumpled dollar bills away, several others took off their shoes and began tossing them around like footballs. Before I could react, one boy broke into my supply closet. He snatched handfuls of No. 2 pencils and highlighters and sprinted out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

This was 2004. I was 22 years old and had been placed as a beginning teacher in one of Kentucky’s most troubled, underperforming, and dysfunctional middle schools. I had no prior teaching experience, nor had I studied education as an undergraduate. I’d only begun my alternative certification work at the University of Louisville a few months prior, having been recruited by Teach Kentucky. I’d enter the classroom only having completed two graduate courses—I was expected to learn on the fly. I wasn’t ready for the stress, the culture shock, or the pressure to increase student reading scores.

I resigned from the position before Christmas. I hadn’t even gotten my certification.

The district in which that middle school is located, Louisville’s Jefferson County Public Schools, is one of the nation’s largest, serving over 100,000 students in roughly 150 schools. Eighteen of them are labeled “priority schools,” meaning they demonstrate exceptionally low student achievement. Unsurprisingly, most of these campuses serve student populations with at least three-fourths of kids on free or reduced-priced meal plans, an indicator of poverty.

>>> Read more 



Prayers for Gov. Larry Hogan as he battles cancer.

1545124_992528084125290_2255929320103975503_nOur Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced recently that he has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. While this is a form of cancer that responds well to treatment, it’s still a tough thing to face. We at Reform Sasscer Movement for Prince George’s County pray for him to get well soon. We also ask that people who are so inclined offer up prayers and good wishes for him and his family while they deal with this disease.

Gov. Hogan displayed incredible strength and leadership as he announced his diagnosis with B-Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. According to his Facebook account, the support that has poured in from across the state and country has been nothing short of incredible!

Now, you can show your support for Governor Hogan with a profile picture or cover photo for your social media account. Together we can keep our governor in high spirits and ‪#‎HoganStrong‬!




Bridal Store in Upper Marlboro Closes Abruptly, Leaving Brides Without Dresses

bridal-shop-4Brides-to-be have been left scrambling after an Upper Marlboro bridal shop closed abruptly this week, leaving them with no idea whether they’ll get the dresses they’ve ordered and paid for. The owner of Couture Miss Bridal and Formal is facing eviction. 

Brides-to-be have been left scrambling after an Upper Marlboro bridal shop closed abruptly this week, leaving them with no idea whether they’ll get the dresses they’ve ordered and paid for.

The owner of Couture Miss Bridal and Formal is facing eviction.

“I think I am all cried out,” customer Chantayle Watkins said Friday. “This is one of the worst days of my life.”

Watkins’ wedding is in just 16 days. Her seven bridesmaids paid for gowns from the shop, but they haven’t been able to pick them up.

“She said that the government was here and that’s all I can tell you,” Watkins said.

Ephonia Green, the owner of the shop, was convicted of stealing $5.1 million from a D.C. nonprofit in 2013. As part of her conviction, Green was supposed to turn over her bridal shop, home, car and all other assets.

However, in an amended order Green was able to keep the shop — that is, until a consent motion was filed Monday, ordering the business to close and be handed over to the government because Green was facing eviction.

The feds have seized the property and all its contents, although the outdated sign from Tuesday claims they are closed for inventory.

Brides and families are left without access to their dresses or any type of refund at this time.

“She said, the only thing I can tell you to do is file suit,” Watkins said.

Customers affected by the closure should call D.C.’s U.S. Attorney’s Office at 202 252-7566 and ask for the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering prosecutors in this case. A representative at the U.S. Marshals Service will contact them with details.

By Tracee Wilkins NBC4 News


Pr. George’s schools programs trimmed to fit scaled-back budget

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A divided Prince George’s County Board of Education adopted a downsized $1.8 billion budget Thursday night, cutting programs that would have been funded by a proposed property-tax increase rejected by the County Council.

Schools chief Kevin Maxwell presented a revised budget to the board last week after County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) failed to generate the support needed for his ambitious plan to raise the tax rate 15 percent and increase school spending by $133 million.

The council instead approved a smaller tax increase that would produce about a quarter of the funding Maxwell says he needs to expand programs and boost student achievement.

Maxwell’s latest plan was approved by the school board on a 7-to-3 vote, with two abstentions. It maintains existing programs but does not include the rapid expansion he had sought for several initiatives. These included universal pre-kindergarten, dual-enrollment in high school and college courses, talented and gifted programs, digital literacy and the hiring of parent-school liaisons.

In addition, teachers will not receive increased retention pay or stipends for national board certification. Arts and foreign language programs will also not spread to all county schools, and an effort to provide free breakfast to all students will not come to fruition. >>> See changes here >>>(bbe491_8d2b4f2cb1e043f991186593dc93bca5)

“This is our best recommendation of how we move forward,” Maxwell said.

Board Chair Segun Eubanks said he was “satisfied, given our limitations, that we made the best choices we could make.”

But the cuts infuriated some board members, ratcheting up a controversy about funding schools designed specifically for first- and second-generation immigrants.

The budget preserves funding for two international high schools that would cater to English-language learners who are struggling in traditional classes. One would operate at a separate Bladensburg facility and the other within Largo High School.

The NAACP has criticized the schools, calling the initiatives segregation. Immigrant advocacy organizations such as CASA of Maryland say such schools exist across the country and provide options for a challenged population. PGCPS is not performing well because the work has not been about the students’ success, but rather it is about adults and their political agenda. Ejecting several staff members well connected to Mr. Rushern Baker III and Dr. Kevin Maxwell to “eat” from students reserve fund is not the answer!

Report was compiled By Arelis R. Hernández of the Washington Post and Reform Sasscer Movement contributed.  


Parent advocates fight for longer recess times


GREENBELT – A parent-led advocacy group has started an online petition requesting Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) to extend recess time for elementary schools.

Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools (PGCABS), a parent-led advocacy group out of Greenbelt, started a petition on demanding PGCPS change its policy after finding out their children receive as little as 15 minutes a day of outdoor recess time.

According to PGCPS policy document 6130 states, “Recess should be given for no less than 15 minutes per day and for no more than 30 minutes per day,” leaving it up to administrations at individual schools to pick an amount of time that works for their schedule, according to Keesha Bullock, director of communications for PGCPS.

The county-wide minimum time is one of the shortest in the area. According to Howard County Board of Education policy 9090, elementary school children must 30 minutes of recess daily. Montgomery County policy allows for 20-30 minutes of recess. Fairfax County extended its recess to 20 minutes daily last October and a cut to 15 minutes of recess in Washington D. C. received backlash from parents in 2013, forcing school officials to push the minimum recess time to 20 minutes, according to a Washington Post article.

PGCAB began meeting in March after Genevieve Demos Kelley noticed many parents had similar complaints about the school system. The group, Kelley said, was founded to help foster greater parent and teacher advocacy. She said they do not typically take a group stance on any one issue, but longer recess times was something everyone could agree on.

“Normally what we stand for is greater parent and teacher involvement, especially relating to policy decisions, and greater openness and responsiveness from the school system,” she said. “With the recess issue we found that there was basically a consensus among the parents that we spoke to. I have yet to meet a parent who thinks that 15 minutes of recess isn’t inadequate. So for this particular issue, we felt comfortable about getting behind it as a group.”

Danielle Celdran, a member of PGCABS, said she is passionate about increasing movement and recess time in her son’s school. Her son Danzson, she said, needs more time to enjoy being a child at school.

“He’s excited to learn and he wants to learn, but he also needs time for enrichment,” Celdran said. “I just wish we could add more time for kids to be kids.”

Often Danzson will say he is sick or he doesn’t want to go to school, Celdran said, because he is tired of rigorous learning every day. She said children need to have some control of their day, a chance to make their own games and make friends.

“It’s a good thing to see kids grow and socialize with each other on the playground. They need these tools to grow and be independent,” she said.

Celdran said the lack of recess was at the “top of the list” of reasons why she is pulling her child from public school at the end of the school year.

“We have decided to home school him this fall,” she said. “Hopefully by the time we come back we’ll see some changes.”

Kenneth Haines, the president of Prince George’s County Educators Association, said the association does not have an “official” position on recess times, but is aware of the lack of physical movement children participate in at school.

“We have been concerned about the movement to increase ‘rigor’ in pre-school and Kindergarten through the elimination of nap time by a previous Superintendent, Dr. Hornsby, as well as the decrease in physical activity due to increased academic instruction,” he wrote in an email. “Children need movement to remain in good physical health which we consider a pre-requisite for optimal learning.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics, in a policy statement published in 2013 recognized the importance of recess to the development of children.

“Recess represents an essential, planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks. It affords a time to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize,” according to the statement. “After recess, for children or after a corresponding break time for adolescents, students are more attentive and better able to perform cognitively. In addition, recess helps young children to develop social skills that are otherwise not acquired in the more structured classroom environment.”

Kelley said she was not sure what a good compromise to extend recess times would be, but said she hopes the school system can find a solution.

“Maybe the answer will be to lengthen the school day a little bit, I don’t know,” she said.

Haines also said he was not sure of what cuts or changes need to be made to allow more physical activity time, but said extending the day would be a struggle.

“That would be a subject to be settled at the bargaining table, and I would maintain that requiring teachers to spend more time at the work site would necessitate a change in compensation as well. Our teachers are already stressed to the limits of human endurance, so staffing ratios would need to be improved. There would definitely be cost implications,” he said.

PGCPS declined to comment on whether a policy change on recess is a possibility, but stated the power to change it lies with the administration.

via Sentinel 


PGCPS Teen shot at Oxon Hill recreation center


WASHINGTON — A Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) teenager was shot Thursday night at the Birchwood Community Park and Recreation Center in Oxon Hill, according to the Maryland-National Capital Park Police.

Officers were called to the recreation center around 9:15 p.m., and found the 16-year-old victim at the Oxon Hill Volunteer Fire Department, where he had gone for help.

The was shot after he encountered a group of people, whom he knew, on the grounds of the recreation center. The police say that the group spotted the boy and began following him. One of the suspects fired at the victim and hit him several times.

The teen was taken to a hospital, and is listed in good condition.

Police say they believe that a “days-old argument” between the victim and the group of suspects led to the shooting. The victim was unable to give investigators precise information about their identities.

Anyone with information about the shooting should call the Maryland-National Capital Park Police at 301-459-9088 or Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

>>> Read more WJLA >>> WTOP



Charter School Operators – Want taxpayer funds – just don’t want to explain how they spend it.


Earlier this month, Sarah Darer Littman had a column in CT Newsjunkie reminding readers to be on the lookout for an attempt by the charter school industry and Governor Dannel Malloy to undermine efforts to hold charter school companies accountable for the public funds they get.

In an article entitled, Keep An Eye Out for Mischief in Implementer When It Comes to Transparency, education advocate and commentator Sarah Darer Littman warned about the charter school industry’s unwillingness to be transparent.  She wrote,

“In her testimony to the Education Committee opposing SB 1096 in March, Achievement First President Dacia Toll complained that “it would be incredibly burdensome to CMOs, as FOIA compliance would significantly distract, undermine, and obstruct non-profit CMO resources and manpower from its most important work: providing high-quality support to charter schools, students and staff.”

In other words, Ms. Toll is more than happy to take taxpayer money, but would find it “incredibly burdensome” to comply with FOIA requests that come with being held accountable for it.

Meanwhile, Jeremiah Grace, the Connecticut Director for Northeast Charter School Networks complained in his testimony that “this bill requires background checks for school staff and boards. Backgrounds are a safety issue that we take extremely seriously. Most of our members have been running them for all staff already, and making sure it’s the law is an important step for our children. It is worth noting that requiring charters to wait for these to be completed before hiring someone subjects charters to more stringent rules than district schools for no reason.”

I’m not sure how Mr. Grace can make the statement that “charters are being subjected to more stringent rules than district schools for no reason” with a straight face. First, we have already seen evidence that the background check issue hasn’t been taken seriously. Second, to say that having to wait for those to be completed before hiring is more stringent than in the public schools is just plain bunkum. Just to teach an after-school creative writing class in a district school, I had to undergo a full background check, including fingerprinting, and I had to ensure the background check was completed before I could commence instruction.

With the General Assembly returning to the Capitol to adopt legislation needed to implement next year’s state budget, it would be nice to believe that Connecticut’s elected officials won’t fold under the pressure to back off the demand for transparency on the part of the privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools and their holding companies.

But knowing the propensity to do the wrong thing at times like this, Connecticut’s taxpayers should make a special effort to read Sarah Darer Littman’s piece and keep a careful eye on their state legislators in the week ahead.

You can read Littman’s piece at: