The biggest challenge facing the Prince George’s County school system is its image as one of the state’s lower-performing jurisdictions, and one candidate for the school board’s District 8 seat wants to change that.
Eric Hurley, a Fort Washington resident who taught in county elementary schools for six years, said school officials and county residents must broadcast the system’s successes, support teachers, and ensure the “school board is making educationally sound decisions that support what our system is doing.”
“The county is considered affluent,” said Hurley, 44, an education project specialist for a U.S. Department of Education contractor. “We should have a school system that is consistent with that viewpoint.”
The first-time candidate challenges incumbent board member Edward Burroughs III and three others in the April 3 primary, after which the top two candidates advance to November’s general election.
If elected, Hurley pledged to tackle four key areas of concern: student success, the school system’s budget process, community involvement, and teacher and principal support.
A grant-funded after-school program Hurley directed while teaching at Barnaby Manor Elementary School in Oxon Hill significantly raised students’ performance on standardized tests, said Hurley, who wants to see schools countywide using the critical after-school time to help students with homework, encourage reading and reinforce testing strategies.
Hurley, who also runs the Temple Hills-based Erhky’s Learning Center, said he would work to make the school system’s budget more user-friendly by including an executive summary and line-by-line descriptions to help board members and the community understand the significance of each expense.
“Parents should be able to have easy access to [the budget], empowering parents to let them know they do have a voice ... and the school system does want to hear their input,” he said.
Hurley’s experience as the director of Erhky’s has prepared him to deal with a budget, said Julia Williams, one of the center’s tutors and mentors.
Hurley is resourceful, securing both federal and private grants to fund programs like the work he does at the learning center with children in foster care, said Williams. She first met Hurley when they both worked at a summer school program in southeast Washington, D.C.
“He knows the inside and outside of how schools are run,” said Williams, an Upper Marlboro resident.
“He’ll be great to take on some of the problems with the budget.”
Senetria Blocker, a reading specialist at Arrowhead Elementary School in Upper Marlboro, agreed, saying Hurley is adept at managing a budget and able to generate community support for programs.
"He's concerned with how can we spend this money appropriately so we're benefiting students and keeping the most qualified educators," said Blocker, a Fort Washington resident who also tutors at Erhky's Learning Center.
But Hurley resists the politics of governing.
“I’m not a politician; I’m an educator,” he said. “I’m an educator who wants to make a difference.”