Upper Marlboro parent Blair Todd said he has become so frustrated with his 6-year-old son’s inconsistent bus schedule that he now picks him up from Arrowhead Elementary.
“What we have now just isn’t working,” said Todd, who added his son’s bus was over an hour late once and no one at the school or bus depot knew his location.
Todd was among 20 parents at a Nov. 5 public forum at Barack Obama Elementary School in Upper Marlboro sharing their concerns and what they feel should be priorities in the Prince George’s County school system’s fiscal 2014 budget. He said he would like to see transportation funding made a priority.
Interim Superintendent Alvin Crawley told attendees that the forum results would provide invaluable insight into the needs of the school system.
“This is not an exercise where you come together and share, and we do not listen. Your work here is greatly appreciated,” Crawley said, adding that the results of this and other forums will be posted on the school system’s website and will be taken into consideration when he compiles his proposed budget in December. The fiscal 2013 school budget was $1.664 billion.
A second forum was held Wednesday night at Laurel High School with additional forums scheduled to be held Nov. 14 at Gwynn Park Middle School, 8000 Dyson Road in Brandywine and Nov. 15 at Walker Mill Middle School, 800 Karen Blvd. in Capitol Heights. Both meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.
Attendees were divided into groups and asked to answer questions about their funding priorities and cost-cutting suggestions.
Todd said he'd also like to see more funding devoted to teacher retention.
"If we want to have great educators, great teachers, we need to pay them," Todd said.
Other suggestions included more media specialists, replacing long-term substitute teachers with full-time teachers, providing more language immersion programs, ensuring there are bilingual office staff and promoting energy efficiency.
Sandra Collier, president of the Barack Obama PTA and mother of a second-grader at the school, said she attended to get a better idea of how much involvement parents would have in the budget process.
"I like the fact that the forum was broken up into groups, not an open forum. I think you get better participation when you break the audience down," Collier said. "Overall, it turned out very well. I was very impressed. I just want them to do something with all of this."
Todd said he also felt the forum was productive and hopes the budget reflects parent suggestions.
"That will be the true telling of whether this administration is really listening, when that budget gets submitted,” he said. “We'll see."