Monthly Archives: September 2016

During a protest Monday, Co-Chair of the group Citizens For An Elected Board, David Cahn (in front with white hat) said politics is being given priority over children. (WTOP/Kristi King)

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — Fed up with recent scandals and repeated allegations of student abuse and neglect by employees of Prince George’s County schools, protesters Monday demanded new leadership and changes to how school officials are selected.

 Protesters want Maryland’s legislature to repeal a 2013 law that gave the Prince George’s county executive the power to appoint the county school board’s chair, vice chair and the school system’s CEO, among other positions.

The law is commonly referred to as HB 1107.

“We’ve got no accountability here,” said David Cahn, the co-chair of Citizens for an Elected Board. He pointed to the fact that the school board doesn’t control the CEO, Kevin Maxwell, who is appointed by County Executive Rushern Baker. And many members of the board are also appointed by Baker.

Protesters called for the resignations of Baker and Maxwell, as well as school board chair Segun C. Eubanks and vice chair Carolyn M. Boston.

About 20 protesters at the gathering included school board member Edward Burroughs III (District 8), Democratic Central Committee Assistant Secretary Belinda Queen-Howard (District 25), as well as parents and members of the public.

“HB 1107 needs to be repealed,” said the father of a four-year-old special needs student who is part of an ongoing investigation involving allegations of student abuse by a school bus aide. WTOP is not using the father’s name to protect his child’s identity.

“Now (power) is just handed to one person because of this law,” he said. “So, we need to repeal that law and put it the hands of the board so they can do votes and change the system, so it’ll be a better place for kids.”
 The recent cases of abuse and neglect should not be confused with how school leaders are chosen in the county, a spokesman for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker told WTOP.
Scott Peterson said in a statement that the 2013 governance changes have helped pave the way for recent successes including historic highs in graduation rates and a top ten statewide ranking in English and language arts scores.

Read Peterson’s entire statement to WTOP below:

“We should always applaud citizens who come together and exercise their right to assemble and express their concerns about an issue that impacts our County.

When HB 1107 was passed in 2013, it was designed to create a governance structure that would better position Prince George’s County Public Schools to be more successful academically and operationally, and ultimately to move us from the bottom to the top in the state’s school system rankings.

Three and a half years later, we have
  •  Significantly expanded full-day pre-kindergarten (we’ve increased this important first phase of education for our youngest students from 8 programs to 50 pre-kindergarten programs),
  • Implemented more rigorous academic standards and programs, and provided more choice for students and parents, throughout all grades,
  • Achieved historic highs in graduation rates (close to 80% of our students are graduating) and 9th grade promotion rates (which means that fewer of our students are dropping out),
  • Improved test scores significantly (our students ranked in the Top 10 of statewide English and Language Arts scores),
  • Increased enrollment in our schools substantially (130,000 students are now attending), and the overall college and career readiness of our children is improving as well.

The recent cases of deplorable behavior by some school employees are extremely disturbing, but we should not confuse these incidents with the governance changes that have paved the way for our success over the last few years. These challenges are a reflection of an organization that is going through a much needed cultural change after an inordinate number of leadership and policy changes that may have blurred our primary focus on the safety of our children. This is a defining moment for our school system and just as we focused like a laser on reforming our academic programs and offerings, we must approach the safety of our children with the same unwavering focus and vigor.

The achievements of PGCPS over the last three years cannot be overlooked. We must keep marching forward and build on our academic successes by creating an attitude and culture in our schools where everyone, from the bus driver to the principal, is focused on sustaining an absolutely safe and nurturing learning environment for all students.”
via WTOP
 Below is a session of the event in pictures.
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During a protest Monday, Co-Chair of the group Citizens For An Elected Board, David Cahn (in front with white hat) said politics is being given priority over children. (WTOP/Kristi King)

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Vote NO on Question D in Prince George’s County

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There are many ways to accomplish goals and a way to involve the communities into a discussion. Several schools have been closed in prince Georges county community in a very short span of time to save millions they said.

Now, the county council wants to look out for themselves and spend 1 million plus to add on two (2) seats that the community can do without. We can have at large members without adding all this on on a cash strapped county. Please  “VOTE NO on Question D” and if we are going to address this,  the council needs to involve the people from the grounds up.

Spread the word and circulate this information widely. “Vote No” on “Question D” during the November 8, 2016 Presidential Election.

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The Secret of Finland’s Amazing Success

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Franzenia daycare centre, Helsinki. Photograph: Karin Hannukainen/University of Helsinki

A recent article in The Guardian in the U.K. revealed the secret of Europe’s most successful school system: Finland. It is a four-letter word: P-L-A-Y.

The author, Patrick Butler, visited the Franzenia daycare center and describes what he saw.

Central to early years education in Finland is a “late” start to schooling. At Franzenia, as in all Finnish daycare centres, the emphasis is not on maths, reading or writing (children receive no formal instruction in these until they are seven and in primary school) but creative play. This may surprise UK parents, assailed as they are by the notion of education as a competitive race. In Finland, they are more relaxed: “We believe children under seven are not ready to start school,” says Tiina Marjoniemi, the head of the centre. “They need time to play and be physically active. It’s a time for creativity.”

Indeed the main aim of early years education is not explicitly “education” in the formal sense but the promotion of the health and wellbeing of every child. Daycare is to help them develop good social habits: to learn how to make friends and respect others, for example, or to dress themselves competently. Official guidance also emphasises the importance in pre-school of the “joy of learning”, language enrichment and communication. There is an emphasis on physical activity (at least 90 minutes outdoor play a day). “Kindergarten in Finland doesn’t focus on preparing children for school academically,” writes the Finnish educational expert Pasi Sahlberg. “Instead the main goal is to make sure that the children are happy and responsible individuals.”

Play, nonetheless, is a serious business, at least for the teachers, because it gives children vital skills in how to learn. Franzenia has 44 staff working with children, of whom 16 are kindergarten teachers (who have each completed a three-year specialist degree), and 28 nursery nurses (who have a two-year vocational qualification). The staff-child ratio is 1:4 for under-threes and 1:7 for the older children. Great care is taken to plan not just what kind of play takes place – there is a mix of “free play” and teacher-directed play – but to assess how children play. The children’s development is constantly evaluated. “It’s not just random play, it’s learning through play,” says Marjoniemi.

He cites British researcher David Whitbread, who says:

Carefully organised play helps develop qualities such as attention span, perseverance, concentration and problem solving, which at the age of four are stronger predictors of academic success than the age at which a child learns to read, says Whitebread. There is evidence that high-quality early years play-based learning not only enriches educational development but boosts attainment in children from disadvantaged backgrounds who do not possess the cultural capital enjoyed by their wealthier peers. Says Whitebread: “The better the quality of pre-school, the better the outcomes, both emotionally and socially and in terms of academic achievement.”

Importantly, early years care in Finland is designed and funded to ensure high take-up: every child has a legal right to high-quality pre-school care. In Franzenia, as in all daycare centres, there are children from a mix of backgrounds. Fees, subsidised by the state, are capped at a maximum of €290 (£250) a month (free for those on low incomes) for five-day, 40 hours a week care. About 40% of 1-3-year-olds are in daycare and 75% of 3-5-year-olds. Optional pre-school at the age of six has a 98% take-up. Initially envisaged in the 70s as a way of getting mothers back into the workplace, daycare has also become, Marjoniemi says, about “lifelong learning and how we prepare young children”.

Finnish educator look at the big picture, not test scores.

Daycare is not the only factor underpinning academic success. Hard-wired into Finland’s educational mission is the idea that equality is vital to economic success and societal wellbeing, as well as the belief that a small nation, reliant on creativity, ingenuity and solidarity to compete in the global economy, cannot afford inequality or segregation in schooling or health. Behind its stellar education ranking is a comprehensive social security and public health system that ensures one of the lowest child poverty rates in Europe, and some of the highest levels of wellbeing. Gunilla Holm, professor of education at the University of Helsinki, says: “The goal is that we should all progress together.”

Finnish children do not face the competitive pressures of children in the UK and US. When test scores on PISA dipped, what do you think Finnish educators did?

As UK educational policy becomes more narrow and centrally prescribed, Finland devolves more power to teachers and pupils to design and direct learning. Teachers are well paid, well-trained (they must complete a five-year specialist degree), respected by parents and valued and trusted by politicians. There is no Ofsted-style inspection of schools and teachers, but a system of self-assessment. Educational policy and teaching is heavily research-based.

Worried that its sliding Pisa scores reflected a complacency in its schools, national curriculum changes were introduced this year: these now devote more time to art and crafts. Creativity is the watchword. Core competences include “learning-to learn”, multiliteracy, digital skills and entrepreneurship. At the heart of the new curriculum, the National Board of Education says unashamedly, is the “joy of learning.”

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Finland Map.

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Activists, parents call for change within the PGCPS system

 

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Activists, parents call for change within the Prince George’s County school system (ABC7)

UPPER MARLBORO, Md.  — About 20 activists rallied for change in front of the Prince George’s County Administration Building on Monday in Upper Marlboro.
 

The activists say problems have grown too many and too great for the current leadership of the system.

“We’re tired of the stale baked goods,” said Jacques Chevalier. “We’re tired of Mr. Maxwell, who is not fulfilling what he needs to do in Prince George’s County as head of the school system.”

“We’ve had one scandal after another and now we are at a point where the scandals involve the abuse and molestation of children,” said Tonya Wingfield.

Charles Nichols was among the marchers. He says his four-year-old, special needs son was molested by a school bus aide in an incident that is now being screened by the Maryland State Attorney’s office for possible charges.

Nichols spoke openly for the first time at the rally.

“I’m out here as a father trying to speak for my son,” said Nichols. “The bus aide that molested my son is still walking around, nobody has been charged.”

In addition to the ousting of school system CEO Kevin Maxwell, the group wants to repeal the 2013 law, which gave County Executive Rushern Baker control over the school board and the system CEO.

In response, Baker issued a statement saying his leadership is making the system better academically.

Via WJLA
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Timeline reveals depth of Prince George’s head start crisis

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UPPER MARLBORO (WUSA9) – From allegations of child abuse, to cries of “cover up”, the Prince George’s County School system has been upended by a scandal in the Head Start program that forced federal officials to take over, and cost the a county $6.4 million grant.

Here is a timeline that helps explain how school officials kept an allegedly abusive teacher working with children while failing to meet federal demands to protect children’s safety.

THE INCIDENT

Dec. 17, 2015: A Head Start teacher at the H. Winship Wheatley Early Education Center in Capitol Heights, Md. allegedly humiliates a 3-­year-­old boy who wet himself during naptime. The teacher is accused of forcing the child to stand in front of his classmates with wet clothes on. She is accused of forcing him to mop up urine while she takes photos. She sends the photos and mocking texts to the child’s mother.

WORKER ACCUSED OF DISCOURAGING REPORT

Dec. 22, 2015: Victim’s mother discusses her concerns with a Head Start Family Service worker but is discouraged from reporting the incident, according to a federal report.

FIRST REPORT KEPT “IN HOUSE” DESPITE THE LAW

Jan, 12, 2016: The mother has a change of heart and formally reports the incident to the Family Service Worker. Despite a law requiring immediate reporting to Prince George’s County Child Protective Services or police, the worker keeps the matter in­house by sending an email reporting a “Parent Concern” to Principal Julie Orgettas and Head Start Program director Sandra Kee.

TEACHER PLACED ON LEAVE, BUT NOT FOR LONG

Jan. 14, 2016: The Wheatley teacher is placed on administrative leave.  She will be reinstated and moved to another school within a month and will continue to work with children even after federal investigators begin an inquiry and confirm the allegations.

VICTIM’S MOM TELLS TOP OFFICIALS EARLY ON

Jan. 19, 2016: The victim’s mother sends an email, including screen­grabs of the abusive photos and texts throughout the administration of the Prince George’s County School System. Recipients include: School System CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell, program supervisor Laura Barbee­ Matthews, area instruction director Dr. Judith White, and Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Gladys Whitehead.

OUTSIDE AUTHORTIES FINALLY NOTIFIED

Jan. 20, 2016: The abuse incident is formally reported to Prince George’s County Child Protective Services by the school system, 8 days later than legally required.  While CPS does not return a finding against the teacher, her actions appear to have violated Head Start and PGCPS policies against bullying students and taking and sharing photographs of children.  Even so, she is cleared to return to the school.

VICTIM’S MOM APPLIES FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER

Feb. 8 2016: With the teacher off suspension, the victim’s mother swears out peace order against teacher to prevent her from entering the building where the child is, according to Maryland court online records.

HEAD START OFFICIALS NOTIFIED

Feb. 10, 2015 PGCPS Head Start Director notifies Head Start Regional office of the incident.

“SHE WILL BE MISSED”: TEACHER IS TRANSFERRED

Feb. 19, 2016: The teacher is assigned to work at a different Early Education Center.  An announcement to parents from Principal Orgettas to parents says, “She will be missed, but we wish her well with this new opportunity.”  While no longer being paid from the federal Head Start grant, the teacher remains an employee of PGCPS and is assigned to work directly with children.

FEDERAL INVESTIGATORS GO TO WORK

Feb. 22, 2016: A federal investigation is launched by the US Administration for Children and Families. This is the same day PGCPS announces the formation of a school safety task force as the system grapples with allegations that teacher’s aide Deonte Carraway produced child porn at the Sylvania Woods Elementary School

SCHOOL OFFICIALS ACCUSED OF BLOCKING PROBE

Feb. 23, 2016: Federal investigators demand documentation on the school system’s reports to Child Protective Services but school officials “refused to provide the information”, according to the investigators’ report.

TOP OFFICIALS NOTIFIED OF DEFICIENCIES BUT TEACHER STILL ON THE JOB

Feb. 29, 2016: Prince George’s County Public Schools is formally notified by the US Administration for Children and Families that the report of abuse is confirmed. A demand to correct “deficiencies” is included in the report. Among the recipients of the report is PGCPS CEO Kevin Maxwell. The teacher in the matter remains on the job at her new assignment.

PGCPS NEEDS MORE TIME

March 4, 2016: Extension requested to submit corrective action plan, which was subsequently granted.

PGCPS TRIES TO CORRECT PROBLEMS

Mar. 10, 2016: As part of an effort to comply with the Federal findings, at least 10 Head Start teachers and staff get retrained on confidentiality rules.

PARENT COUNCIL BRIEFED ON SITUATION

March 16, 2016: The Head Start Advisory Council, a group made up of parents, holds a meeting and discusses the federal findings, according to minutes of the meeting.

ALLEGATIONS OF A “COVER-UP”

April 7, 2016: PGCPS CEO Maxwell’s Chief of Staff George Margolies sends an email to a deputy superintendent reporting that he has successfully prevented a Board of Education member from putting the Head Start Advisory Council’s minutes on the agenda for public discussion in an upcoming Board meeting. Opponents will later seize on this as proof of an attempted “cover­up” at the highest levels. Maxwell denies this. He says the email was taken out of context and, in fact, it was a discussion about how to handle reporting of various matters to the Board of Education over a period of years without clogging the Board’s agenda.

THE CLOCK IS TICKING

April 11, 2016: The deadline set by federal investigators for the correction of deficiencies.

April 12-14, 2016:  Federal follow-up inspections occur which determine deficiencies are not corrected.  PGCPS officials claim they were not notified of these findings until August.

NO PUBLIC DISCUSSION AT BOARD OF EDUCATION

April 14, 2016: Board of Education meets but does not discuss Head Start in public session. The minutes of the Advisory Council are posted on­line as “follow up items” and go unnoticed by the public and press. Board Chairman Dr. Segun Eubanks later says the board was briefed on Head Start during a private executive session that some members did not attend.

PGCPS GRAPPLES WITH CRISIS

May 31, 2016: The School Safety Task Force formed after the Deonte Carraway child porn case releases 61 recommendations including calls for better background checks, supervision and training of staff.

MORE NEGLECT AND ABUSE DISCOVERED

June 9 , 2016: An unattended 5­year old wanders away from the Langley Park Head Start program and arrives home alone.

June 15, 2016: Head Start teachers at the James Ryder elementary school are accused of humiliating and abusing preschoolers by forcing them to hold boxes of heavy books overhead as punishment.

June 10­-17, 2016: A federal follow up investigation determines new deficiencies are present and others remain uncorrected.  PGCPS officials say they were not informed of this until August.

THE HAMMER FALLS

Aug 12, 2016 The US Administration for Children and Families formally notifies the PGCPS that it’s $6.4 million Head Start grant is suspended because of the system’s failure to protect children. The report notes that some PGCPS officials refused to provide requested information during the investigation.  A process begins to transfer the management and budget of Prince George’s County Head Start to a Denver­-based contractor.

TEACHER SUSPENDED AGAIN NOW THAT CASE IS PUBLIC

August 18, 2016:  The teacher in the December abuse incident at the Wheatley school is placed on administrative leave for a second time.  This time she will be recommended for firing.

SCHOOL CEO STRUGGLES WITH QUESTIONS

Aug. 23, 2016: At a press event on first day of school, Maxwell says he didn’t know about the Head Start situation until “sometime in April”,  Despite federal records showing he and other top officials were notified on February 29.  Maxwell says: “We’ve had a very small number of people make a very large number of people look very poorly.”

PGCPS THOWS IN THE TOWEL

Aug. 25, 2016: The Prince George’s County Board of Education votes not to appeal the Head Start grant suspension which will allow PGCPS to negotiate an interim operating agreement and leaves open the door to re-apply for the grant in the future.

BACK TO SCHOOL

Aug 29, 2016: Head Start’s first day of school.

TEACHERS AND STAFF FIRED

Sept 1, 2016 Maxwell announces that 6 employees involved in the scandal, including the teacher in the Wheatley incident have been put on administrative leave. He says he has fired 3 and recommends 3 others for immediate firing by the Board of Education.

CEO FACES QUESTIONS

Sept. 20, 2016:  Maxwell tells a WUSA9 reporter that “the teacher was immediately moved out of Head Start Program” in the early days of the scandal.  He did not mention she was merely transferred off the Head Start Grant and continued to work as a PGCPS teacher at another school.

TOP STAFFER FIRED

Sept. 21, 2016:  Chief of Staff George Margolies is fired after his email is leaked to WUSA9.

CALLS FOR CEO TO RESIGN AND AN OUTSIDE AUDIT

Sept. 22, 2016:  As dissident Board members call for Maxwell to step down, PGCPS announces it will request an independent audit of the situation from the Maryland State Department of Education.

via wusa9

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On Sept. 21, 2016:  PGCPS Chief of Staff George Margolies was fired after his email was leaked to WUSA9 for engaging in misconduct and cover ups .

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A major protest is scheduled for Monday September 26th, 2016 in Upper Marlboro

Education advocates are planning a major rally in Prince George’s County Maryland in an effort to repeal legislation that essentially provided majority oversight of the Prince George’s County Public Schools to the County Executive Rushern L. Baker III.

The protest is scheduled for Monday September 26th, 2016 during the day from 11am-12:30pm in Upper Marlboro Maryland. Protesters are asked to converge at THE CAB, LOWER LEVEL, ACROSS FROM THE LAKE facing the Prince George’s County Headquarters. This event is open to the public and the organizers are asking the members of the public to BRING PROTEST SIGN to help Repeal HB 1107 and to help address other issues.

The questions:

(1) Why repeal legislation that has only been on the books for just over 3 years?
(2) What are the alternatives? And what impact would a change in the law again have on student achievement?

You are invited to listen to  Rosalind JohnsonTonya Wingfield and others who are lead coordinators for the upcoming rally.

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Former PGCPS aide confesses to child porn charges

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Prince George’’s County police say Deonte Carraway, 22, abused at least 17 children. According to police, he made sexually explicit videos of children at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School in Glenarden, where he worked as a volunteer teacher’s aide. (Prince George’s County Police Department via AP)

By Dennis Foley | @djfoleyWTOP

WASHINGTON — A former Prince George’s County school aide accused in federal and state court of taking and receiving nude photos and videos of his students at school confessed to the crime while being questioned by police.

Deonte Carraway was questioned by detectives in early February after a family member noticed a 9-year-old sent a nude photo to Carraway through the Kik messenger app.

Carraway was arrested the next day and brought in for questioning.

Within five minutes of the interview beginning, the former school aide admitted to asking the 9-year-old to send him a naked photo, according to documents filed in federal court last Friday. Carraway, who consented to being questioned without a lawyer, also agreed to let investigators search his two cellphones.

Over the span of five hours, Carraway answered questions from two detectives and completed a written statement in steps throughout the interview, detailing his interactions with the students.

During this interview, the former school aide named five students he had solicited and received photos and videos of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. He told detectives that in order for the students to be part of the group, they had to watch video of Carraway touching himself inappropriately.

While Carraway admitted to the child pornography, he said that he never had physical contact with the children.

In his written statements, he noted, “I knew what I did would come to light” … “God is mad at me” … and “I know I messed up.”

In the final portion of his written statement, after detectives learned of additional phones and bags that were used by Carraway, offered a final confession. Here are portions of it from the court documents:

“Okay, it’s time I told the truth yes I have videos and yes you will find some on my orange phone basically the same ones. How I get the videos is the kids would send them in the Chat. I would hide them but I really do care for the children. I know it was wrong, I’m a bad person, I’m no child of god for doing this, I know I’m grown. I made a lot of mistakes ….

I only got the orange, white, and little tracfone [phones]. It’s true I directed one video the rest of the videos the kids recorded their selfs…..

you will find videos of the group ….

the videos you see me in are the ones I already had saved in my phone. No matter what the kids say, I have the videos of the group. Everything the group did was recorded, either if its Play fighting, sexual, hide and seek, tag ….

I take full ownership for making A.K.A [the child porn group] and I’m sorry for that ….

For some of the videos the kids used their tablets or cell to send the videos to me and the one at the school was my phone. I know I’m older and I knew it was wrong because kids don’t know better and I just lost it and now it don’t look good on my part.”

Detectives would continue to question Carraway for another four hours.

While Carraway says he did not physically engage with any of the students, prosecutors say at least one victim said the former school aide performed oral sex on him.

Investigators also learned that Carraway provided cellphones to some of the children so they could record themselves. The students also told police the former school aide had at least 10 cellphones that he would hand out to the students at the beginning of the day to record their “dares.” The phones were returned at the end of the day.

Prosecutors say Carraway told the students this activity was a “secret” and would make fake calls to 911 to scare them.

Some of the students used devices provided by parents to communicate with Carraway. Some parents told prosecutors they don’t know from where their children got their cellphones.

The documents filed last week were in response to pretrial motions filed by the defense to suppress Carraway’s statements and the evidence found on two cellphones. The prosecution argues Carraway was in full compliance and signed waivers agreeing to speak with detectives without a lawyer.

Carraway faces eight federal child pornography charges. He also faces an additional 270 charges of child abuse and child pornography in Maryland.

via WTOP
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