FORESTVILLE – Forestville High School has seen a lot of changes in its 33 years and now parents, staff and alumni of the school are stepping up to save it.
At the Prince George’s County Board of Education meeting on Oct. 22, a group of more than 25 people occupied the board room to champion the high school and ask the board and Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) to not even consider closing the school.
Mark King, who represented Forestville faculty and family at the meeting, said he attended a meeting last year to advocate for the school.
“I was here last year, so I’m back again. I was talking to a wise man and he said bring more people,” he said, asking the Forestville group to stand up. “I brought more people.”
King said the Forestville families, along with the alumni of the school, want the school to remain open and the military academy reinstated.
“We recognize that certain decisions concerning the school system must be considered, and also the needs of the entire system as well, however no valid reason has ever been presented to justify removing the military academy and no official reason has been given concerning the closing of the school,” King said.
While the group of concerned citizens came out in full force at the board of education meeting, Sherrie Johnson, a spokesperson for PGCPS, said the group is taking action preemptively and the district has not made an official decision to close the school.
“There has been no official recommendation by the administration for closures of any school, including Forestville High School,” Johnson said. “The Master Plan Support Project made a number of recommendations on how to address school construction projects, consolidations, but the district has not made any official recommendations.”
The Master Plan Support Project was established in October of 2014 when PGCPS hired Brailsford & Dunlavey, a national project management firm, to help the school system in prioritizing capital projects for its master plan. The firm spent months in the field researching the backlog of capital projects in the school system, focused on schools built before 1999.
Representatives from the firm gave a presentation to the Board at a June11 meeting, suggesting a 20-year plan, with 140 total projects and a total cost of $8.5 billion. The findings suggested 29 school closures in total, with 13 in the southern region of the county, 14 in the central area, and two in the north. The suggestions were based upon utilization percentages, meaning the total capacity of the school compared to total enrollment and the state of the school building.
At the June 11 meeting Kevin Maxwell, PGCPS chief executive officer, said the support project is just a suggested plan to help the school system make decisions when the time comes.
“We will have, as we do every year, some boundaries redrawn and I’m not sure whether 29 is the right number of closures overall, but I think most people I hear from think we should be closings some schools and I think that, I don’t think that you’ll see a recommendation next year, for example, to close 29 schools,” Maxwell said.
However the families and alumni of Forestville High do not want the school system to put their school on the chopping block at any point.
Sharon Sims, the Parent Teacher Student Association president at Forestville, considers herself a “gatekeeper” of the school and said any time she sees Forestville in the news she digs deep to find all the information. She said she is concerned about even the slight possibility of the school closing.
“If my pro-activeness is incorrect, I would be ecstatic,” Sims said.
Sims said Forestville has the second highest graduation rate in the county, is home to the A-1 girl’s basketball team, and a world-ranked JrROTC program. She said the community has much to lose if the school is closed.
“What we have to lose is the attributes of learning in a small environment, even if we reach enrollment of up to 900, the accreditation of a military academy, something we have managed to retain even with change. This cannot be transferred if our school is closed,” she said.
Aretha Green, an alumni parent, said Forestville gave her daughters the chance to succeed. Without this school, she said, she doesn’t know where her girls would be.
“Please don’t let this school be just another statistic,” Green said. “What the instructors can do to help these students if they come to school and want to learn and succeed is life changing. This community needs this school.”
Since the selection of CEO Kevin Maxwell without proper transparency, he has made many decisions without public output only for the community to read about the issues in the newspapers or the blogs.
Lack of data in many case is not the problem even though sometimes, there is none or kept in the dark. In many cases, We’re awash in it. There’s so much information that regulators can’t keep up with the constant torrent of it. What’s needed is cleaner, clearer presentations of data to the public, plus more flexible reporting that expands our ability to make use of all the bytes already floating around out there. The lack of transparency in many cases has not been good for PGCPS.
Transparency is obviously a buzzword. It sounds great when it rolls off your tongue in board meetings and on organization retreats such PGCPS. But it’s much harder to actually do transparency in the day-to-day grind of business.
If we can cut through the superficial talk of transparency and actually be transparent as organizations, many of us think it would go a long way in making our organizations all over the world more successful. Transparency doesn’t just make good ethical sense; it makes good business sense, too.
The reason why transparency is so appealing is largely due to cultural trends and human behavior. We like people who are transparent, so it makes sense that we like organizations and companies which are transparent, too. It’s not about some new “hack” or “technique.” It’s about being a real person, a real leader, and a real organization. We must encourage more transparency and accountability of our leaders. The ones who engage in corrupt practices must be let go. Prince George’s County parents must continue to demand answers!