Q: What are your top three priorities if elected?
1. The modernization or renovation of all schools within School Board District 7 would lead my priorities. Specifically, the infrastructure needs to be improved in respect to science labs, language labs, math labs, auditoriums/ multipurpose rooms, cafeterias and athletic facilities to provide a space conducive to academic and social enrichment. To achieve these goals and objectives the county government of Prince George’s needs to improve its capital improvement plan from an annual contribution of $40 million to over $200 million a year, over the next five years. In short, Prince George’s County needs to borrow $1 billion in general bond obligation financing over the next five (5) years to rehab and modernize all Prince George’s County schools.
2. Prince George’s County schools should endeavor to be labeled an urban school system instead of a suburban school system. This would facilitate an increase in federal and state revenue for the operating budget. It is time to accept the reality that the Prince George’s County Public School System is an urban school system in crisis with very urban challenges. Prince George’s County Public Schools would benefit from the same resources through federal and state funding afforded other districts with like challenges for its operating budget.
3. Quality assurance and accountability for academic rigor to ensure that Prince George’s County Public School students are prepared to compete in a global world market and are being challenged with a first-class academic programs within first class educational institutions should be paramount.
Q: Discuss the job performance of Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. Would you rate him excellent, good, fair or poor? Why?
The problem with Superintendent William R. Hite is that he is unfairly asked to juggle responsibilities that vary greatly in number and scope of expertise. I believe the role of the Superintendent is to deal with academic excellence. The superintendent should not have the role of being a chief financial officer. The chief financial officer should report directly to the School Board and this individual should only concern themselves with budgeting and financial issues. Capital improvement programs and infrastructure repairs and improvements should not be the job of the superintendent either, but the capital improvement officer. This individual would be an engineer or an architect with significant experience in impairs and improvements and would report their recommendations and strategies directly to the board. I believe Dr. Hite, or any superintendent cannot be effective as an educator trying to function as a CPA, engineer, traffic specialist, and still be an excellent educational leader.
Q: Assess the performance of the school board. Discuss a decision the board made that you disagree with. (For sitting school board members, assess your performance over the most recent term. Is there a decision you regret after having time to reflect on its result?)
School Board member Henry Armwood has been an ineffective school board representative. His performance reflects a disregard for the concerns of School Board District 7. Henry Armwood has neither held any town hall meetings, nor has Henry Armood endeavored to build quality relationships with the parent associations, faith-based community, labor community or business community within District 7.
Q: Access to specialty programs in public schools has been a concern. What specific steps would you take, if any, to address the issue?
Why does Prince George’s County need specialty programs? Should not the programs from kindergarten to 12th grade reflect the highest standards that we can create for all students in Prince George’s County. Why is there a need for language immersion as a specialty program? Shouldn’t all elementary schools start teaching language in the first grade that continues through the twelfth grade? Should there be specialty programs like the Suitland High School Performing Arts Program? Shouldn’t performing arts be a standard part of the curriculum for all middle and high schools? Once I am elected to the School Board, I will engage a county-wide standard on what should be a specialty curriculum and a standard curriculum.
Q: Do you believe No Child Left Behind should be reauthorized? If so, what needs to be changed? Assess the law’s effectiveness.
My opinion regarding the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind is irrelevant as the reauthorization is not the responsibility of the school board member but that of the elected U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate. The responsibility of the School Board Member is to assess the school systems capacity to fulfill the federal obligations that are required under the mandate. Let me cite a RAND report based on data from two studies that were conducted under contract to the U.S. Department of Education and from a third study funded by the National Science Foundation. The studies suggest that NCLB's ambitious goal of having 100 percent of U.S. students proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014 will not be met. In addition, the flexibility provided to states by the law has resulted in the establishment of a different accountability system in every state, each with different academic standards, levels of student proficiency, and teacher requirements. Parents have not responded in great numbers either to school choice or to receiving supplemental educational services options.
Some recommended changes to the law are being considered and implemented in some states, such as adopting uniform academic standards (currently called the cores standards), standardizing teacher qualification requirements across states, setting more-appropriate improvement targets, broadening the measures of student learning beyond multiple-choice tests in reading and mathematics to include more subjects that tests higher-thinking and problem-solving skills.
To date, I have yet to acquire a report that gives a comprehensive analysis of No Child Left Behind requirements and its impact on Prince George’s County Public Schools as it relates to student achievement (other than Adequate Yearly Progress), parental choice and quality instructors. In order for success to be realized in turn around schools, I believe that a comprehensive audit should be administered which details academic deficiencies, school & environmental challenges, teacher quality and parental engagement.
Q: Discuss your approach to budgeting. Roughly what percent of spending (and why) should be allocated to the following: employees, technology, capital projects? What would you cut to find funding for projects?
Budget and financing is a highly specialized skill. As a School Board representative I would seek to establish a “brain trust” of specialists to address this question. This “brain trust” should be composed of individuals who are economists, CPA’s, individuals with specialties in governmental financing, and representatives from the business and non-profit communities. I would recommend that this “brain trust” come up with an entirely new budget strategy for the School System. The total cost annually of the school budget is approximately 2 billion dollars. Any ad hoc distribution of numbers and percentages and places to cut is intellectually absurd and irresponsible.
Q: What initiatives, if any, would you implement to increase parental involvement in county schools?
One of the best ways to create greater parental involvement is to create an educational authority. This educational authority would be a link or bridge between the school systems, the parents of children attending public schools in Prince George’s County and the greater community. An educational authority can raise revenue for studying and approaching new innovative ideas and mechanisms for improving educational outcomes in the School system. An educational authority can find mechanisms to accomplish tasks and implement new ideas that cannot be instituted in a traditional bureaucratic governmental system. An example of such an activity would be utilizing performing arts initiatives to raise money, increase parental involvement, and utilize artistic venues in the county and musical programs in faith-based communities. This bridge between faith-based youth programs and Prince George’s County School System performing arts programs would create new holistic partnerships that would benefit the children of Prince George’s County.
Q: Several of Prince George’s school buildings are in need of upgrades and construction dollars from the state and county are scarce. How do you propose providing safe and appropriate educational facilities for school children?
I totally disagree that construction dollars in Prince George’s County are scarce. Prince George’s County has the capacity to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars of general obligation bond funds. The cost of general obligation bonds is less than 2%. This 2% finance cost is the lowest in over 30 years. What is lacking is an effort on the part of elected officials to implement this bond borrowing. School repairs and improvements are one my highest priorities, I will be engaging the parents and citizens of Prince George’s County to make this a funding priority that needs to be paid for.