Monthly Archives: September 2016

PGCPS announces new program to continue Head Start in Controversy.

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– Prince George’s County Public Schools announced Friday a new program which will continue all Head Start services following the termination of a federal grant. Early Start will provide the same services without interruption to all students who were enrolled in Head Start, and it will be funded by the school system.

Early Start will serve 855 students with certified instructors and high-quality curriculum at 35 sites, the school system said. There will be new mental health, nutrition and wellness resources for parents, and increased monitoring and enhanced staff screening in response to safety and disciplinary concerns.

n August, the federal government pulled the $6.5 million grant to fund Head Start for the 2016-2017 school year following reports of misconduct and abuse that were apparently never addressed by the school system.

“No services will be cut, no Head Start sites will be closed and all students will continue to be served. That was our goal from the beginning,” said Prince George’s County Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Dr. Kevin M. Maxwell in a statement announcing the program. “We are pleased to provide continuity and stability for students and families, and enhance student safety at all sites.”

The county said stricter oversight will be established through a 10-member monitoring board, and all instructors and classroom aides will be screened.

The continuation of the programs will come at a cost, however. A total of $5.5 million in local funds will be needed to fund the new Early Start program. Those funds will be generated through a combination of hiring freezes and the elimination of 19 positions.

Prince George’s County Public Schools says they will remain eligible for future Head Start funding as early as fall 2017.

via FOX5

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US Department of Education Releases Another $245 Million for Privatization of Public Schools

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John King, who stepped in as education secretary Jan. 1, spent his free time in college designing curriculum modules on Puerto Rican history. As New York state’s education commissioner, he came under withering criticism for aggressive reforms that many teachers and parents said steamrolled their concerns.

John King awards $245M to charters incl $8M to the Uncommon Schools charter chain, a chain he previously ran that is known for outrageously high suspension rates. Jersey Jazzman called him the King of Student Suspensions. (His own children never attended a no-excuses charter school; when he lived in New York, they were enrolled in a Montessori school.)

http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2015/10/john-king-new-seced-is-king-of-student.html?m=1

Research accumulates that charters don’t necessarily outperform public schools. That they drain resources from public schools, thus harming the great majority of children who attend public schools. That they fail to be accountable or transparent. That their sponsors and advocates are funded by billionaires and hedge fund managers. That even the best of them, according to a new study by Dobbie and Fryer, have no long-term effects. That they open and close with alarming frequency. That many are abject failures.

Yet John King is using his brief tenure to hand over hundreds of millions to continue the Public School Demolition Derby.

http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-awards-245-million-support-high-quality-public-charter-schools

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PGCPS Teen charged as adult in shooting death of 16-year-old friend

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Erik Lopez was charged in the killing of his friend in Prince George’s County. (Courtesy of Prince George’s County Police)

By Victoria St. Martin and Jasper Scherer September 28 at 5:56 PM 
Authorities have arrested a 17-year-old in the shooting death of his teenage friend in Prince George’s County.

Erik Steve Lopez, of Webster Street in Landover Hills, was charged with manslaughter. He is being charged as an adult.

Police said the shooting happened about 8 p.m. Sept. 22 in the 4200 block of 58th Avenue in Bladensburg. When Bladensburg officers arrived at the scene, they found Diego Gomez-Martinez, 16, suffering from a graze to his forearm and a gunshot wound to his abdomen, according to Prince George’s police, whose homicide unit is investigating.

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At the time of the shooting, Gomez-Martinez told authorities that he had accidentally shot himself while “playing with the gun,” according to court documents.

He died several hours later at a hospital, police said. Gomez-Martinez was a 10th-grader at Bladensburg High School.

 Investigators determined that Gomez-Martinez was right-handed and could not have shot himself, the court document said.
A witness later told authorities that a gunshot went off that night, and Lopez was seen holding a handgun while sitting to the right of Gomez-Martinez, police said in a court filing.

Authorities said the witness had been with Lopez and Gomez-Martinez earlier that evening. The pair went to visit the witness’s apartment and at some point Gomez-Martinez began playing with a gun and pointed it at the witness, according to the court document.

The witness went to sleep and was soon awakened by a gunshot, investigators said. After spotting Lopez sitting near Gomez-Martinez, the witness said Lopez put the handgun in a black bookbag and fled the apartment, according to the document.

Attempts to reach Lopez’s relatives for comment at an address listed for him in the court filing were not successful Wednesday.

Rafael Lopez, Gomez-Martinez’s stepfather, said Wednesday that he was surprised when he learned that his stepson had been with someone handling a gun. He said had never seen Gomez-Martinez with a gun or heard his stepson mention using guns.

The stepfather also said he never saw Gomez-Martinez spending time with Lopez and did not know of any connection between the two. He said Gomez-Martinez enjoyed playing basketball.

Jerry Jordan, who lives in the same building in Bladensburg where Gomez-Martinez did, said the teen was new to the area. Jordan said he would often see Gomez-Martinez going to and from the nearby school. Jordan said Gomez-Martinez would often stop and chat and was “a good dude.”

Lopez is being held on a $200,000 bond.

Via Washington Post

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Diego Gomez-Martinez was found inside an apartment shot once in the lower body and died several hours later at a nearby hospital. Friends say a number of teens were playing video games when the gun went off.  Erik Lopez was charged in the killing of his friend

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Fired PGCPS schools employee: ‘There is a lot of cover up going on’

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– Amid continuing turmoil and controversy within Prince George’s County Public Schools, people continue to speak out about their concerns about the school system. FOX 5 spoke with one of the employees recommended for termination after allegations of abuse in the Head Start program led to the loss of $6.5 million in federal funding.

Even as this former staff member tries to save her job and reputation, she said she is concerned the county has not changed its ways to properly protect children.

Demetrius Deal said she was terminated for failing to report incidents of abuse and misconduct. However, she claims that is patently untrue and a mother whose child was involved in one allegation backs her up.

That mother said she is afraid to go on camera as she worries how it will affect her children in other county schools. But she said Deal was the only advocate she and her son ever had at the beleaguered Head Start program.

“There is so much going on,” Deal said. “I’m in disbelief. I can’t believe the climate of this whole organization and it is disheartening.”

Deal is a product of Head Start and worked for the program in Prince George’s County for 18 years. She was prepping for this school year and had events planned for the 80 families on her caseload at H. Winship Wheatley Early Childhood Center in Capitol Heights until she was terminated in September.

Deal has piles of correspondence she said clearly show that she notified her superiors every time an allegation of misconduct or abuse was brought to her attention. But she doesn’t know what happened after that.

“There are a lot of people who knew about these issues,” said Deal. “A lot of reports should have been submitted to principals and program supervisors. They just basically demonstrated willful blindness. There is a lot of cover up going on in these schools that is not reaching the top. They are covering up in house.”

Deal told FOX 5 she was scapegoated after she supported a parent who came forward saying a Head Start teacher had disciplined a 3-year-old boy by forcing him to mop up his own urine as after he wet himself during a nap.

PG’s schools still lag as Baker ponders move to Annapolis

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Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III

– The Washington Times –
ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III is weighing another run for office. This time it’s the race for governor of Maryland.

Mr. Baker cannot seek re-election to his present post because of the county’s term limits. Indeed, he twice sought the county executive seat and twice lost to Jack Johnson.

In fact, Mr. Baker won the seat in 2010 only after Johnson became embroiled in — and later pleaded guilty to — public corruption charges.

Mr. Baker has pushed for the right to hold on to his current job. In 2014, the same year he won re-election, Prince George’s voters rejected a measure that would have allowed the county executive and council members to serve three four-year terms. It was the third time since the 1990s that voters maintained their hard line against expanding terms.

But once a politician always a politician.

Mr. Baker, a staunch Democrat, now says he and his family will consider a possible challenge to popular GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, telling The Washington Post this week that a decision won’t come until after the November presidential election. (He’s with Hillary, of course.)

“I don’t base [my decision] on what the political climate is,” Mr. Baker said. “It’s whether I think I can do a good job and whether it is right for me and my family at that time — and if I can get the things done that I want to do.”

Having also served nearly a decade in the Maryland House of Delegates beginning in 1994, it’s clear that Mr. Bakerlikes elective politics and politicking. What’s not so clear, however, is that Mr. Baker has a clear vision of the needs of public education in his county, which is in more turmoil now than during the fierce busing desegregation battles of the 1970s. And much of the tension stems from Mr. Baker’s move to take over administration of the troubled system and run it himself.

The school system leadership vacuum stems from the decision by the state to honor Mr. Baker’s request to take the reins a few years back. This year alone, parents, students and teachers have had to deal with child and sex abuse allegations, with some of those allegations involving the troubled Head Start program and special-needs students.

This week, another scandal broke in the news — a cover-up within the school hierarchy. The chief of staff of Mr. Baker’s handpicked superintendent was forced out this week.

The most pressing consideration here is timing. For one thing, there’s the tick-tick-tick of the term-limits clock. Then there’s this economic development project called MGM National Harbor that is expected to open in December. A monster gambling/hotel/entertainment/dining/retail venue, the MGM National Harbor will rival anything in the Washington region, and Mr. Baker has a lot riding personally on its success. When the doors open, you won’t have to gamble on whether Mr. Baker will be all grits and grins, since the project was snagged during his watch.

But one could still question whether his gubernatorial gambit is a distraction, political cover, so to speak. After all, public schooling has always been a key issue in Mr. Baker’s arsenal. He offers a taste of his pitch on his RushernBaker.com website: “His scholastic achievements represented a triumph over early struggles with reading, a success made possible by the tenacity and support of his family and teachers. Rushern, an active reader and accomplished lawyer, has remained a steadfast advocate of the importance of teachers and education throughout his career.”

Would candidate Baker — or Gov. Baker — remain such a steadfast advocate?

Maybe. Maybe not.

For sure, however, Mr. Baker needs to take a lead on the home front, where parents, and local and state leaders are questioning whether he has a firm grip on the education reins.

Prince George’s families and voters have a right to expect Mr. Baker will be their chief and primary advocate. Pronto.

Politics and politicking be damned.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

Via washington times. 

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Charges against PGCPS bus aide took too long, school union says

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Michael Patopie, 38, of Capitol Heights has been charged with second-degree child abuse, sex abuse of a minor, second-degree assault and other sex offenses,

PRINCE GEORGE’S CO., MD (WUSA9) – As prosecutors announced charges against a bus aide accused of sexual abuse, the union that once represented him says it took too long and concerns reported by another member were ignored.

“We’re being directed to report [abuse],” said Shirley Kirkland. “Once it’s reported it’s up to the peers to do what they’re supposed to do and that’s not happening.”

Kirkland is the President of the union that represents support professionals working for Prince George’s County Public Schools George’s, ACE-AFSCME Local 2250.

She says a now retired bus driver, reported Michael Patopie to her superiors in November of 2015, after witnessing inappropriate behaviors. The superiors, Kirkland says, ignored it.

“[The driver] made the report that she thought she saw this member or this gentleman inappropriately touching a student. She even let them know that she thought she saw him kiss the student on the temple,” Kirkland said.

“She did everything that she was supposed to do… She made the report and she reported it to her peers. It wasn’t taken seriously.”

Police arrested Patopie Tuesday morning and charged him with second degree child abuse, sexual abuse of a minor, and assault.

According to police, Patopie was caught on tape, inappropriately touching two students – a four year old and five year old – in November of 2015 and in May of 2016.

Kirkland says the arrest should’ve happened sooner, if the reports of the bus driver were taken seriously.

“It would’ve been earlier,” she said, “had it been addressed properly.”

Since, by her account, it wasn’t, Kirkland says it’s time for the person in charge of the school system to step aside.

When asked if CEO Kevin Maxwell should resign, Kirkland said, “yes. I do, and I’m saying that because there’s no way in the world these things should be taking place and you know nothing about it.”

In response to those calls, a spokesperson for Maxwell told WUSA9, Dr. Maxwell is “committed” to the school system.

“This work is personal to him: He was raised in Prince George’s County, began his career in education here and lives in this community,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. “Dr. Maxwell hopes to address the school system’s longstanding challenges through better collaboration and communication with all stakeholders.”

Maxwell has previously said he did not learn about the allegations against Patopie until August of this year.

In a statement today he said he is “sickened” by the allegations.

“I am horrified by the nature of these crimes, sickened and angry that this individual may have preyed upon our students. We will cooperate fully with our law enforcement partners to ensure that he is held accountable,” the statement said.

A spokesperson for the school system says they’ve begun the process of firing Patopie.

He is currently being held on $500,000 bond.

via wusa9

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Shirley Kirkland (Seen here) is the President of the union that represents support professionals working for Prince George’s County Public Schools George’s, ACE-AFSCME Local 2250. – Kirkland when asked if CEO Kevin Maxwell should resign, Kirkland said, “yes. I do, and I’m saying that because there’s no way in the world these things should be taking place and you know nothing about it.”

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Shirley Adams – A former President of ACE-AFSCME Local 2250 Union and Prince George’s County school bus driver told News4 she twice reported a school bus aide’s inappropriate behavior to her boss before telling Child Protective Services. County Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins reported.

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Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell visits Suitland High school on Aug. 23, 2016. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

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PGCPS School Bus Aide Accused of Molesting Students Charged

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Michael Patopie, 38, of Capitol Heights has been charged with second-degree child abuse, sex abuse of a minor, second-degree assault and other sex offenses,

A school bus aide has been charged following allegations he molested special education, pre-kindergarten children on a Prince George’s County school bus.

Michael Patopie, 38, of Capitol Heights has been charged with second-degree child abuse, sex abuse of a minor, second-degree assault and other sex offenses, the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office said.

Police say Patopis inappropriately touched two students while they were on the school bus in November 2015 and in May 2016.

A former Prince George’s County school bus driver told News4 she saw Patopie inappropriately touching the victims in November 2015 and reported it to her supervisors. Months later, she anonymously reported the incident to Child Protective Services (CPS).

CPS then alerted the parents of one of the victims, a 4-year-old boy with special needs. The victim’s parents were told bus cameras caught the abuse and they were shown enough video to identify their son, but they had not seen the alleged abuse.

The parents said they were told the same thing happened to another child on the bus. According the charging documents, the second victim is 5 years old and reported the alleged abuse to his mother.

The children involved have verbal delays and trouble communicating.

“My son might say one or two words, but he does not say sentences at all, and I saw something change, but I just didn’t think of that,” the mother of the 4 year old said.

The bus was carrying students from James Ryder Randall Elementary School in Clinton, Maryland. An unrelated investigation found students in the school’s Head Start program were forced to hold objects over their heads for a long time as punishment in June.

Prince George’s County Police confirmed they are investigating the incident, which was reported to CPS May 24 and to police June 20. The boy reported more information to police in August, according to sources. The boy’s father said the incident happened in November.

PGCPS CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell said he didn’t find out until August, when school started.

“When I became aware of it, I had those folks placed on administrative leave,” he said. “I can’t act on what I don’t know.”

Many parents say they’re struggling to understand why the school district’s leader didn’t know about the allegations.

Prince George’s County Public Schools confirmed the aide and his supervisor are on administrative leave. Maxwell said the school system is “moving to immediately seek” Patopie’s termination.

“I am horrified by the nature of these crimes, sickened and angry that this individual may have preyed upon our students,” Maxwell said.

Patopie is being held at the Prince George’s County Department of Corrections on a $500,000 bond.

Seven months ago, the community was horrified after learning a former teacher’s aide was reportedly sexually abusing students at another county school.

Source: School Bus Aide Accused of Molesting Prince George’s County Students Charged | NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/School-Bus-Aide-Accused-of-Molesting-Prince-Georges-County-Students-Charged-394949241.html#ixzz4LUcQLrCE

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