Tag Archives: School board

PGCPS Student Shot Near Suitland High School; Search for Gunman Underway

A bullet flew through the window of a school building with a student and teacher inside

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A high school student opened fire near a high school in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Friday afternoon, shooting a fellow student and sending a bullet through the window of a school building, police say.

The student fired multiple shots in an apartment building parking lot within sight of Suitland High School in District Heights, police said.

The search for the shooter is ongoing.

A teen boy was shot in the leg and is expected to recover.
The school was placed on a lockdown that later was lifted.
Many parents rushed to the school, fearful that their children had been shot.

“Police can’t tell you anything, the school can’t call parents and let anybody know anything,” one mother said, nearly in tears. She said she had two daughters who attend the school.

Upon learning that boys had been involved in the shooting, not girls, the mother exhaled and clutched her hand to her chest.
“Thank you,” she said.

According to the initial investigation, a group of students left the school and argued in the apartment building parking lot, a Prince George’s County Police Department spokeswoman said.
One student opened fire and hit the teen. A classmate dragged him into the high school for help.

Prince George’s County police and fire and rescue was called to the scene about 12 p.m. Soon after, they found the victim near the school annex building, which houses art and music classes.
He was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police later found a bullet lodged in the ceiling of that school building. A student and a teacher were inside the classroom but were not hurt.

At least five shell casings were found.

Suitland High is a performing arts school known for its students’ achievements.

A witness told News4 he saw three students involved in the conflict: one who was shot, one who helped the victim and another who ran away.

Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor posted on Twitter that this was “NOT an active shooter” situation.

“The investigation has moved into the neighborhoods, where we’re currently searching for the suspect,” Lt. David Coleman said.

Student Kelai’ah Wheelen said she just wanted to go home.
“It was terrifying,” she said.

Anyone with information for police is asked to call 301-772-4910. To leave a tip anonymously, call 866-411-TIPS, send a text message with PGPD plus your message to CRIMES or visit http://www.pgcrimesolvers.com.

Source: Student Shot Near Suitland High School; Search for Gunman Underway | NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Student-Shot-Suitland-High-School-prince-georges-co-410650005.html#ixzz4VnEWjIue
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Many Prince George’s County citizenry are extremely disappointed

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County Executive Rushern Baker III

Many Prince George’s County citizenry are extremely disappointed in County Executive Rushern Baker‘s appointments to the Prince George’s County School Board of Education. Our county, schools and students are better off when we elect independent minded and qualified candidates to serve on the board over candidates hand picked by political leaders.

School board members make up the largest body of elected officials in the United States. We entrust them to set the policies of our most treasured institutions: our public elementary, middle and high schools. Every district has a board of education, and boards generally meet every month in meetings that are open to the public.

These gatherings range from tame rubber-stamping sessions to intense, provocative discussions with the community where controversial issues are debated and landmark decisions are made.

School boards are supposed to be nonpartisan. However, in Prince George’s County, they are not.  In most districts, members serve four-year terms, and terms are staggered so seats don’t become open all at once. In general, to run for school board, you have to be at least 18 years old, a citizen of the state, a resident of the district, a registered voter and eligible under the state constitution to be elected to public office.

In most cases, a school district employee can’t be a board member in that district. This means no teacher, principal, librarian, custodian or anyone else that works in a school in the district can serve on the school board, unless they resign from the employed position.

School districts are complex corporations; they’ re often the largest employers in a community and the decisions they make reach far, affecting jobs, resources and most importantly, the education of all children.

What do they do?

Somewhere in between the agendas, public comment sessions and resolutions, school boards make a number of important decisions. School boards establish a vision for the community’s schools. They have to set up and maintain an effective, efficient organizational structure for the district that lets the superintendent or CEO and administrators manage the schools, teachers teach and students learn.

They are responsible for hiring and evaluating a superintendent, evaluating and adopting policies that affect all schools in the district, serving as a judicial and appeals body when conflicts go unresolved, monitoring and adjusting district finances, and managing the collective bargaining process in the district.

A school board has a symbolic role as well. The behavior it shows off in the meeting room, the rapport among school board members and the relationships that members have with teachers and administrators in the district all add up to the climate of public education in a community. Whether healthy or dysfunctional as seen here in Prince George’s County, a school board has a heavy influence on the spirit that characterizes a community’s impression of its school system. This is why is not a good idea to leave a politician or politicians who have no interest in education to run the schools with some other interior motive.  Since the take over of the county school system, Prince George’s County Board of Education has gotten worse than ever before.

On this note and as stated above, Our county, schools and students are better off when we elect independent minded and qualified candidates to serve on the board over candidates hand picked by political leaders as seen here in Prince George’s County.

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What’s next for Prince George’s County after school board member indicted?

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Prince George’s County Board of Education member Lynnette Mundey

WASHINGTON — Her resignation wasn’t a surprise — but her indictment came as a shock.

Prince George’s County Board of Education member Lynnette Mundey had announced in June that she was leaving the board, stepping down, she told the Sentinel newspapers, to get her doctorate in education.

But this week, Mundey, an employee at the Government Accountability Office, was indicted, accused of gaming the school system she was appointed to serve. The Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office announced she and four other GAO workers — all parents of children in the PGCPS school system, were charged with falsifying documents so that their children could qualify for the free and reduced meals offered for children in need in the school system.

Dr. Segun Eubanks, the chair of the Prince George’s County school board, says the board was already working with County Executive Rushern Baker to find a replacement to fill the remainder of Mundey’s term. But Eubanks told WTOP the incident pushes the board to prove “that we are indeed going to work with as much integrity as possible — and I think we will.”

As a result of changes to the school board structure enacted after Baker was elected, the county executive has the power to appoint three school board members. Mundey holds an elected seat, but according to school board officials, her resignation allows the county executive the opportunity to appoint her successor to fill the remainder of her term.

The Board of Education met in executive session at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Maryland law allows public bodies like school boards, town and county councils to meet behind closed doors in “executive session” under a number of circumstances, including personnel issues and when obtaining legal advice.

via WTOP

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

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Hillsborough school district has been dipping into emergency funds to cover expenses

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TAMPA — In the last four years of superintendent MaryEllen Elia’s administration, the Hillsborough County School District went on a spending jag, tearing through more than half of its $361 million reserve fund, officials revealed this week.

Left unchecked, the pattern would have resulted in another operating deficit this year — a $75 million hit that would bring the fund down near its legal minimum threshhold.

The situation has surprised Elia’s successor, unsettled School Board members and put bonding agencies on alert, which could lead to the district facing higher interest rates when it has to borrow money.

Jeff Eakins, who took over as superintendent after serving as Elia’s deputy, says he was caught off guard when he realized the district used $68.5 million in non-recurring funds to meet this year’s payroll.

“We’re not in any kind of financial crisis,” Eakins told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board Tuesday. But, he said, “we need to put some measures in place right now.”

Eakins was careful not to criticize Elia, a onetime national finalist for superintendent of the year who, after her Jan. 20 firing in Hillsborough, landed a job as state education commissioner in New York.

Asked if he knew about the spending imbalance before Elia left in March, Eakins said, “not to this extent.” Meeting one-on-one with School Board members in recent weeks, he was similarly discreet, said member Sally Harris. “He never mentioned names, just numbers,” she said.

Elia’s critics on the board were far less subtle.

“We have time and time again requested information that was not given to us, as has been documented for years in her evaluations,” said board member April Griffin.

Added member Cindy Stuart: “To me, this validates every reason why we pushed the yes button to fire MaryEllen.”

Elia did not return calls for comment Monday and Tuesday.

Board member Melissa Snively, who voted against firing Elia, said of the controversy, “I hope it doesn’t overshadow the good things she did in this district. She did a lot of positive things for the children that put us on the map.”

While disappointed to learn of the dwindling reserve fund, Snively said, “I’m not one to dwell on the past, except what we can learn from it.”

Eakins said he is still gathering information as he tries to get a full understanding of the budget issue.

For example: Teachers were given pay raises in the summer after negotiations with their union. School Board members were told how much those raises would cost.

But those were estimates that fell short of the real number because they did not take into account a new pay structure offered under Empowering Effective Teachers, the system Elia initiated in 2009 with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. That’s because teachers don’t decide whether they want to be included in the system until the fall — well after the contract negotiations — and many more opted to be in the system than the district anticipated.

A study is under way to calculate those extra costs, which could run as high as $50 million.

It is clear, Eakins said, that the district, which serves more than 200,000 children, is spending money to extend programs that were launched with temporary funding from foundations.

The Gates grant is one example, as it is in its final year of funding. Expenses anticipated for 2015-16 include $11.3 million for teacher peer evaluators and $6.1 million to pay mentors. Eakins said he will take a close look at these expenditures to see if they are worth sustaining, or if they should be reduced.

“Ultimately we want the money to be driven to teachers and students and classrooms,” he said, promising return-on-investment analyses of all programs and contracts.

Eakins said he does not intend for instruction to suffer, and does not envision layoffs. While there might be some increases in class sizes, they will be within the law and, in some cases, will allow children to remain with teachers who have gotten to know them.

News of the spending imbalance comes after Hillsborough spent years building a reputation for strong financial performance. Elia often said proudly that Hills­borough was unusual in that it weathered the recession without laying off any teachers.

Now, Eakins said, two of three bonding agencies have issued negative reports about the district. While the district has not been downgraded, it could be if things do not improve. Under that scenario, Hillsborough could face higher interest rates if it had to issue more bonds.

While some board members say they were in the dark about the spending imbalance, chief business officer Gretchen Saunders said there were no secrets. The administration shared financial statements with the board regularly and posted them on the meeting agendas. “Was it highlighted? No,” she said, referring to the fund balance. Board members did not ask for a public discussion, she said.

As for why Eakins was not fully informed, Saunders said some information about spending was discussed at Elia’s 6 a.m. cabinet meetings. And Eakins, who was in charge of instructional and not operational matters, was not always at those gatherings.

“I certainly wasn’t having conversations about the fund balance,” he said.

Some board members said the budgets that were made public were difficult to understand and they did not get clear answers when they asked direct questions of Saunders and Elia.

“I tried to dig for information,” said Harris, who ran for her board seat in 2014 and cast the tie-breaking vote to fire Elia. “But unless you are an expert, it’s impossible to get a real budget and real figures.”

Stuart, who often asked questions about spending, said she was stonewalled, and despite all her questions was as surprised as the others to learn about the spending issue.

“We had no idea. We honestly had no idea,” she said. “We never got the full picture.”

Snively said that rather than placing blame, it’s important to work on better communication between district officials. “The board needs to understand the finances even more so than ever before,” she said. “The board needs to be educated and informed in any area where we’re making decisions. It’s just as much their responsibility as the district’s.”

Eakins said it is too early to assign a target dollar amount for the reserve fund, also known as a fund balance. If it grows too large, the district could be criticized for not putting the money to good use.

“We’re always keeping our eye on the fact that we have kids in need in our schools every day,” Eakins said. “So you have to balance what you’re doing with the fund balance with what you’re going to do for kids.”

Alberto Vazquez, Eakins’ chief of staff, has been asked to study each district division to look for savings. School principals are being asked to see themselves as chief executives of their campuses.

Later, Eakins said, the district’s audit department — which now reports to both the board and the administration — will see if there are more expenses that can be cut. “When a decision needs to be made that’s good for kids, we want to be able to say, ‘Yes, we can do that,’ ” he said. “But we have to be stable in our funds to be able to make those decisions.”

Contact Marlene Sokol at (813) 226-3356 or msokol@tampabay.com. Follow @marlenesokol.

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Education Inc. Documentary Follows the Money Corrupting Our Schools

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A new documentary will be released in community-based screenings across the country on August 14th. This film could provide a powerful boost to local efforts to organize resistance to the corporate takeover of public schools. It is called Education Inc, and it tells the tale all too familiar to many of us – that of the drive to privatize one of the few public institutions left in our withering democracy.

If you are frustrated by what you see happening in your local schools, if your school board is beset by billionaire-sponsored candidates, and charter schools are starving neighborhood schools of funding, this film might give you a much needed rallying point. The film’s creator is making it available for community showings, and is building for a one-day national release on August 14. A film showings can provide a focal point that brings people together and inspires further actions. Details for booking the film are here.

But first, a bit of background on this story. I met Brian Malone a couple of years ago, when some parent activists brought me to Douglas County, Colorado, to talk about what was happening with corporate education reform. It was just a week or two prior to a major election that pitted those who supported public schools against a pro-privatization slate backed by ALEC and big money from outside of the area. There was all sorts of skullduggery in this election. The District used taxpayer funds to commission a pseudo-academic “white paper” by the head of the American Enterprise Institute, Rick Hess. His paper, and accompanying blog post, described Douglas County as “the most interesting district in America,” because it was a wealthy district experimenting with school choice. This paper was released in the middle of the campaign, and put a rosy glow on the candidates who supported this approach. It came out later that the school district paid Hess and his co-author $30,000 for their praise.

This money was just the tip of a much bigger iceberg that threatens to sink public education in communities across the country. Teacher friends who worked in film maker Brian Malone’s community began telling him that things were awry a few years ago. At first he could not believe things could be as bad as he was hearing. He explains:

I agreed to attend some school board meetings and even videotape them out of curiosity. It wasn’t long until I began to see things differently. I watched this new school board systematically dismantle every part of what made Douglas County Schools great for more than 50 years. School board meetings sounded more like corporate shareholder meetings. Student fees multiplied, while at the same time the board was holding back almost $100-million from classrooms. And for the first time ever, my kids had to pay to ride the school bus. There was a lot of talk about encouraging competition, letting market pressures decide the direction of schools, and so on. And after a 50-year healthy relationship with the teachers union, suddenly they were enemy number one. Perhaps the biggest surprise was how arrogant and off-limits the public school board behaved. Any parent or citizen who questioned the reforms, or simply wanted to know more information was ignored and often, publicly ridiculed by the board itself. Where was all of this coming from?

Malone decided to find out and began his quest. Education Inc. is the result. Here is a synopsis:

Americans pay almost $600-billion every year in public tax dollars to educate public school children. But for free-market ideologues, private investors and large education corporations, those tax dollars are too tempting to resist. Education, Inc. examines the free-market and for-profit interests that have been quietly and systematically dismantling America’s public education system under the banner of “school choice.”

Education, Inc. is told through the eyes of parent and filmmaker Brian Malone, as he travels cross-country in search of the answers and sources behind the privatizing of American public education, and what it means for his kids. With striking footage from school protests, raucous school board meetings and interviews with some of the most well known educators in the country, Malone zooms out to paint a clear picture of profit and politics that’s sweeping across the nation, right under our noses.

>>>Read more

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An Immoral Use of Jewish Power in Upstate New York

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New York State’s legislative session is in full swing, and thousands of Jews from across denominational lines are expressing their support for two bills that, on the face of it, don’t seem to have anything to do with typical Jewish issues like Israel or liberal social causes.

But these bills — A.5355 and S.3821, as they’re known in Albany — are the test case for the moral future of Jewish life in New York, perhaps even the whole country.

For the past several years, a local, then statewide, and now national drama has been playing out in a school district of Rockland County, located just northwest of New York City. At one level, the issue at hand is about school control. The East Ramapo school system is governed by a supermajority of ultra-Orthodox Jews who live in the district but did not attend public schools and send their children to private yeshivas. While this fact alone might raise some eyebrows, what they’ve done with this control has raised alarm.

The board has drastically increased the funding going to yeshivas, but it has cut public school classes and extracurricular activities, attempting to sell public school assets at below market prices to private yeshivas, and more. These ethically and at times legally dubious actions have been documented by everyone from newspapers like this one to the New York City Bar Association to the New York State Supreme Court.

Frustrated by the school board’s intransigence, local students, parents, teachers, religious leaders and activists appealed to the state for help. Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed an independent fiscal monitor, Hank Greenberg, last year to investigate the district. From a removed, balanced perspective, Greenberg confirmed what thousands of public school students and parents had known for years: The board is responsible for “recklessly depleting the district’s reserves” and favoring “the private school community over the East Ramapo public schools.”

Greenberg’s report called for several fixes to be made, the most significant one being long-term oversight of the board. Oversight and the transparency it brings are a key component to fixing the broken school district, and they are central to the new bills. Secrecy and obfuscation have been tools of the board, using procedural tricks like keeping school board meetings in executive session until past midnight, away from parents and children who wish to participate; not releasing financial statements, and more. The monitor would put a stop to that. Further, an independent monitor not beholden to any community but with the best interests of all the parties involved would start building the trust, which is needed for this district to move forward. Ultimately, the monitor is the best path forward for everyone, including the ultra-Orthodox community.

As Orthodox Jews grow in number, the question of how to flex our political muscle becomes more critical. The Jewish community has needs as well. We live in a golden era where we have can express those needs through the democratic process with pride. The question is not whether to use political power, but how.

One way is to use our power to get what our community needs, even if it means skirting the rules and steamrolling over the needs of other communities. That’s been the case in the East Ramapo School District. Those who support the actions of the school board say that this is democracy, this is the American way.

They are wrong. America is not an absolute, direct democracy where the will of the numerical majority is the law of the land. We live in a republic, a republic that seeks to protect the interests and welfare of all its citizens, including the minority, the disenfranchised and the vulnerable.

As an Orthodox Jew, when I first learned about what was happening in East Ramapo and about the attitudes of the board, I was shocked and disgusted. The Talmud teaches, “The world endures only for the sake of the breath of school children.” The public actions of this school board over the years have been in flagrant violation of that and so many other Jewish values and teachings. The Torah we share demands over and over again we never trample the stranger, the immigrant and the poor — apt descriptions of many in the public school district. They have also caused a massive Chillul Hashem — desecration of God’s name. The leadership of the school board to date has grossly violated both American and Jewish values. This is not the way to use Jewish power in America.

Instead, we need to find a way to both advance our interests and needs while taking the needs of our fellow citizens into account; rather than just grabbing more and more slices of the pie and leaving those around us hungry, we work together to grow the pie so there is enough for all. This would be a moral use of Jewish power, using it to call out those who are acting unjustly, even when they are from our own community. That is why thousands and thousands of Jewish New Yorkers are lobbying their legislators to pass these bills, which will provide needed oversight. Ultimately, this is about those school children in East Ramapo, and it’s about the very legacy that Jewish New Yorkers will leave on this great state.

Ari Hart is a founder of Uri L’Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice and a founding member of Rockland Clergy for Social Justice.

Read more: http://forward.com/opinion/national/309145/in-east-ramapo-an-immoral-use-of-jewish-power/#ixzz3cvitffiB

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Prince George’s school board member announces resignation Plans

…..to pursue degree in education

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PGCPS District 7 school board member Lyn Mundey.

School Board member Lyn J. Mundey (Dist. 7) of Upper Marlboro announced June 1 that she is resigning from the Prince George’s County school board prior to the start of the next school year.

“This is not a decision made in haste. The work that I’ve done has galvanized me to do work that brings me closer to the students,” Mundey said. “It really is bittersweet. I’ve learned a lot in my two years on the board.”

Mundey said she will be pursuing a doctorate in education at Walden University, an online college based in Minneapolis, Minn., and taking her experiences on the school board to a different level.

“I want to eventually move from the work I’ve been doing with the government as an internal auditor to working in education full-time,” Mundey said. “I find that what excites me is to be impactful in the lives of students day-to-day.”

During her tenure on the board, Mundey founded an annual Boardwalk Event to promote wellness for students, staff and the community, founded a “Write-On Writing Workshop” beginning in the fall, to support students in grades six through 12 in becoming better writers, and served on a number of committees.

“The Prince George’s County Board of Education extends its appreciation to Lyn Mundey for her service as a Board of Education Member in District Seven over the past two years. We thank her for the service and we wish her the best in future endeavors,” board chair Segun Eubanks said in an email statement Tuesday.

Mundey’s resignation will be effective Aug. 24, unless someone is appointed to fill her seat before that date, so as to provide a smooth transition and continue representation in her district, Mundey said.

Board member Edward Burroughs (Dist. 8) said Mundey was a valuable independent voice on the board.

“In an environment where you’re pressured to ‘go along to get along,’ she always put kids at the forefront,” Burroughs said. “I know that she is going to return more equipped to fight for the kids she cares so deeply about when she gets her Ph.D. in education.”

Mundey’s resignation is the second for her district in two years. Mundey was appointed to the board in August 2013 by County Executive Rushern L. Baker (D) following the July resignation of former District 7 board member Carletta Fellows.

Fellows resigned citing personal reasons after clashing with the board on several issues, including her use of her board-issued credit card.

Under legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2013, Baker has authority to appoint members to the board to fill any vacancies.

Mundey’s seat will come up for election in November 2016.

Via Gazzette

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