UPPER MARLBORO – Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) and the Prince George’s County Board of Education want to know why parents are choosing to send their children elsewhere.
At the most recent board meeting on April 28, the board discussed a survey to analyze why parents choose options other than PGCPS, but at a price tag of more than $100,000 some board members feel educational money could be spent better elsewhere. As a result the motion assign a contract was tabled until a later date, but the decision didn’t come without heavy discussion.
The parent opinion research study would include both a survey and focus groups of parents countywide to learn what perspective parents have of the county school system, what they see in the school system that could be improved, and how PGCPS can effectively communicate with parents.
The entire project breaks down into $65,000 for the focus groups, $47,500 for 15-minute telephone surveys of 600 county parents of elementary and middle school students, and $10,000 for education staffers’ time. The total cost is estimated at $122,500.
Segun Eubanks, the chair of the board, said the board had decided to go forward with this proposal after a board retreat approximately two years ago.
“Maybe two and a half years ago, the board at its retreat said we want hard core, good research data about what it would really take to get parents back into the system and thinking about what kind of hard core, not just what we guess and what we think, but hard core, quality data on it,” he said.
However, Verjeana Jacobs suggested the board should not be spending money putting together a survey that they already have the answers to.
“The survey is designed to understand why parents and families make other choices, as I read it, and what I would submit is that we already know the answers to that question,” Jacobs said. “And at $122,000, I’m not sure that that’s effective use of resources.”
Jacobs said the board hears, on a daily basis, the reasons why parents do not chose the school system and they hear constantly about issues that upset parents and families. For hard evidence, she said, the board would only need to check their own emails.
“The reason why parents don’t come to Prince George’s County Public Schools is lack of customer service overall, the movement in student achievement has been stated as being too slow, consistently fighting to get special education services, class sizes, accountable use of resources and school safety,” she said. “We already know. We just need to start doing the work.”
Eubanks said the research was already approved in the board’s budget and the discussion at the meeting was just the awarding of the contract. However boardmember Edward Burroughs III agreed with Jacobs. He said the school administration already has a communications office, a family engagement office and professionals in the field to do this type of work.
Burroughs also expressed concerns over what PGCPS would do once the data was collected because he hadn’t seen a plan of the next steps.