TEMPLE HILLS – A teacher, a leadership coach and an incumbent Board of Education member have all thrown their hats into the ring for the Prince George’s County Board of Education District 8 seat. All three candidates have said their main focus is the students, but differ on how they can help on the board.
With the primary election less than three weeks away, the candidates are ramping up their messages and getting ready for April 26. Edward Burroughs III, the incumbent board member, Stephanie Hinton and Carlton Carter are all hoping they are voted into one of the two final spots on the general election ticket.
Hinton, a fifth grade teacher at Forest Heights Elementary, entered the race because of all the issues she sees in the school system on a day-to-day basis. As a teacher in the system for six years, and being in the educational realm for 20, Hinton said she knows first-hand the struggles of the teachers, students and families in Prince George’s County.
“Teaching is my passion and, being an educator in the classroom, there were things going on within my classroom and I had to advocate for my students this year, for just a lot of different things. And then my daughter said, ‘you know, the board of education seat is open so you should try to run so you can make changes,’” Hinton said.
Carter is a leadership coach at the American Institute for Research who was born and raised in Prince George’s County. At the institute, Carter visits the schools performing in the lowest 5 percent in the county to help them improve from “priority status,” meaning the schools are close to closing, to “good standing.” Carter is hoping to use that experience to turn the Prince George’s County Public Schools system around.
“I have a lot of experience in school districts. I’ve got a lot of experience and I know what it would take to take Prince George’s County from one of the lowest performing schools. I know how to turn the school system around. I know what to do,” he said.
Burroughs said he knows a thing or two about school systems as well, having served on the board since 2008. He was elected twice while in high school at Crossland to sit on the board as the student member, was one of the youngest board members ever elected when he ran for the District 8 seat straight out of high school, and continued on to win his reelection in 2012.
“I am absolutely a product of this system – a recent product of this system – and I know first-hand how important the decisions that we make are and how they impact students and our employees,” Burroughs said. “I have institutional knowledge. I was there when Dr. (John) Deasy was there, I was there when Dr. (William) Hite was there, I was there when Dr. (Alvin) Crawley was there and now I’m under Dr. (Kevin) Maxwell. It’s extremely important to have someone there with institutional knowledge because when you have so many new board members you’re able to say, ‘well I was here in 2008 and this is what happened’ or ‘we could try it this way because it worked in 2009,” or ‘in 2011 this policy passed and it had this impact on decisions we’re making today.’”
Burroughs, 23, said he is seeking reelection because he “loves this county so much” and wants to continue working toward a better school system, a fairer school system and ultimately a more prosperous county. Burroughs is infamous for his often-stark opposition to Maxwell while at the dais and his fight for equity in funding for Southern County.
He said he will continue his fights, advocating for special education, more accountability in the school system and equity across the county, and work with nonprofits to help pay for programs the school cannot afford.
“It’s no secret I am someone that I don’t go along just to get along. I will continue to fight for what I believe is in the best interest of the kids regardless of the consequences,” Burroughs said.
However, both Carter and Hinton think it is time for a change.
Carter, 47, taught in Prince George’s County for five years and served as principal at Ernest Just Middle School where, he said, he took the school from “priority status” to a benchmark of “yearly annual progress” in just two years. Overall he has “turned around 30 other schools.”
However, Carter resigned from Ernest Just partway through the 2012 school year after being placed on indefinite leave, according to the Washington Post, which did not report the reasoning for Carter’s dismissal, as it was a personnel matter. Briant Coleman, the school system’s spokesperson at the time, had said the matter did not involve children.
Carter said he wants to fight for students by forcing accountability and by championing the causes of the families. Carter said it is time for a professional to take the seat on the board and revamp school policies.
“I’m a lifelong resident of Prince George’s County and I’m vested in the school system. I am turning schools for everyone else and I did a small sample at one school in Prince George’s County and I’m saying ‘hey, I can do it here,’” he said.
Hinton, 51, also wants to champion the causes of parents and students and wants to make sure District 8 is getting its fair share of resources. She said for “far too long” the district’s needs have been ignored or not up to par with other districts in the county.
If elected to the board, Hinton said she would fight for a resource center in the southern part of the county, smaller class sizes, the resources necessary for teachers to teach, retention of quality teachers and an anonymous tip line, and said she will hold town hall meetings to constantly gather community input and get information back to parents.
“I want to find a way to bring teachers into the fold and not have them feel like they’re just here and not part of it,” she said. “And (District 8) needs a voice that’s going to be like ‘hey, we’re down here! Pay attention. We need this!’ So I want to be that voice.”
Hinton said it is time for a county school system educator to be on the board, but Burroughs said the board has a lot of educators fillings its seats already.
Burroughs said, bottom line, he has learned how to do things by doing them and knows how to get things done.
“As a recent graduate of our school system, when I walk into a school and I talk to students, it’s a completely different conversation than if someone older walks in and tries to have a conversation with them or wants to connect with them in a way that someone from a different generation would,” he said.
Still, Carter said it is time for someone with the “right experience” to take over the position.
“Yes, Mr. Burroughs is liked and loved, but at this point the schools need, the system needs, a specialist,” he said.