District 4 activists say the Prince George’s County School system needs to improve its communication with parents, and the two candidates vying for the school board seat in the district have competing ideas on how to make changes.
District 4 covers schools in Bladensburg, Cheverly, Colmar Manor, Cottage City, Glenarden, Glenn Dale, Landowner, Landowner Hills, Riverdale, Seabrook and Springdale.
Patricia Eubanks, 50, seeks her second term. Eubanks, who lives in the incorporated area of Capitol Heights called Chapel Oaks, said her experience on the board makes her stand apart from her opponent Micah Watson, 37, of Cheverly and a foreign affairs officer with the State Department. She said the school board does not need someone to come fresh on the job.
“It takes a year, no matter who you are, on the job to learn what you are supposed to,” Eubanks said. “It takes time to learn and to implement. I am in the implementing stage now.”
Watson said that Eubanks has not been engaged with the community or distinguished herself as a leader.
Eubanks said she made and supported many sound policy decisions for the district, including bringing a new academy to help parents get involved in their children’s education that will start next year. Eubanks said she has visited about 16 of the 28 schools in the district.
One of the biggest concerns in the district is a lack of communication within the school system regarding redistricting of schools, said Cheverly resident Beth McCracken-Harness, president of Prince George’s Association of Talented and Gifted Students, a group of parents who advocate for improvements to the county’s program for gifted students.
Last year, students from Kenmoor Middle School in Landover, including McCracken-Harness’s daughter, were slated to be redistricted to Walker-Mill Middle School in Capitol Heights. McCracken-Harness said she was concerned that the new school may be too far away, and that school officials did not allow parents to have a say in the matter before the decision was made to redistrict the students. In the end, she was able to successfully campaign through a petition and with support from local leaders to have the board reverse the decision to redistrict.
Watson said parents feel that their children are at the whim of the school system and they are not allowed to participate in it. He said the district needs a more proactive leader.
“Parents feel that the school board tells them what to do,” Watson said. “They feel they can get a letter tomorrow saying that their kid has been redistricted.”
Eubanks said that she does not handle day-today operations and believes that it is school staff’s job to handle the outreach and communication concerning the board’s decisions.
Watson said he feels that he has the professional know-how to be effective on the board, as he knows how to assess budgets and engage local and state politicians on issues related to education.
Watson has received endorsements from labor unions, including the Prince George's County Educator's Association, which represents the county's 8,500 public school teachers; County Councilman Eric Olson, who represents District 3, which overlaps with the school District 4; and all four Maryland state senators from Prince George’s County.
Eubanks could not name any major endorsements she received.
“I am not a political person, I just want to get the job done,” she said. “I don’t know if they have a problem with me…You can’t build a relationship someone who does not want to build one.”