Monthly Archives: March 2017

Structure of the PGCPS board of education debated by members

rushernsegunkevin-1050x722By YASMINE ASKARI

Members revisited the conversation of Prince George’s County Schools Board of Education’s hybrid structure during its work session last Thursday. The discussion first focused on reasons to oppose an amendment that would change the board’s ability to override the recommendation of the county’s school CEO and then shifted into a discussion of the accountability of appointed officials.

The current 14-member board is a hybrid of four appointed officials, nine elected and one student member, with both the current chairman of the board and the vice chairman of the board appointed officials.

At Thursday’s session, board members were presented with an amendment that would change the supermajority vote requirement to override the CEO’s recommendation from a two thirds vote amongst board members to a three-fifths vote.

Curtis Valentine, a member of a board subcommittee, recommended the board oppose the amendment based on the committee’s understanding that there will be a review of legislation in the coming year that will allow board members and the community to comment on every aspect of legislation related to the board’s hybrid structure and not just the three specific changes.

While the board Chairman Segun Eubanks was quick to point out the board’s tendency to vote unilaterally and dub the current hybrid structure “one of the most important and profound school governance experiments in the nation” he was quickly rebutted by board member Edward Burroughs III.

Burroughs contended that the voting rule had made a difference.

“Last year, [board member Beverly] Anderson chaired the budget committee and worked with the administration for a long time on the budget. And we had a vote to put math and reading specialists at the bottom 25 of our schools and we got eight votes. That failed by one vote,” Burroughs said. “If it was three fifths, those students today would have math and reading intervention that they desperately need. So that makes a difference to me. I don’t care about process and waiting for a report. Those kids needed that service right there and then, immediately.”

He then shifted the conversation to critique Eubanks praise of the board’s structure.

“When we talk about this being this world renowned structure, I disagree,” Burroughs said and pointed out that chair of the board Eubanks familial relationship with County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) is a problem.

“When the county executive determines to appoint his former brother-in-law to chair of the board, that is a problem. That is not democracy, that is not good for the system, that is not good for checks and balances,” Burroughs said. “And it makes a difference. When you have non-elected board members, and four appointed board members, and we are being told that we cannot elect our own leadership, that’s crazy.”

Burroughs went on to critique both the board chairman and vice chairwoman’s management of the Head Start program.

“If you look at Head Start, we were not able to hold our board chair and vice chair accountable for their actions or misactions on behalf of those kids because of this structure. It means something to me that all four labor unions are agreeing on this. There’s a reason they all support this.”

Burroughs was hastily thanked for his comments by Eubanks who proceeded to defend himself.

“I’ve been an educational professional for 35 years. I’ve read more books in education than some folks around here have read any books about any subjects in their entire lives. I have committed my life to social justice and I don’t care who I’m related to, or was related to, or was ever related to, I am one of the most qualified educators in this county, and in this state, and in this country,” Eubanks said. “I will stand by records. I will hold up against anybody on this board or anywhere else.”

It was somewhat of an abrupt turn from a work session that started with discussion on legislation, but other members began to voice their views, including Anderson and student board member Juwan Blocker.

While the board ruled to oppose the amendment, the conversation on the board’s hybrid structure was barely settled.

“This hybrid board has covered up a lot of nepotism in Prince George’s County,” Blocker said. “We need to be the ones who decide our leadership.”

Via The Enquirer Gazette

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Board member Juwan Blocker – “This hybrid board has covered up a lot of nepotism in Prince George’s County,” Blocker said. “We need to be the ones who decide our leadership.”

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Board member Edward Burroughs III.

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Prince George’s County schools cancelled due to A Day Without Women

20f11d23-006c-4c46-a706-3e0f8082ee08-large16x9_1280x720_60502C00UEDEV.jpgBy YASMINE ASKARI

Prince George’s County Public Schools were closed last Wednesday in a last-minute decision due to a high number of teachers and staff members taking the day off for the Day Without a Woman protest.

“Throughout Prince George’s County Public Schools, a high number of school-based and support staff have requested leave for Wednesday, March 8. As of 5:30 p.m., approximately 1,700 teachers and 30 percent of transportation staff have requested leave. We cannot transport students and provide safe, productive learning environments without adequate staff,” Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell said in a statement. “As a result, schools will be closed tomorrow for students. We apologize for the inconvenience this will surely cause to many families.”

The day-long strike, which coincided with International Woman’s Day, was organized by the Women’s March on Washington. Following the lead of the “Bodega strike” in New York City by Yemini store owners and the Day Without Immigrants, the strike intended to highlight the importance of women in the workforce and as consumers.

“This was not a union led effort,” said Theresa Dudley, president of Prince George’s County’s largest teacher union, the Prince George’s County Educator Association. “I was just as surprised as everyone else when they closed school for the children.”

Most teachers were reluctant to come forth on whether they took the day off for the protest due to the county’s stance on stating political views. Despite this, Dudley disclosed that many teachers went to the rally in Washington in representation of Prince George’s County educators.

While some parents on social media expressed disappointment about the short notice, parent organizations such as Reform PGCPS were more supportive.

“The timing of the cancellation was surprising and appeared a last minute resort, however, given the high rate of projected staff absences, the system did not have much choice,” the group said in an email.

“Our organization recognizes the importance and impact of such an event and is supportive of the cause. There is of course the question of the timing of the event during the workweek, scheduling it during the weekend might have allowed more women to participate without having to lose wages,” the group stated.

Other parents on social media noted that while schools had been closed, the school lunch program was still running for underprivileged children.

“Great job PGCPS in recognizing our community needs and much respect for using this platform to inform all,” one parent said on Facebook.

Prince George’s County was one of three large school districts to cancel classes due to the protest. Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in North Carolina also cancelled classes due to the high number of staff taking leave.

The Enquirer Gazette

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PGCPS Community Activists Want To Repurpose Shuttered Schools In Prince George’s County

if you missed the story about PGCPS Vacant schools in Prince George’s County by Tracee Wilkins, see it here >>> Community Activists Want To Repurpose Shuttered Schools In Prince George’s County

Some Prince George’s County citizenry have put pressure on their elected officials including area Board of Education member Mr. Alexander.

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Maryland House moves to curb suspensions, expulsions of young pupils

md_general_assemblyThe House of Delegates approved legislation Thursday that would significantly curb the practice of suspending or expelling the youngest public school students without first taking other steps to improve their behavior.

The measure now goes to the state Senate, where a committee approved a similar bill Thursday.

Delegates voted 91-48 for the House measure, which bars the suspension or expulsion of prekindergarten, kindergarten, first and second grades students except in narrow circumstances — such as bringing a gun to school.

Students could be suspended for up to nine days in the House version — five in the Senate’s — only if a mental health professional determines there is an “imminent threat of serious harm to other students or staff” that can’t be addressed another way.

The legislation directs that schools provide “intervention and support” for students who are suspended or expelled instead of merely sending them home.

Del. Brooke E. Lierman, the House sponsor, said she’s happy with the bill as amended.

“The bill still sends a strong message to the schools and the Maryland State Department of Education that the General Assembly does not think it is appropriate to suspend or expel our youngest learners,” the Baltimore Democrat said.

If the Maryland State Senate passes its bill as the committee amended it, the two chambers will have to resolve their differences before the bill becomes law.marylandmap2

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4 Empty PGCPS School Buses Catch Fire in Parking Lot

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Fire officials say four school buses caught fire in a parking lot, causing a quarter of a million dollars in damage.

The Prince George’s County Fire Department says the fire was reported about 9 a.m. Sunday in the Brandywine area at a school bus parking on Short Cut Road. Four buses were on fire.

The fire was extinguished and no one was injured. Investigators believe the fire originated in one of the buses and then spread.

The cause remains under investigation.

Damages are estimated at $250,000.

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Tension high as HB1565 leaves Prince George’s County delegation

17203251_1217231075059854_5951759071073531001_nThe tension has been high as HB1565 finally left the Prince George’s County delegation in a version which does not fix  nor address the most critical issues it was meant to address on March 10th, 2017.

According to the people in the meeting, the raucous meeting among the Education delegation for Prince George’s county revealed more internal turmoil in a political committee struggling to preserve its independence amid pressure from party leaders to rally behind such causes as extending term limits and endorsement of the central office staff at the expense of many in Prince George’s County public schools.

First, Delegate Howard who sabotaged the bill HB1565 from the very beginning saw her amendments rejected by the committee. The only amendment considered by the committee was from Delegate Walker and Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith. From our understanding Delegate Walker wants the Vice Chair elected by the elected Board members at Sasscer administrative building. Some on the committee do not support these initiatives, and others think the committee should not take a position until next year since the law was only passed recently.

Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith wants the evaluation of the performance of the entire system conducted on or around October 1st, from December 31st. The bill now goes to the ways and means committee where it is expected to pass but there are no guarantees. From there the bill is expected to go to full house as a Prince George’s delegation bill before crossing over to the senate side where it may die or survive. If it survives, there might be more amendments before sending it back to the house. Time will tell what happens from here. But it does not smell good based on the people we spoke with in Annapolis.

The fissures come at a critical time for Maryland Democrats. Party committees across the state are supposed to be mobilizing to help elect a new Governor and leaders with credibility who are expected to challenge Governor Larry Hogan.  And the Prince George’s delegation in collaboration with the Democratic central committee is supposed to help instruct the county’s more than 427,000 registered Democrats on how they should vote and lead the way. However, with corruption high, citizenry of the county have a lot to worry about.

County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), an unapologetic critic of term limits, is suspected to be behind the scenes with others in giving wrong advise to the Delegation in Annapolis so that the status quo stays at the expense of the Children of Prince Georges County. This is not how democracy is supposed to work. In 2014, Mr. Baker asked the Democratic central committee not only to include the sample ballot sent to Democratic voters but also to go a step further and recommend a “yes” vote. This move promoted corruption which continues to date!

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Prince George’s Co. bus drivers worried office infested with mold

IMG_9153PRINCE GEORGE’S CO., MD (WUSA9) – Bus drivers with Prince George’s County Public Schools say the office they check in and out of every day is making them sick. Many are worried the building is infested with mold.

“It’s unbearable. When you go in there you just smell some kind of weird odor”, said driver Kirt Williams. “And then after that your throats starts scratching and your nose feels kinda funny. And with me, my eyes get real watery.”

The building is a temporary trailer, but Driver Tujuana Bigelow said it has been there for about twenty years old.

“It’s hard- our foreman is in such bad shape being in that building all day long he was in the emergency room last night,” she said. “So I mean we can’t continue to work in this environment.

One hundred and eight bus drivers go in and out of the building each day.

Officials with the PGCPS said the building had been tested earlier this week to confirm whether there is mold.

Prince George’s County School Board member Edward Burroughs III said he’s been waiting at the site all week for testing crews- that didn’t show up.

“Frankly, I’m livid,” he said. “And if it has been tested Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday where are the results? We need to make those results public.”

The building was tested Wednesday afternoon.

Susan Nelson is among others who are now wearing face masks when they go into work.

“It feels like your throat is stopping up for one thing, you nose gets discomfort, very much so, and your eyes water,” she said.

via WUSA9

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The People Who Die to Make Your Cell Phone

With a population of at least 67 million, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the poorest countries in the world. In 2014, the World Bank ranked it second to last on the Human Development Index.

Despite the DRC’s poverty level, there is one thing that it has in abundance – cobalt. Cobalt is a mineral used to make lithium ion batteries that Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, Dell, and many other companies use in their devices.

According to experts, more than half of the world’s supply of cobalt comes from the DRC, with 20 percent of it from what are called “artisanal mines.” For many Congolese people, mining cobalt is the only way to feed their families. Unfortunately, artisanal mines are smaller, independent mines, where an industrial-sized operation is not an option. These mines are unregulated and are not a part of the country’s Mining Code and Regulations, this means they are often unauthorized and extremely dangerous.

As a result, the workers are subjected to dangerous conditions that include poor ventilation, lack of protective gear, and frequent accidents—many of which prove deadly. But it’s not just adults that are risking their lives. The United Nations says there are at least 40,000 children in the DRC working in these artisanal mines. Working in high temperatures, rain, and storms, children as young as 7-years-old carry sacks of mineral ore that are sometimes heavier than themselves. Most of these children’s parents can’t afford to send them to school. The few that are able to send their kids to school must have their children work at the mines on the weekends to help support the family. Many suffer from breathing problems, others from sickness and disease. At least half reported being beaten for not working fast enough.

Some of the possible long-term effects the children suffer from include joint and bone deformities, respiratory issues, and musculoskeletal injuries. Most complained of excruciating back and hip pain, others of chronic illness. But beyond the physical risks are less visible dangers. Chronic exposure to cobalt can be fatal, resulting in a condition called “hard metal lung disease.”

Despite the prevalence of studies confirming this, most of these miners work without protective equipment—no gloves, masks, or even work clothes. The workers are not provided safety equipment nor given directions on what to do in a crisis. Without any sort of armor against the hazardous conditions, death is common.

The route of the cobalt from these mines can be followed to a large corporation called Congo Dongfang Mining International (CDM). CDM is a subsidiary of the China-based company Huayou Cobalt, which supplies batteries to the most prestigious tech companies—including Apple, Sony, Samsung, Dell, and more.

Millions of people around the world enjoy the benefits of technologies that use cobalt but few are concerned with how they are made.

Source: 

7-Year-Old Children Mining Cobalt For Apple, Microsoft, & Samsung Products ? – Collective Evolution

Apple buys a key iPhone component from brutal Congolese mines. It’s trying to stop. Time will tell if they follow through on their promises.

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The People Who Die to Make Your Cell Phone – With a population of at least 67 million, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the poorest countries in the world.

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Former Staffer Accused Maryland Judge of Years of Sexual Harassment

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Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Hassan El-Amin

A circuit court judge in Maryland is accused by a former staffer of sexual harassment.

Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Hassan El-Amin’s former administrative assistant Denise Lowe-Williams said she lived with ongoing harassment by her then-boss for years, but she felt like she had to deal with it because she was an at-will employee.

“He would take these pictures, and I asked him eventually, ‘What are you going to do with these pictures?’ and he said he was going to make a calendar,” Williams said.

Judge El-Amin once made a crude comment indicating he was aroused by a skirt she wore, Williams said. He also told Williams he liked the way her behind looked in a dress she wore, she said.

He also found a way to be inappropriate with evidence from a case over which he presided, she said.

“It had something to do with, I think, sexual abuse, or something like that, and he had explicit pictures, and he called me in his office to show me these pictures,” Williams said.

She finally became fed up, filed a complaint and hired an attorney. But his behavior got worse, she said.

“When he told me I wasn’t giving him enough attention, I just needed to seek help,” Williams said.

She said she began seeing a therapist.

After filing her complaint, a letter to Williams’ attorney from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office said, “Remedial action was taken to both address and prevent any potential harassing conduct.”

Williams feels there should be more transparency, as the letter said the discipline is confidential.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘Well, what’s going on Denise?’ You know, ‘What are they doing?’ I don’t know. You know why I don’t know? All I’m told is that he’s been sanctioned,” Williams said.

After she filed her complaint, all of the judges in the 7th Judicial Circuit–which includes Charles County, St. Mary’s County, Calvert County and Prince George’s County were trained again on appropriate office behavior.

Williams still works at the Prince George’s County courthouse, but she’s been reassigned so she no longer works with Judge El-Amin.

“My hope is that if somebody else has been through this or is going through this that this will encourage them to speak up about it,” Williams said.

News4 contacted El-Amin’s chambers and he said he had no comment on the allegations.

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Prince George’s Circuit Court Judge H. El-Amin is disciplined for sexually harassing an employee in Prince George’s County

Source: Former Staffer Accused Maryland Judge of Years of Sexual Harassment | NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Former-Staffer-Accuses-Maryland-Judge-Years-Sexual-Harassment-415520063.html?_osource=SocialFlowTwt_DCBrand#ixzz4alf07mzQ
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