Q: What are your top three priorities if elected?
1. Improve the status of PGCPS in our county. PGCPS has not done a good job communicating our vision for improving schools in Prince Georges County. We are increasing student achievement and changing the culture of low expectations for our students. PGCPS is held in high esteem throughout the state and nationally for the programs and progress of the school system. Yet our constituents believe we are a failed school system district. The gap between the best and the worst counties is narrowing rapidly. PGCPS leads the state in the pace of improvement and increases in student achievement. This is occurring in a state that is first for education in the country.
2. Increase business and community partnerships to support our students. We have been successful in bringing business and community into our schools; however we must work harder to increase our partnerships to bring the benefits to all students.
3. Reinstate middle school athletics and extracurricular activities for students. This can be accomplished with community and business support. We must utilize the services of Parks and Planning and community based groups such as the Boys and Girls clubs, Faith based groups and business support. I want to our buildings to be open for the community to support students,
Q: Discuss the job performance of Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. Would you rate him excellent, good, fair or poor? Why?
I believe Dr. Hite is doing a good job. There are issues on which I and the board disagree with the superintendent. However issues are addressed respectfully and collaboratively. We formally evaluate the superintendent twice a year. The board identifies areas that need improvement. The superintendent responds with a performance plan which the board either accepts or changes. We communicate our concerns to the superintendent continually during the year. Some in the community think that we do not appear to hold the superintendent accountable. But a successful school system must be built on collaboration, accountability and respect. It is not accomplished through public grandstanding.
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?)
This Board is doing a fair job. We have had to address significant challenges yet we are able to reach consensus and collaborate well with the superintendent for the benefit of students. Most members are dedicated to addressing the needs of children without the public bickering and discord you see in some other jurisdictions. We need stability in our school system. When we are compared to other jurisdictions it is often forgotten that counties such as Montgomery and others have had stable leadership for many years. We have had five superintendents and four major shifts in the school board in ten years. We continue to make progress in spite of receiving the lowest per pupil funding in the Washington metropolitan area.
The vote I regret was when I voted not to support legislation giving the student member the right to vote on the budget. I think students are directly affected by the budget and their representative should have a vote on the budget.
Q: Access to specialty programs in public schools has been a concern. What specific steps would you take, if any, to address the issue?
Equal access to our programs is a major objective for me. I support the Secondary School Reform Plan. The school system will organize into “clusters”. Specialty programs will be replicated in each cluster so that all students will have access to specialty programs in their area. The challenge we have is the expense of duplicating these programs and staffing them in this economy. However it is imperative that we provide equal access for all students. Also this plan has the potential for substantial savings in transportation costs.
Q: Do you believe No Child Left Behind should be reauthorized? If so, what needs to be changed? Assess the law’s effectiveness. YES
No child Left behind must be reauthorized and changed to support progress in schools. I have personally lobbied Congress for reauthorization as a delegate with NSBA Federal Relations Network. Unfortunately every representative and senator said nothing will happen in this congress due to the political climate and discord. The law was effective in focusing attention on student achievement and the gap in achievement for identified groups. It has forced school districts to focus on achievement. However the requirement of rigid goals and timelines is untenable. In two or three years almost all schools will be labeled as failing. Some of the schools in our county are labeled as failing AYP because a student group as small as five students did not test proficient although they are making substantial progress.
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?
There is no simple answer to this question. My decisions are always based on the effects on children and how we support the classroom. We will continue to reduce waste and increase efficiency. Employees and fair compensation for their work must also be a priority. Since I have been on the Board we have reduced staffing from over 19,000 employees to just over 17,000. We call it “Right Sizing” due to declining enrollment. These efforts will continue. A third of those cuts have been in central office positions. However we must also be able to support the classroom and teachers with required services.
I support continued investment in technology. I do not support cutting technology for the classroom. We must however carefully evaluate how we introduce and use new technology. We have implemented new stringent controls to protect our investment. PGCPS is fortunate to receive numerous grants from business, state and federal sources to improve the technology our students need to compete.
Regarding capital projects, PGCPS has too many buildings. We have to pursue a program to move or close underutilized schools and buildings wherever possible.
Q: What initiatives, if any, would you implement to increase parental involvement in county schools?
I have been working on Parent Academies in my District. I am working to increase partnerships with the community. Parent involvement is more than getting a parent to come to a conference or PTA meeting. I will work through or Church and community organizations to increase access to schools. Our buildings often sit dark and empty in the evenings. I want our buildings to be open for the community to use for student study groups, recreation and adult education. When the schools become a part of the community again, parents, who are a part the community, will become more involved and begin to take ownership of the school system and their child’s education.
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?
PGCPS does not control the capital budget. We propose capital projects which are reviewed, and approved by the State. The budget is funded by the county and state. Our job on the Board of Education is to identify the needs, communicate those needs to the County and State officials and work collaboratively to get funding. We must also keep the community informed on our needs and priorities so that we maintain the support of our constituents and stakeholders.