Monthly Archives: July 2018

How high can graduation rates go? The story of one PGCPS school rocked by scandal.

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Former DuVal High counselor Troy Sibila, photographed outside the Lanham, Md., school in April. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Donna St. George

The graduation rate at DuVal High School, in the Washington suburbs, was already impressive when central-office staff paid a visit to talk about a new goal: For the Class of 2017, the target would be 95.4 percent.

Troy Sibila, then a counselor at the school, remembers blinking in disbelief. DuVal’s rate was already well beyond the district average of 81 percent. How could they push even higher?

“Well, at this rate, I can’t wait to make 103 percent,” Sibila recalled joking to those gathered for the meeting.

The flash of humor in fall 2016 foreshadowed serious problems. By the following summer, the public schools of Prince George’s County were mired in allegations that grades had been tampered with, fraudulently inflating graduation rates in one of Maryland’s lowest-performing school systems.

Heralded from local school boards to the White House, graduation rates have become an increasingly popular emblem of school success. President Barack Obama touted the nation’s record rates in 2016, and similar achievements have been cheered in the District, Los Angeles, Chicago and Orlando.

In Prince George’s last year, the school system’s chief executive at the time paraded through high schools with banners and pompoms, in a New Orleans-style dance line, as he extolled long-awaited gains. In four years, the system posted one of the greatest improvements in Maryland, its graduation rate rising more than 8.5 points.

“We have made remarkable progress,” Kevin Maxwell, then the chief executive, proclaimed in early 2017.

But the spirited celebration masked growing concern about whether the rates were real. Before long, state-hired investigators swooped in, and Prince George’s joined other jurisdictions nationally where the thrill of progress was followed by the fog of doubt.

In neighboring Washington, boasts about Ballou High School’s 100 percent college-application rate were followed by a diploma crisis that unraveled an urban school’s success story. Investigators found that 1 of 3 graduates in the District’s public schoolsmissed too many classes or improperly took makeup classes, calling into question hundreds of diplomas last year.

“The pressure was constantly there,” said a DuVal staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing a fear of retaliation. “Sometimes it was veiled. Sometimes it was not. It was: Find a way to make them pass.”

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Former DuVal High counselor Troy Sibila is photographed outside his former school in April. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

DuVal, in Lanham, Md., is the only school where Prince George’s officials say staff members have faced discipline in the scandal, and many in the county argue it became the scapegoat for a larger crisis. Three counselors were removed from their jobs, an assistant principal resigned, and the principal retired.

Some DuVal staffers who agreed to speak about the school’s experience are being recommended for dismissal.

At issue are grade changes made in the weeks leading up to graduation in 2017 and packets of makeup work that gave students an extra chance to boost a failing quarter grade and pass a course.

The packets are part of what is known as “credit recovery.” It is used across the country but often criticized for lacking rigor. School system officials said DuVal crossed the line, going beyond what the county allowed and creating its own system of packets with looser rules, according to documents.

The DuVal employees tell a different story: They say the school-based packets were commonplace for years — at DuVal and other high schools — and never discouraged. The focus, they said, was on getting students to graduation.

“Our school didn’t do anything intentionally wrong,” said Mark Covington, DuVal’s former principal, who said the packets were there when he arrived in 2014 — and no secret.

“There were no meetings, no conspiracy, no plot to circumvent the rules of the county,” he said. As principal, he regarded them as a permissible form of academic support — another form of makeup work — backed by the school system, he said. “The school system was absolutely aware,” he said.

School system officials declined detailed comment on DuVal and related issues while employees are involved in the “personnel process,” a spokesman said. Amid the scandal, officials repeatedly said that no one from the central office ordered wrongdoing and emphasized that the outside investigation ordered by the state did not find evidence of wrongdoing by Maxwell or his lieutenants.

As the issue has roiled the system, at least two employees are fighting to get their jobs back: Sibila and counselor Yvette Thomasson.

“We did what we were told to do, help at-risk kids,” said Thomasson, who described the scramble to help students in danger of not graduating as “the senior blitz.”

Thomasson said she never would have put her 21-year career on the line by violating rules. She graduated from DuVal in 1990, earned multiple college degrees, used packets at her previous high school and was stunned when she was accused of improperly changing 57 grades, she said. She recently attended a hearing in her case and is hoping for the best.

“We are caught in the middle of something much bigger than we are,” she said.

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Nationally, graduation rates have been climbing since 2011, but questions persist about what that reflects. Are schools and students doing better, or is it simply easier to get through?

Some experts say it’s both.

One concern is credit recovery programs, often done online. Another is scaling back on diploma requirements. Others include not counting struggling students as part of a graduating class, or ignoring extensive absences that could trigger failure.

Schools nationwide have felt the pressure to boost graduation rates, said Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a D.C. think tank.

“Federal law expects states to set sky-high graduation-rate targets and expects schools to hit them,” he said. “As long as that is the case, the cheating and the games will continue.”

Too often, school system leaders pressure educators in the trenches with unreasonable demands, then deny telling anyone to bend the rules, said Julian Vasquez Heilig, a professor of education at California State University at Sacramento. “It’s this blame game, and all the blame is pushed down,” he said.

Heilig said that students today actually do better than in the past but that educators also are more savvy about using and framing data.

At DuVal, graduation rates were among the success stories.

Nearly two-thirds of DuVal’s roughly 1,900 students come from low-income families. Some of its state test scores are low — 8 percent of students showed proficiency last year in Algebra 1 and 23 percent in English 11. But supporters point to its aerospace, culinary and graphics-arts programs, its debate and robotics clubs.

Its graduation rate was ahead of the county average before Maxwell arrived. During the Maxwell era, DuVal’s rate climbed nearly 10 points by 2016.

Maxwell was handpicked in 2013 by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) to turn around a school district with rates that ranked near the bottom in the state. Under Maxwell’s plan, graduation-rate “smart goals” were set for each high school, early warning systems identified students at risk who needed extra support, and credit recovery programs were expanded.

In February 2017, Maxwell proudly strutted through DuVal’s hallways as part of a high-spirited “bus tour” to eight high schools with graduation rates of 90 percent or better. Educators held up a banner proclaiming DuVal’s 2016 achievement: 92.4 percent. A marching band played.

Some teachers privately rolled their eyes, they said, sure that too much had been done to help students pass.

The next week, reporters converged at DuVal again for a major announcement by Baker: Maxwell would get four more years as chief executive. He was the first leader in more than two decades to get a second contract. Among his achievements: rising graduation rates.

But inside DuVal, the jubilation did not last.

As the 2016-2017 school year progressed, Sibila, in the DuVal counseling office, said he and others tracked seniors as before — reviewing credit counts, eyeing schedules, adding up community service hours. Central-office staffers kept tabs on DuVal’s progress, too.

But in March, Kathleen Brady, the central-level administrator who oversaw DuVal, attended a meeting at the school. According to Sibila and Thomasson, the discussion focused on how few students had participated in a county-run credit-recovery effort. Brady urged the school to use its school-based packets, they alleged.

A schools spokesman said Brady declined to comment about DuVal.

Emails point to a flurry of efforts from March to May. An assistant principal asked teachers for the names of students in danger of failing courses. Sibila wrote that packets were available. A central-office staff member inquired about community service hours, noting that his data showed DuVal heading for an improbable graduation rate of 28 percent.

On May 9, 2017, the assistant principal listed 141 students — in a class of about 330 — who still needed help collecting a diploma. Graduation was just ahead, on May 24.

It fell to Sibila to nudge teachers. He turned on his humor in an email distributed to everyone on DuVal’s staff email list at 10:31 p.m. May 10, using the acronym SOH for “shaking our heads”:

“Below are a list of our seniors who need one last intervention with your assistance. (Yes, we are all SOH). . . . If there is any last-minute, (rub a genie in a bottle),assistance you can [provide to] help our future scholars, please assist, (yes, one more time)!”

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Sibila’s email drew wide attention. It wasn’t just his creative touch. It was the sheer number of students who appeared to be in jeopardy of not getting a diploma so close to graduation day — 42 percent of the Class of 2017.

Some read the message as pressure to alter grades. Sibila, a counselor since 2014, said it was just the usual push. There were always students late to hand in proof of community service, he said. There were always packets not yet completed, other makeup work to be done, tests to retake.

As the email was forwarded, parents voiced alarm, reporters wrote stories and it added to concern already percolating about the accuracy of graduation rates.

DuVal’s rate for 2017 came in among the district’s high-achievers: 91.5 percent.

But by September, a broad investigation of the school system had begun, leading to findings that nearly 5,500 grade changes were made in the days before graduation in 2016 and 2017.

The problem was much larger than DuVal.

Investigators sampled the files of students with late grade changes districtwide and found nearly 30 percent were ineligible to graduate or lacked proof to show they qualified.

Their report also found more than 40 percent of the Class of 2017 had been unlawfully absent more than 10 times, grounds for failing their courses.

And it noted that 16 out of 28 high school programs had “excessive” extra-credit opportunities for failing students or “unofficial” credit recovery efforts, such as DuVal’s.

Graduation rates were not linked to pay raises for school-based employees, but Covington, the former DuVal principal, said the numbers were reflected in his evaluation. He never felt his job was in jeopardy, he said, but added, “The expectation was clear.”

Schools spokesman John White said educators were not unduly pressured to meet graduation-rate goals, but he said that setting goals is “the right thing to do” at a time when students find themselves at a severe disadvantage if they leave high school without a diploma.

“No one was disciplined or fired for not meeting their smart goals, but we certainly did praise people for making gains,” White said.

The district’s focus on DuVal employees came after a hotline complaint in July 2017 led to an internal investigation, done apart from the state-ordered effort. That probe found what appeared to be intentional wrongdoing, according to White.

The school system gave the state a 40-page plan to tighten practices on grading and graduation certification. It has eliminated all packets as part of credit recovery, added more employee training and, according to White, revised goal-setting so that yearly increases are smaller as schools reach higher rates.

At DuVal, Bilqiis Sheikh-Issa, 16, a rising senior, launched a petition to bring back DuVal’s “wronged staff members,” starting with Sibila, whom she credits for helping create a sense of community at the school. DuVal was unfairly singled out, she argues, “for the grade changes and the unsanctioned packets that were countywide.”

Sibila was accused of spearheading the unofficial credit recovery effort and making 17 inappropriate grade changes. He said that he was placed on leave without being given details about which student records were at issue and that his access to emails and work files was shut down, affecting his ability to defend himself.

Sibila appealed his recommended dismissal. He said makeup packets preceded his arrival at DuVal and recalled that in 2016-2017, a school central-office administrator told staffers to use them.

“I never thought I was doing anything unethical,” he said. “It was part of our practice, part of our norm.”

Sibila grew up in Prince George’s, graduating from Bowie High, the son of a county teacher and a county police detective. He married a teacher, earned a master’s degree and said that while he likes to see students succeed, he did not glory in higher graduation rates.

Since March, he has gone without pay, his career in peril.

“I did what I was ordered to do,” he said. “No one thought it was a problem. It was coming from the CEO’s team. They wanted us to be just like Howard County or Montgomery County.”

Via Washington Post

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D.C:Teacher Fired by Rhee Wins Arbitration After 9 Years of Delays, Will Receive Lost Compensation and His Job Back

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For nine years, Jeff Canady lived in a cash-strapped limbo.

Michelle Rhee always boasted about how many teachers she fired. She was sure that “bad teachers” were the root of the low academic performance in D.C. She loved her IMPACT program, which weeded out teachers, and many good teachers were fired and went elsewhere, where they were not ineffective.

Here is one teacher who fought back and won. It took nine long years, but he won. Michelle Rhee ruined his life.

For nine years, Jeff Canady lived in a cash-strapped limbo. The D.C. Public Schools teacher was fired in 2009 after 18 years in city classrooms, the school system deeming him ineffective.

Canady, 53, contested his dismissal, arguing that he was wrongly fired and that the city was punishing him for being a union activist and for publicly criticizing the school system.

For nearly a decade, Canady, jobless and penniless, waited for a decision in his case — until now.

Earlier this month, an arbitrator ruled in favor of the fired teacher, a decision that could entitle him to hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay and the opportunity to be a District teacher again. The school system can appeal the ruling, which was made by an arbitrator from the American Arbitration Association, a nonprofit organization that settles disputes outside of court.

“I’ve been a hostage for nine years,” Canady said. “And the District wants to keep it that way.”

School system spokesman Shayne Wells said DCPS “just received the arbitrator’s decision and is in the process of reviewing it.”

Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, said Canady isn’t the only one fighting to get his job back. Other educators who were fired years ago and allege unjust dismissals are waiting for their cases to be settled with the school system.

Canady was one of nearly 1,000 educators fired during the 3½ -year tenure of Michelle Rhee — the controversial former D.C. schools chancellor who clashed with the union and instituted a teacher evaluation system that dictated teachers’ job security and ­bonuses. About 200 of those teachers lost their jobs because of poor performance, 266 were laid off amid a 2009 budget squeeze and the rest failed to complete new-employee probation or did not have licensing required under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

The union, which had assailed Rhee’s evaluation system, filed a series of grievances in a bid to salvage the lost jobs.

In 2016, a teacher won a case against the school system after claiming he was wrongly fired in 2011 for a low score on Rhee’s evaluation system, known as ­IMPACT. The educator won on procedural grounds and the arbitrator’s decision did not address IMPACT, but the union still hailed it as a victory in its battle over the teacher evaluation system.

“We are certain that there are still a number of cases pending, unresolved, which were first filed during Michelle Rhee’s tenure as chancellor,” Davis said in an email.

Canady was a third-grade teacher earning about $80,000 a year when he was fired in 2009 from Emery Elementary, a school in the Eckington neighborhood that later closed. The school system, according to the arbitrator’s decision, said Canady scored low on an evaluation system that preceded IMPACT.

But Canady and the teachers union argued that his third-graders performed well and that he had previously posted strong scores on his evaluations. They said they suspected his low score was linked to his public criticism of the school system and not to his performance in the classroom. They also argued that the city did not follow proper protocol when evaluating him.

In defending its action, the school system claimed that the union had included Canady’s case as part of a larger class action complaint and had waited years to proceed with his case individually. By that point, the school system said it no longer had documents or email exchanges in the case.

Davis said she could not discuss specifics of the class action filing because parts of it are ongoing.

The arbitrator said the school system was responsible for many of the delays in the case. The ruling also said D.C. schools improperly evaluated Canady and showed “anti-union animus toward him.”

Canady said in an interview last week that he was confident he would prevail and that he had a moral imperative to keep fighting.

He said that he had ambitions to be a top official in the school system and that his firing stymied career opportunities. He imagines that by now, his salary would be substantially higher than $80,000 had he not lost his job.

“I’ve been fighting for justice for people for years,” Canady said. “Surely if I am going to fight for others, I am going to fight for myself.”

Canady remained in the District and continues to attend political and community meetings but has not held a steady job. With no income, he has moved around the city frequently and said his firing has extracted a physical and emotional toll and “devastated relationships.”

Even if the arbitrator’s decision holds, he said he is unsure if he will return to the classroom. He said he still disagrees with how the District operates its schools.

“I love teaching where they are actually trying to help people,” he said. “And I’ll do it at the appropriate time and in the appropriate situation.”rhee

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Email campaign urges teachers across Maryland to consider leaving unions in wake of Supreme Court decision

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A Michigan-based “free market” think tank is emailing teachers across Maryland urging them to drop their union memberships in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that said public employees cannot be forced to pay union fees.

Teachers and union officials say they have been alarmed by the email campaign and question how its organizers gained access to school system email addresses.

The email from the “My Pay, My Say” campaign says government workers “now have a real choice when it comes to their unions. … Whether it’s disagreements about politics, concerns about a lack of local representation, problems with union spending or something else — you now have the right to stop paying for activities you don’t support.”

Rogie Legaspi, a seventh-grade life sciences teacher at Hamilton Elementary/Middle School, was puzzled when the email came to his school system address, which he keeps separate from a personal email account. It arrived shortly after the Supreme Court ruling in late June.

“This came through my work email, and how they did it was a puzzle to me,” said Legaspi, a Baltimore Teachers Union member for a decade. “It’s encouraging union members to give up their memberships, and they’re basically saying you can save a couple of dollars.”

The “My Pay, My Say” campaign was organized by The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which describes itself as a nonpartisan research and educational institute that has long championed national issues of worker freedom. Its campaign was spurred by the federal justices’ 5-4 vote to overturn a 41-year-old precedent and rule that the 1st Amendment protects teachers, police officers and other public employees from being required to support a private group whose views may differ from theirs.

The court’s decision in Janus vs. AFSCME, seen as a setback for public sector unions, struck down laws in Maryland and other mostly Democratic-leaning states that allowed unions to negotiate contracts requiring all employees to pay a so-called fair share fee to cover the cost of collective bargaining, even those who opted out of membership.

Baltimore Teachers Union president Marietta English said the email blast is emblematic of a “drop the union” message right-wing groups are pushing in the wake of the court’s decision. But she said the effort is largely futile here, given that her union is now seeing its highest membership numbers ever: 95 percent.

“These billionaires are trying to cut out the voice of the working class,” she said. “It’s not working.”

Lagaspi echoed English.

“For me, the unions support the working class people and the very profession we love is protected,” Legaspi said. “It fights for a lot of things teachers want, such as full funding of schools.”

The Mackinac campaign has targeted public employees across the country, including teachers, police and fire workers and city and county employees, through email, social media and meetings, said Lindsay Killen, the institute’s vice president for strategic outreach and communications. Killen said the group has been building email contact lists for years, often obtaining the publicly available information through freedom of information requests.

“To the extent that union leaders are unhappy with the fact that we’re reaching out to workers in their school systems or places of work, we would assert that those individuals deserve to know what their rights are, and they have a choice,” said Killen, adding that the group stops short of encouraging workers to opt out of unions. “If unions are truly providing a valuable service to members, their members are more likely to stay, and they have nothing to fear from those members being armed with information about their rights.”

Mackinac is one of numerous groups that reportedly have launched public campaigns in the wake of the Janus decision, including Washington-based Freedom Foundation, the Commonwealth Foundation, the Yankee Institute for Public Policy and Americans for Prosperity. According to website Conservative Transparency, donors to Mackinac in 2014 and in prior years, have included the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, launched in 1989 by President Donald Trump’s education secretary and her husband.

In the days after the Janus decision, teachers throughout the state received “My Pay, My Say” emails, said Adam Mendelson, a spokesman for the Maryland State Education Association, which represents 74,000 members, teachers, support staff and administrators in all state jurisdictions except Baltimore.

They received “spam-type emails in their inboxes from billionaire-funded extremist political groups … to try to convince them to give away their voice and their contracts,” Mendelson said. “They don’t have educators and Maryland students’ best interests in mind.”

Mendelson said he heard from members in Anne Arundel, Frederick, Prince George’s, Carroll and Howard counties and from the Eastern Shore but did not know how many received the emails.

Annie Cumberland, a media specialist at Northwest Middle School in Carroll County, who received an email, said she wasn’t surprised that people were “already trying to bust up our unions” soon after the Janus decision. But she was upset to learn that the DeVos foundation made past contributions to the campaign’s organizer.

“This is someone who has a major, influential position in our country, who in one way or another is not supporting public education when that is her number one job,” Cumberland said.

English criticized The Mackinac Center for accessing teachers’ work email addresses and using them to try and sway opinions.

Edie M. House-Foster, the city schools’ spokeswoman, said the system did not provide teacher email addresses or sanction the letter.

“We don’t know how they got them,” she said.“They could have harvested them a variety of ways.”

In an email to teachers and staff following the “My Pay, My Say” email blast, the district said it is not affiliated with the sender and does not interfere in issues related to union membership.

English said no other anti-union materials have been reported to the BTU since the Janus decision. At the same time, the union has sent out emails and made house calls to teachers on the fence about becoming full members, urging them to remember that “we are stronger together.”

The union counts roughly 7,000 teachers and paraprofessionals as full members of the union. Prior to the Janus decision, about 450 people paid agency fees but were not full members, union officials said. Since the decision, 20 of those teachers have signed membership cards, and roughly 100 more have signaled their interest in joining the union.

English estimated the union will lose out on about $300,000 now that teachers aren’t compelled to pay those fees. The union has been bracing for this for years, as the Janus case wound its way through the court system.

The union doesn’t anticipate any vital programming will be cut. Rather, the group has been implementing proactive cost-saving measures, like letting vacancies go unfilled.

It’s not surprising that such a campaign would focus on teachers, who are among the most identifiable of public sector unionized employees, said Michael Hayes, a labor law professor at the University of Baltimore.

The friction between unions and anti-union opponents stretches back decades, but has become more partisan in recent years, Hayes said.

“Now it’s a given that public sector unions support Democrats and opponents will support Republicans,” Hayes said. “It’s quite a tug of war we’ve got going.”

Jimmy Gittings, president of the city school system administrators’ union, said no anti-union messaging has been reported since the Janus decision. Sgt. Clyde Boatwright, president of the city school police union and vice president of the state Fraternal Order of Police, said he hasn’t heard of any anti-union messaging in either capacity.

“We haven’t faced that issue at all,” Boatwright said.

The Janus case grew out of a Supreme Court decision in 1977 that said public employees may not be forced to pay union dues if some of the money went for political contributions. At the time, the justices upheld the lesser “fair share” fees on the theory that all employees benefited from a union contract and its grievance procedures.

The current, more conservative court disagreed last month and said employees have a right not to give any support to a union. These payments were described as a form of “compelled speech,” which violates the 1st Amendment.

The anti-union National Right to Work Foundation, which funded the challenge, predicted the ruling would free more than 5 million public employees from supporting their unions.

Richard Vatz, a Towson University professor of rhetoric and communication, said a weaker union would have an effect on teacher pay.

“It reduces the bargaining power,” he said.

Despite that, he said he supports the Janus decision.

“I think it is wrong particularly of that profession that they sacrifice academic freedom to increase the efficacy of their bargaining power,” he said.

Mackinac’s Killen said it’s too soon to know the campaign’s impact. But so far, she said, thousands of people in all 50 states have visited the website for information or to fill out a form, customized for each state, to opt out of a union.

Hayes said the effectiveness of the “My Pay, My Say” campaign will vary from area to area.

“They might make more headway in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore than the city of Baltimore,” he said.

Via Baltimore Sun

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Major Tensions erupt between progressive and establishment Democrats in Prince George’s

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Prince George’s County Citizenry watch and follow keenly the events  surrounding Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee meeting.

By Rachel Chason

It wasn’t your typical Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee meeting.

The crowd alternated between loud booing and cheering. One candidate for committee chair pulled out a chain to symbolize the control she says the Democratic Party establishment wields over who holds office. After the other, establishment-backed candidate won the election, half the audience drifted out.

The contest Tuesday night between Cheryl Landis, who chaired the committee from 2014 to 2016, and Theresa Dudley, president of the Prince George’s County Educators’ Association, in some ways represented tensions playing out statewide as progressives and more moderate Democrats vie for power in the party.

“There is a great divide,” said Landis, who defeated Dudley 17 to 3 (three members abstained, and one was absent). “As leader of the central committee, I know we have to get ourselves in order. We have got to build a foundation so we are all on the same page.”

Observers said what happens on the 24-member volunteer committee, which organizes support for Democrats in county, state and national races, could have implications up and down the ballot in November.

Landis, a retired school system employee, voted for County Executive Rushern Baker III in the Democratic gubernatorial primary and was backed by many of the same county elected officials who supported his losing bid.

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Cheryl Landis (second right), who defeated Theresa Dudley to become chair of the Democratic Central Committee on July 24, speaks to members during a spirited meeting at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89 in Upper Marlboro. 

Dudley is a vocal supporter of Ben Jealous, a progressive former NAACP president whose platform includes single-payer health care, a $15 minimum wage and legalizing and taxing marijuana, and whose backing from teachers unions across the state was key to his winning the nomination.

Landis and Dudley said they are committed to helping Jealous defeat popular Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in November.

“It’s my number one priority,” said Landis, who described Jealous as a “phenomenal” nominee.

But some in the audience were skeptical. John Mitchell, who supported U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, said he had “concerns” about Landis’s ability to mobilize voters and worried that “enthusiasm will be gone if people can’t feel any ownership in the party.”

“We want to see health care for all and fair wages, but there is also a fundamental desire to have the party be more of a bottom-up organization,” said Mitchell, of Accokeek.

Dudley said substantive changes need to be made to the central committee going forward so it reflects the interests of county residents she described as increasingly progressive.

During the meeting, she unveiled a chain bought at Home Depot and said county officials, including those elected to the central committee, have for too long been controlled by “the master who lives in Calvert County,” referring to state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D), whose district also includes part of Prince George’s.

“This chain, we don’t need it,” she said to cheers from the audience, which was filled with members of Progressive Maryland and Our Revolution, grass-roots groups that helped propel Jealous to victory and oust key Miller allies in the state Senate.

The activists, several of whom spoke at the end of the hours-long meeting, said Miller and other state senators who represent the county wield too much power over who wins office by issuing official-looking “sample ballots” that endorse some Democratic candidates over others.

Dudley and others demanded that the committee condemn the ballots, which they said favor establishment choices and mislead voters into thinking they represent an official party slate.

“There was so much legitimate confusion,” said Wala Blegay, who unsuccessfully ran for state delegate and started a petition to end the use of sample ballots that has received nearly 700 signatures.

Krystal Oriadha, an activist who lost her race for county council by 30 votes, said the ballots are part of a “systematic effort to keep progressives from winning.”
Miller declined, through an aide, to comment.

In a speech after the vote, Landis pledged to create an ad hoc committee immediately to examine the issue.

Former central committee member Malcolm Augustine, who was nominated for a state Senate seat in the June 26 primary, said that although debate Tuesday was “spirited,” what matters most is that the party is unified behind Jealous.

“There was a lot of passion in the room,” he said. “We have to find a way to channel that passion in a way that’s inclusive.”

Via Washington Post

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Interim leader named for PGCPS system after scandals as Board member is Forced to sign documents to quash case.

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On the job 5 days, new, interim @pgcps CEO Dr. Monica Goodson announces a central office shakeup – laying off about 20 exec level staffers and redirecting the funds back to schools.

One of the Deputy Superintendent (Dr. Monica Goldson) who rose up rather quickly through the ranks in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) was appointed Monday as its new CEO. She becomes the second woman to hold the top post. As her conformation for the interim post was taking place, in nearby Prince George’s County Circuit a plan of action by the establishments led by Attorney Judy Sakyi Danso was in the works to force and trick Board member Edward Burroughs to drop peace order charges against Chairman Segun Eubanks. The peace order was initiated through the court after Dr. Segun Eubanks advanced violence to a fellow Board member Mr. Burroughs at Sasscer administrative building.

After back and forth with his legal counsel, Mr. Burroughs under duress gave in and signed the document. At this time, the only comment we can make to Mr. Burroughs is that, “You can’t fight corruption by winking at it”— Mr Edward Burroughs should have appeared before a court of law to present his case. The final hearing which was supposed to be this morning at 10am was cancelled.

Monica Goldson, 50, was named interim chief executive for Prince George’s County public schools, in a one-year appointment following major scandals. The exit of embattled chief executive Kevin Maxwell appear to have been set up or deliberately made mistakes every turn in the last few months.

Goldson, who served as deputy superintendent for teaching and learning during a 27-year career in Prince George’s, was selected by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III who was recently caught red handed in Wage theft scheme. The scheme caused an outcry in the community.

Baker said he was sure Goldson would work hard to restore public confidence in the school system, which has been plagued by scandals over large pay raises to aides, a lost federal Head Start grant and inflated graduation rates and much more which involves Goldson herself during her tenure at various schools including Forestville academy. During Monica Goldson’s tenure as the Assistant Superintendent for High school consortium, the office was abolished due to mismanagement and there was widespread wage theft for support staff including failure to pay mileage for work done plus much more.

“Her experience and knowledge of the system makes her an excellent choice for Interim CEO,” Baker said in a statement.

Goldson, who has filled in as acting CEO since Maxwell’s departure in mid-July, is expected to oversee preparations for the coming school year and work with the school board on issues including academic performance, the workforce, family and community engagement and organizational effectiveness.

A graduate of county schools, she began her career as a math teacher at Suitland High School and later served as an assistant principal at Forestville academy before becoming a principal of Frederick Douglass and Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. high schools. She was chief operating officer before taking over as a deputy superintendent in 2016.

She follows a long line of male school leaders. The first woman to lead the county school system was Iris Metts, who served from 1999 to 2003.

Maxwell arrived in 2013 as Baker’s choice but ran into trouble with a sexual abuse scandal that raised broader questions about oversight and the collapse of a multimillion-dollar federal Head Start grant. The controversies over graduation rates and pay increases followed and other scandals throughout the district which have never been publicly acknowledged but exist.

Some voiced hope the leadership change would improve stability. However, many are skeptical due to her role in the past scandals whereby she covered up problems.

“I have started the process to make sure that takes place,” she said. “Each day, I am analyzing our own current pay scale to make sure it’s aligned with other education agencies around the state of Maryland.”

She said broader goals for the future include improving communication and acknowledging mistakes.

“If we have done something, we need to own it, admit it, make sure we make corrections and inform our parents our staff and our students,” Goldson said.

Union Shenanigans a major concern in Maryland.

“The ship is really rocking, and you need someone to steady it,” said Theresa Mitchell Dudley, president of the teachers union. “Teachers come back in three, four weeks. This is a big system. There needs to be someone level-headed at the helm, and I think she is very level-headed . . . People within the system hold her in a very high regard,” She told the Washington Post.

Doris Reed, executive director of the union representing principals and administrators, said Goldson is respected and trusted in a school system struggling with low morale.

“We need someone people can trust,” she told the press. However, Association of Supervisory & Administrative School Personnel (ASASP) led by Doris Reed has also been part of the problem. If any changes have to occur in PGCPS, ASASP management and as a union needs to look itself in the mirror and acknowledge past mistakes.

Furthermore, retaliatory activities carried out to others by ASASP staff over the years to cover up corruption needs to be reviewed and those members affected by the shenanigans made whole. Many administrative staff members and members of ASASP covered in corruption or not “they” all have connections–it’s like any other corrupt system–quote “In a corrupt system, the corrupt are promoted”…they pat each other on the back and make deals behind closed doors with their corrupt attorneys who protect and advise them on how to stay corrupt–power, money and sex is the root of all evil even in a school system,” said Dr. Gail P. Bingham.

As we were about to publish, we received the following massage on the blog:

“Well Monica better start with Building Services when she as I heard lowered the qualifications for Samuel Steffaneli to get the position he has and John Vanslight as well. Its so much dirt in maintenance it’s ridiculous. And a lot of who you no, not what u know,” statement from Jane Doe.

The bottom line is that the public has no trust in the PGCPS school system. In this scenario, it’s the educators on the front lines that pay the price. Parents take it out on them like a lame duck. They (parents) believe that educators are all incompetent and untrustworthy and treat teachers and administrators accordingly. We will never get the public to invest more in our schools, and in turn, innovate public education into proper paychecks, until public trust is restored. It is time for the unions to stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution.

A new county executive will take office in December. And this time next year, that person could sign Dr. Goldson to multiyear contract or choose someone else.

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The peace order initiated through the court after Dr. Segun Eubanks advanced violence to a fellow Bord member Mr. Burroughs at Sasscer administrative building has been dropped.

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Interim Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Monica Goldson pictured with County Executive Baker at Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

 

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No one with a good conscience can oppose the 1st Amendment rights after Wage theft for PGCPS workers & students

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Rushern Baker III’s local government was recently caught red handed on wage theft after years of scandals and immediately stated that:  “We are well aware of some payroll problems with our Summer Youth Enrichment Program participants. We are working diligently to quickly rectify the situation. We apologize to the students and parents for this inconvenience.”

Wage theft is the illegal practice of not paying workers for all of their work including; violating minimum wage laws, not paying overtime, forcing workers to work off the clock, refusing to award the step increases earned and much more. It is a major problem worldwide. The recent events in Prince George’s County were the local county government was caught red handed failing to either pay students in summer camp  timely or paid them less than they were supposed to is wage theft. In addition all the steps which teachers and School administrators were supposed to receive but denied or missed deliberately without getting compensated after earning those steps for higher pay is wage theft too.

“Wage theft covers a variety of infractions that occur when workers do not receive their legally or contractually promised wages. Common forms of wage theft are:  not giving workers their last paycheck after a worker leaves a job, not paying for all the hours worked etc.”

Every working person in Prince George’s County deserves to be paid fairly and fully for their labor. The local government using tax payer funds should not be seen to use facebook activists to help cover up or mislead the public for their own selfish motives. The users of social media on Facebook or twitter must also understand that nothing on social media is private. This is especially true when elected official such County Executive and others in Maryland legislature are involved in swaying a local group such as (parents and PGCPS) with ulterior motives to advance shenanigans at the expense of local delivery. “Water carrier” for Executives and politicians involved in questionable activities must be rejected. “carrying someone’s water” such as in this case implies that the water carrier agrees with and supports the more powerful person such as Mr. Baker and other leaders engaged in questionable activities even when they are clearly on the wrong.

Employers are stealing money from working people by cheating them of wages owed or not paying them at all. Failing to pay for even a few minutes of labor, such as not paying for time spent preparing a work station at the start of a shift, or for cleaning up and closing up at the end of a shift, can quickly add up. The Economic Policy Institute found that working people lose as much as $50 billion every year to wage theft.

In the current system it is easy for unscrupulous employers to avoid the consequences of their actions. In fact, employers in private sector often close up shop or open up their business under another name to avoid paying their workers across the United States.

Examples of Wage theft affecting families in the United States and worldwide.

Wage theft has huge consequences for workers across industries who are just looking to receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Just recently, the Los Angeles Times detailed the stories of 11 workers at a West Los Angeles bakery were paid just two dollars an hour over a two year period. Some of the workers were forced to work 17 hours a day.

In Maryland, ‘Wage theft’ continues to prevail in post-recession economy . Aggrieved workers can take their cases either to law enforcement or to civil court.

The number of lawsuits alleging employer violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act has more than tripled in the past decade, according to an annual study released by Seyfarth Shaw, a law firm that specializes in labor and employment law.

Heriberto Zamora worked for one of the most expensive restaurants in the country, Beverly Hills’s acclaimed sushi restaurant Urasawa. Though he worked nearly 60 hours per week and 12-14 hour shifts, he did not receive overtime. When one day, after an eight hour shift, he asked to go home because he was sick, his boss fired him on the spot.

The California Labor Commissioner issued his employer a judgment to pay over $38,000 to Zamora and his coworkers, they found the law did not have teeth and he wasn’t able to collect. He finally received payment, after local organization Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance heavily advocated for him.

In Los Angeles alone, low-wage workers lose $26.2 million in wage theft violations every week–making it the wage theft capital of the country.

In Zimbabwe more than 100 women gathered in October 2013 to peacefully protest at the state controlled Hwange Colliery coal mine in western Zimbabwe, where many mine workers had gone months to almost a year without pay.

Now, the rubber hits the road. Soon Budget decisions will be happening after hearings based on aggrieved parents and workers here in Prince George’s County to determine how wage theft enforcement will happen and if it will be efficient and effective.

More to come!

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Under Dr. Segun Eubanks teachers, administrators and support staff have been complaining they have never received their step increases for several years now.  Workers in Prince George’s County are entitled to receive their step increases.

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Under Monica Goldson as the leader of High School Consortium, teachers and support staff suffered wage theft heavily due to lack of proper oversight. These problems continues to occur and teachers, administrators  and support staff have been complaining they have never received their step increases for several years now.

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CORRUPTION steal resources that should be in the hands of the MAJORITY.

Shame! This is Why Prince George’s County is considered a den of thieves – Several kids fail to receive paychecks.

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Rushern Baker III

Saturday July 21, 2018: Prince George’s County Parents are up in arms after Rushern Baker regime was caught red handed violating child labor provisions. This happened  after the county failed to either pay students in summer camp program timely or paid them less than they were supposed to. The expose begun with One parent who started a revolutionary post expressing her frustration on the illegal scheme. The post highlighted the county’s mismanagement of resources during the ongoing youth summer programme. It was posted by Joan Ogburn-Hyson who expressed her frustration by stating the following:

I have two children working in the Summer Youth @ Work Program for Prince George’s County. They have to work a month before receiving their first paycheck and required to submit direct deposit forms. Today was payday and several of the kids did not receive paychecks (including my daughter) because someone lost the paperwork. This is a terrible experience for a student.”

Based on the discussion, a number of issues where brought to light which left the county government in a new low and in violation of child labor. This is not the first time these violations have happened. Last year similar fiasco ensued unabated in the county. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker for the first time responded by stating that, “We are well aware of some payroll problems with our Summer Youth Enrichment Program participants. We are working diligently to quickly rectify the situation. We apologize to the students and parents for this inconvenience.”

Another parent tried to send in a follow up question and it was ignored by Mr. Baker. We must embrace vision of equality, justice, freedom and multiracial democracy, built on the premise that all people are created equal. Here in Prince George’s county, too much of politics seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. There is utter loss of shame among many political leaders in this county including union leaders where they’re caught in a lie, and instead of owning to the issues without reservations, they just double down, and they lie some more while inviting their friends to help cover up the misconduct and fraud. This way they can continue their illegal agenda. “Its not right and it’s what is occurring now,” stated one parent interviewed for this article.

Clearly there are serious issues which continues to affect the county and unless they are addressed, the Prince George’s county will continue to be a magnet of corruption many years to come as highlighted in this case.  There are reports that, one of the instructors mentioned that the program was supposed to alleviate nepotism because the employees were hiring family members. One parent wondered if “losing” apps was the workaround behind the illegal scheme.

Activist Tommi Makila summed up the best when he stated the following: This is such a typical scenario for our county. All in all, this is a really great program and I’m grateful that our son was able to get a summer job through it. (His job is with a private company, so he’s not impacted by this county payroll issue.) However, like so many other entities and programs in our county, the execution of this program is sorely lacking. Our son went through the training portion of the program and the placement, and all along management of the program was chaotic, communications lacking or confusing, and given timelines were not followed. This is all more ironic considering that the main point of the training portion was to teach the kids how to perform in a workplace, to do your job well, be responsible, etc. As with so many other entities/programs in our county (including our schools), we could make such great strides if we just found a magic formula to make all people perform their jobs properly and not have the minimal-effort, “good enough” attitude be so pervasive. Too often our county leaders and managers talk a good game, but follow-through and execution is poor.”

It is clear from the experiences here that, Equality is a term largely thrown around in political discourse. However, it is an ideal that is largely out of reach, particularly within the United States’ education system and in Prince George’s County in particular. Violators of the child labor provisions are subject to a civil money penalty of up to $10,000 for each employee who was the subject of a violation. Employers who willfully or repeatedly violate the minimum wage or overtime pay requirements are subject to a civil money penalty of up to $1,000 for each violation, according to the United States Department of Labor. Read more here.  

Reaction on Facebook was swift with several parents, administrators and other community stakeholders highlighting their experiences. Below is a sample: 

Felicia Meadows Shameful”

Dawn MsWarddaboss Ward That system has some serious flaws this also happened to my son a year ago then he went to work for six flags and he has been there every since.”

Quantane L Higginbotham “Is this how we are teaching our kids? 😠😠😡”

Joan Ogburn-Hyson Yep, not to want to work or volunteer in this county….terrible.”

Crystal Jewel That is crazy, DC children get paid after the 2nd week (like normal jobs)”

Joan Ogburn-Hyson Right Crystal Jewel. If we can’t stand for something like our own kids, then we do fall for everything and our children suffer. If it were any adult they would be have a problem getting their money.”

Carolyn Grobes That’s CRAZY and the system needs to be updated. WHO can afford to work a job where they have to wait a month before they get paid? My child worked for the summer youth program in PGC a few summers and I was a student worker in registrations the whole time I went to the University of Maryland and don’t remember either of us having to wait a month to get paid 25 years apart!”

Joan Ogburn-Hyson “That’s the new rule. They said that all new County employees have to do so too when they start a job. In this economy, I am not sure who can do that anymore.”

Carolyn Grobes Joan Ogburn-Hyson in any economy that would be hard to do. PGC has to get it together, in 2018 and modern technology there’s NO reason to make anyone wait a month to get their first paycheck.”

Kashey Mynorr I heard this happened last year too. I hope they get it together soon.”

Taiwanna Anthony “Not surprised”
Rebecca Anderson Muse PGC Parents and residents we have to remain focused on putting pressure on our local officials and service providers. It is the ONLY way to improve the county. Do not let up on this, from the comments multiple years of the same issue sounds like a norm with no plan to improve. FB is a good start to spread the word but continue to reach higher because with everything folks will get tired and change will happen. Sorry this is happening to our youth in the county.”
Quantane L Higginbotham“Exactly!!!”
Stephanie Peete My son is also in the program this summer and they sent the kids a email yesterday telling telling them if they didn’t receive a paycheck today to call the youth@work supervisor. So they knew in advance time that some kids were not going to get paid today. SMH”
Denise M. Joseph It’s definitely disappointing but I’ve had this happen at a full time job. It definitely builds character but I’m sure sure it leaves a bad taste in your nouth. They’ll get through this.”
Joan Ogburn-Hyson Mike Robinson she was crying and saying they are never going to pay me. I worked all this time for nothing.”
Joan Ogburn-Hyson “Well, it’s 8:19pm, I have made 3 phone calls to HR from 1pm to 4pm and got voice mail. My daughter came home with an e-mail sent to coordinators at 12:38pm notifying coordinators of the problem. They didn’t even know until the kids starting calling. My son’s check was short was short too.”
Joan Ogburn-Hyson I am sorry, I can’t keep standing by while the county continues to abuse my kids and get away with it. It’s not okay. These kids have been working for a month. We just can’t keep standing by and letting things happen to our kids – what are we teaching them to be passive.”
Curtis Valentine Mike Robinson I was able to contact someone from the office, and they are working on it.”
Carolyn Grobes That’s terrible. PGC has so MANY problems it’s ridiculous!”
Carla Yvette My son took all the classes and passed the test and then didn’t get a job because his application didn’t “go through” though they completed them DURING the training classes. Smh”
Brée Nachelle I really am disappointed in this program. My son had the same issues. They never got his application.”
Carla Yvette Brée Nachelle “one of the instructors mentioned that the program was supposed to alleviate nepotism because the employees were hiring family members. I’m wondering if “losing” apps is the workaround. Smh”
Rushern L. Baker “We are well aware of some payroll problems with our Summer Youth Enrichment Program participants. We are working diligently to quickly rectify the situation. We apologize to the students and parents for this inconvenience.”
Carla Yvette Mr. Rushern L. Baker, can you do anything about students who fulfilled requirements but didn’t get a job this summer? Is there anyway they can get any type of priority for next years positions? I know of 2 other students who were not contacted besides my son. Brée Nachelle is the parent of one of them and she posted above.”
Brée Nachelle Carla Yvette thank you for thinking of me. My son will be going into his senior year. I’ll just be fighting to ensure his grades are in order for graduation, then I’m moving.”
Kashey Mynorr My son got an email from a company saying they were in receipt of his application and we’d hear from them soon. Then… nothing.”
Judy Mickens-Murray Its a really good program. The students will be paid in full. Hope pay glitches don’t hender the quality of the work experiences. Know students who gained a lot in the past.”
Joan Ogburn-Hyson WHAT, my son is cleaning at Largo High School were it is being treated for asbestos. What is good about that? Video coming shortly.”
Jerri Lyn Smoot While my child did receive a paycheck, it was short. He was very disappointed.”
Stephanie Peete Did your son complete the online blackboard assessments before he started at his work site? They were told if they didn’t complete the online assignments they wouldn’t get paid for the week of training. Several students didn’t get paid for training because they didn’t complete the online assignments.”
Stephanie Peete Rebecca Anderson Muse you’re welcome the communication with the program coordinators/instructors was really bad.”
Joan Ogburn-Hyson My son too, 6am to 4pm each day and this is what he got, terrible.”
Tommi Makila This is such a typical scenario for our county. All in all, this is a really great program and I’m grateful that our son was able to get a summer job through it. (His job is with a private company, so he’s not impacted by this county payroll issue.) However, like so many other entities and programs in our county, the execution of this program is sorely lacking. Our son went through the training portion of the program and the placement, and all along management of the program was chaotic, communications lacking or confusing, and given timelines were not followed. This is all more ironic considering that the main point of the training portion was to teach the kids how to perform in a workplace, to do your job well, be responsible, etc. As with so many other entities/programs in our county (including our schools), we could make such great strides if we just found a magic formula to make all people perform their jobs properly and not have the minimal-effort, “good enough” attitude be so pervasive. Too often our county leaders and managers talk a good game, but follow-through and execution is poor.”
Melissa Bradley Such a disservice to the kids who worked and expected to get paid. Not sure what is going on with our county (born and raised for over 50 years). If we can pay officials top salaries n the CEO a very generous severance pkg then our children who are making pennies should not have issues getting their monies. #childrenareourfuture 
#residentslivesmatter”Document

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