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Former Md. gubernatorial hopeful hired to school post after backing county leader

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Onetime Maryland gubernatorial candidate Valerie Ervin

By Donna St. George and Ovetta Wiggins

Onetime Maryland gubernatorial candidate Valerie Ervin was hired into a six-figure job with the Prince George’s County school system less than three months after she dropped out of the governor’s race and threw her support behind the county’s top leader.

In the final stretch of the campaign, Ervin regularly stumped for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who was in a heated battle for the Democratic nomination. Baker hinted publicly that if he were elected, Ervin would join his administration.

But Baker lost the June 26 primary. In August, Ervin was hired to a $133,200-a-year position as a special assistant in the school system’s Office of Employee and Labor Relations. Officials in the state’s second-largest school system said the job was created in August to improve communication with the labor unions representing the district’s 20,000 full-time employees.

At least one school board member, David Murray, raised questions about political favoritism.

“It’s disappointing because it appears that school system jobs are continuing to be used as a political bargaining chip,” said Murray, who has been critical of Baker. “All too often, the school system is forced to hire friends, relatives and political allies of powerful politicians in the county.”

Murray said that although Ervin is qualified for the post, he is concerned about the manner of her selection. “The circumstances are questionable,” he said.

School district officials said this week that more than 40 people applied for the position, which was advertised, and that four applicants, including Ervin, were selected to appear before an interview panel.

The panel had five members, including the school system’s legal counsel, Shauna Battle; communications officer Raven Hill; a human resources staff member; a local union president; and Christian Rhodes, the school system’s chief of staff.

Rhodes worked for Baker as his education policy adviser from 2012 until joining the school system in 2014.

The panel scored Ervin highest among the four finalists, officials said. Her appointment was approved by the school board Aug. 23 in a closed session.

“This decision was not made in isolation,” school system spokesman John White said. “It followed the normal process.”

Rhodes said in an interview Tuesday that Ervin’s résumé “speaks for itself,” noting her labor background and time as a school board member and County Council member in neighboring Montgomery County.

“She is one of the foremost labor leaders in the country and has extensive knowledge of how local government works,” he said. “We look forward to using her expertise to forge a better relationship with our labor partners, especially in the realm of compensation.”

Ervin did not respond to requests for comment on her selection.

Before taking the schools job, Ervin worked as a senior adviser to the national Working Families Party, a political organization that advances issues important to working families, including paid sick leave and increasing the minimum wage.

Ervin, who was a candidate for lieutenant governor earlier this year, was running on a ticket with Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and decided to seek the state’s highest office after Kamenetz, 60, died of a heart attack in early May.

She ended her long-shot bid for governor in early June and endorsed Baker.

Much of Ervin’s background centers on unions. She started as a union organizer in the Mississippi Delta, working with laborers on poultry and catfish farms. She was promoted by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union in 1987, leading her move to the Washington area.

As county executive, Baker persuaded state lawmakers in 2013 to give him expanded control of the county’s low-performing school system. He has the authority to select the school system’s chief executive and name the school board’s chairman and vice chairman.

A spokesman for Baker said Tuesday that Baker does not have authority to make hiring decisions such as the one involving Ervin. He also emphasized Ervin’s qualifications.

“Ms. Ervin’s background and credentials as a former Montgomery County school board member, County Council member and her experience working with labor unions, make her qualified for the position she obtained,” Baker spokesman Scott Peterson said. “The students, teachers, and administrators . . . as well as the taxpayers of Prince George’s County are very fortunate having a person with her background working on their behalf.”

Doris Reed, executive director of the Association of Supervisory and Administrative Personnel, the union that represents principals and supervisors, lauded Ervin’s hiring, adding that “she applied for the job like everyone else.” Reed described Ervin’s credentials as impeccable.

In recent days, some in the community reacted to a Facebook post noting that Rhodes drew a major salary increase, to $213,000 a year. Monica Goldson, interim chief executive of the Prince George’s school system, promoted Rhodes from chief of strategic and external affairs to chief of staff. His appointment, announced July 31, was confirmed by the board Aug. 23, according to White, the school system spokesman.

The salaries of Rhodes and other top aides became a flash point several months ago when critics spotlighted raises given by Kevin Maxwell, who was chief executive of the school system at the time. Figures released then showed Rhodes’s salary rose from $138,300 in 2015 to $188,100 in 2017.

His most recent salary in that position was $195,800, officials said.

Via  Washington post

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Shock! School Board Member Deletes Facebook Post after a call from interim CEO after exposure for illegal pay raise!

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Board of Education member Edward Burroughs III, alleged that Eubanks shoved him against a bookcase — in a room outside of public view — and yelled, “I will f— you up” several times while pointing a finger in his face.

Isn’t it frustrating when you work hard to craft valuable social media content only to have it flooded with critical negative comments about the post or your agency? Just delete the comment  or entire post so it doesn’t devalue your reputation.

No big deal, right? Wrong!

Not only is deleting posts or negative comments by elected officials possibly infringing on the citizens freedom of speech, in some states, it can also be be illegal if it doesn’t clearly violate  social media policy. Besides, what do you do when they see you’ve deleted their comment and they file an open records request for the complete context of the post? You provide it, right? Well, you should; and, legally you must.

Last evening a Facebook post, drafted by Board of Education member Edward Burroughs III exposing unreasonable pay increase of Mr. Christian Rhodes totaling more than $210,000 was mysterious deleted after members of the public started posting critical comments on the issue. Mr. Rhodes is the Chief of Staff for Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) and reports directly to Dr. Monica Goldson (the interim CEO).  He has engaged in questionable conduct in the past before resuming the current role and was part of the team which received thousands of dollars in pay increases by former CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell earlier this year.

One concerned user on direct message stated, “Something is going on just like him dropping the charges against Eubanks. I think Monica is behind it.” Mr. Burroughs later posted another message praising Monica Goldson by stating the following:

Update: I just got off the phone with the interim CEO. For months we’ve talked about the importance of making sure that our teachers and support staff receive pay increases. Not just the executives ( upper marlboro elites) . I’m going to do everything I can to support her in doing just that. She and I will not agree on everything- but we will are unified and when I tell you things have gotten so much better- I mean it. My most important meeting with her was last week regarding alternative schools. The last CEO would not return an email about these students. She was very thoughtful and concerned about our students who are expelled, habitually truant, or who’ve had adverse contact with the criminal justice system. Major positive changes are coming for these students. I will continue to keep you informed about what’s happening.”

Many elected officials have traditionally used town halls, letters and email correspondence to engage with their constituents. In the age of social media, Facebook and Twitter have emerged as key platforms for political dialogue. Lawmakers increasingly rely on these tools to inform the public of their positions, announce policy changes and gauge constituent opinion. With this in mind, deleting important posts, blocking citizens from these forums is akin to denying them access to their representatives.

Many organizations, including The Washington Post, curate reader comments, but if they are not part of the government, they do not have the same responsibility to communicate with constituents. Mr. Edward Burroughs’ Facebook page is linked to his office and he gets assistance from the Board employees with many issues including emails and voicemails. It is both constitutionally and ethically held to a different standard.

The legal framework surrounding free speech rights on online forums is still developing, and with time government officials may have real concerns about how to preserve constructive dialogue on their pages. Some difficult questions may present themselves.

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, government entities are legally required to make public records available to citizens for viewing and copying at their request. Most people know this as an open records request. But, in order for agencies and other organizations working with the government to provide records for the requested information, they must preserve all of their records — physical and digital — so they can be accessed any time.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), enacted in 1967, gives citizens access to public information. It’s often described as “the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government.” FOIA applies to federal agencies, but most states have their own version of an open records act which typically charge agencies and organizations doing business with government to preserve digital content.

That means emails, texts, and social media must be archived.

But, what is considered public and what isn’t? Let’s take a look.

Is Digital Content Considered “Public Record”?

Public record, according to the Maryland Open Records Act, includes all documents, letters, papers, maps, books, tapes, pictures, data, data fields, and computer-based or computer-generated information. That includes content received or sent by a public agency or by a private person or private organization working with the government.

So, yes, digital content is considered public record.

Once someone submits an open records request, the agency must supply the record within 3 days unless it is legally determined confidential.

Records Not Considered Public

Agencies and businesses working with the government aren’t required to prepare reports or summaries for the open records request, nor are they required to take time away from their daily responsibilities to go above and beyond to prepare the requested records. And some records are not considered public. Types of records that aren’t public, include:

  • Law enforcement
  • Medical
  • Veterinary
  • Information about regulatory agencies in pending criminal investigations
  • Federal government cases specifically required to be confidential
  • Confidential evaluations and investigations related to the hiring of public officials or public employees
  • Personal information like social security numbers, mother’s birth name, insurance and medical information, financial data, and bank account and credit card information

Keep in mind, this list is not exhaustive and there are other types of information not required to be open to the general public. Additionally, most states have their own variation of an open records act that could vary slightly from this list.

Instead of deleting posts or comments all together that critique policy positions and those of the executives involved in shenanigans in PGCPS, Mr. Burroughs should allow them online — and, if he disagrees with them, respond and make his case for why the status quo is not the answer and vice versa! He should also invite some of these questionable characters to highlight their side of the issue or schedule hearings himself since he is part of the leadership team as a Board member.

Deleting Facebook posts after an official engaged in unjust enrichment calls to complain, or even after the public has started engaging in social media condemning an illegal scheme should not be concealed.  It’s even worse to withdraw a suit after making serious allegations against certain individuals after many months in the media, highlighting  corruption fiasco in the county schools. Running away from problems as part of cover ups as an elected official is not the answer!

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Chairman Segun Eubanks assaulted a fellow school board member Edward Burroughs above  >>>Read more <<<

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Dr. Monica Goldson (the interim CEO).

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Mr. Rhodes is the Chief of Staff for Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) and reports directly to Dr. Monica Goldson (the interim CEO).

Read more >>>Major Outrage as Architect of an Organized Scheme Monica Goldson is appointed Acting CEO of PGCPS

 

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Where’s the school bus? Some PGCPS parents complain of no-shows and cover ups through None Working Application.

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By Kate Ryan 

Sylvia Imbarlina-Moore of Bowie, Maryland, said her 8-year-old son was excited to ride the bus to his new school, Heather Hills Elementary.

But, since school started Sept. 4, Imbarlina-Moore said the bus showed up just three times.

Some days, she’d wait for more than the 20-minute window recommended by the school system. The bus was supposed to show up at 6:50 a.m.

By 7:10 a.m., she started to worry, but decided to wait a bit longer.

“After that, we waited a good 30 minutes — and the bus was not showing,” she said.

She’d contacted school officials in the weeks before school, and again on the days when she found herself having to hustle her son off to school herself.

By Sept. 11, she emailed the school transportation department, saying she was “beyond livid” because she’d been late to work after waiting for a bus and then having to get her son to school.

She did get an email from Tony Spruill, an operations supervisor with the Prince George’s County Public Schools’ transportation department. He wrote, “We continue to make daily adjustments to our routes in an effort to get students to school on time. We should have this route fixed by next week.”

Imbarlina-Moore said the lack of specific information — what time the bus would be there, why it was late — was frustrating. She wasn’t alone.

Dr. Rudolph Saunders, director of transportation for Prince George’s County Public Schools, said in the first week of classes, they get thousands of calls — parents asking for information, as well as those complaining about late buses or clarification on the location of bus stops.

“For the first week of school, a number of our buses are going to be late,” Saunders said.

One factor that leads to delays, he said, is the need to check that each student is getting on the right bus to the right school. And, once they get to school, there are checks to make sure the students know where to go.

Saunders said he knows it’s frustrating for parents on tight schedules. “But, we’d rather take a few extra minutes at every stop to make sure we get all the kids on the right bus at the right time.”

He said they don’t want to risk having a child get off a bus in the wrong neighborhood or left at school with no way home.

Another issue is the shortage of available school bus drivers. Right now, Saunders said the county school system has the full complement of regular bus drivers. What’s missing is a full cadre of substitute drivers.

Saunders said the school system could “easily” use 100 more drivers to deal with those times when a regular driver is out sick or on leave.

The school system is recruiting drivers, but Saunders said there’s a lot of competition for qualified bus operators. Holding a commercial driver’s license, he said, “It’s like a license to print money.” That’s how competitive the market is.

The school system holds recruitment fairs throughout the school year; another one is scheduled for Saturday.

Saunders said to deal with the shortage, many drivers double up on routes. And, all of the staff members at the school system’s bus lots hold commercial licenses. “We have to use them sometimes to help cover the runs to make up the gap,” Saunders said.

The app “Here Comes The Bus” is supposed to help parents keep tabs on where the school buses are and how soon they’ll show up.

But Imbarlina-Moore said in checking the app, she’d often see that the bus was far from her home and that “the bus that he’s supposed to be on is on a completely different route — it’s not on his route at all.”

Saunders said the start of the school year always includes some time for drivers and students to settle into the routine and that, sometimes, stops have to be shifted. So, patience is needed.

Imbarlina-Moore said what she needs is more clarity — and communication. “I feel that would really relieve the stress and anxiety that parents feel, especially during a new school year.”

Via WTOP

The same concerns were raised via facebook by a PGCPS parent (Maria Gonzales Jackson), She  “Wondered if anyone else has noticed that the “Where’s the Bus” app “works” and records pick up and drop off times when the bus is on time or close to being on time. But, when the bus is late, like my daughter’s was by 45 minutes it did not record/show the time. If so, seems like a great way for Prince George’s County Public Schools to “skew the stats” of bus time performance. I called the “Where’s the Bus” tech support and was told if it is working when bus is on time, but not recording when it is late, then someone either remotely or the driver himself/herself is turning their device off. Interesting discovery.”

Read more >>> Maryland audit of Prince George’s school system makes a finding…

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Letter: PGCPS responds to Thomas Stone first-day fiasco – PGCPS Parents are still in shock!

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Rocio Treminio-Lopez/Town of Brentwood
This photo, taken by Brentwood Mayor and Thomas Stone Elementary parent Rocio Treminio-Lopez, shows crowds outside the school on the first day of class. Confusion over a visitor ID policy on the first day angered many parents.

Editor’s note: This letter below is in response to our blog post. Reform Sasscer was the first to highlight the PGCPS havoc on September 4th, and an opinion article by Thomas Stone Elementary parent Sarah Christopherson posted on September 6th, alleging mismanagement and confusion of the school’s first-day of class activities clarified the issues even further. We republish as part of reasonable claim of fair use since the story is already out there to educate and enlighten our customers especially in PGCPS District. 

Prince George’s County Public Schools is aware of the experiences that Ms. Christopherson and other Thomas S. Stone Elementary parents had on the first day of school. The principal apologized to parents in a robocall Tuesday evening for not allowing them to enter the building with their child.

Our Administrative Procedure requires school visitors to present government-issued identification with their name, date of birth and photo. However, there is an exception for large groups, such as visitors attending assemblies, performances or parents who wish to accompany their child to class on the first day of school.

We are working closely with the school’s leadership team to maintain a welcoming and positive environment for all families in the Thomas Stone school community.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.

Best regards,

Raven Hill, Communications Officer, Prince George’s County Public Schools

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This poor family lost their daughter b/c Brian Frosh is playing bad politics.

41312850_10209579807092455_6037418163434422272_nMaryland’s criminal justice system is terribly broken. Tracey Carrington was a former basketball player at Morgan State University. She was scheduled to testify against two men charged for an April double homicide in Towson.

The two men were initially held without bail. But at bail review, they were released on home detention. Later that month, the names of potential witnesses in that trial were turned over to their defense attorneys.

Last night, a gunman approached Carrington as she was leaving the S&S Lounge in Overlea and shot her multiple times.

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 a gunman approached Carrington as she was leaving the S&S Lounge in Overlea and shot her multiple times. Read more >>> Baltimore sun

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Mr. Brian Frosh has mishandled bails. The above situation is Mr. Frosh’s fault…..DO NOT VOTE FOR HIM vote Craig Wolf. This poor family lost their daughter b/c Brian Frosh is playing politics.

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Vote for Craig Wolf as the next Maryland Attorney General. 

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Hogan hires school ‘accountability’ investigator due to Public Corruption gone Amok.

40956238_2134510649927022_4561923036982280192_oBy Erin Cox

On the first day of school in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan renewed his criticism of public school management, saying he sees a culture of unchecked corruption across the state and announcing that he has hired a new investigator to serve as a public watchdog.

Hogan (R) signed an executive order creating the post — director of the Office of Education Accountability — during a news conference Tuesday morning. He also promised that if he is reelected in November, he will push for a law that gives the investigator subpoena power.

The governor said he has hired Valerie Radomsky, currently an education aide to Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), to the new job. She starts Sept. 12 and will focus on fielding complaints from the public and reviewing allegations that Hogan said could range from misspent school funding to grade fixing.

“The status quo is simply not good enough for Maryland’s children,” Hogan said, citing what he called “a persistent and alarming lack of accountability in local school systems across the state.”

“Not addressing it would mean failing the Maryland taxpayers who are paying for it, but more importantly, it would mean the responsible adults are failing our children,” he said.

Hogan cited occurrences in five of the state’s 24 school districts over the past two years: grade-altering allegations in Prince George’s County, a mold problem in Howard County, low test scores in Baltimore City, the removal of a Washington County school board member over inappropriate social media posts and the former Baltimore County superintendent serving jail time for failing to disclose outside income.

Earlier this year, amid the Prince George’s investigation and shortly before Baltimore County schools superintendent Dallas Dance was indicted, Hogan proposed creating a similar “investigator general” with subpoena power.

The General Assembly did not approve his legislation.

Del. Eric G. Luedtke(D-Montgomery) chairs the House’s education subcommittee that reviewed the governor’s legislation. He said Tuesday that lawmakers did not endorse the proposal because it created a “new level of bureaucracy” without addressing underlying problems about insufficient state laws dealing with school employee ethics, financial disclosures and procurement.

Luedtke, who often publicly spars with Hogan over education policy, said that the state already has agencies in place to provide accountability and that the governor’s job is to ensure that they do so. Hogan’s announcement, just four months before his term ends, amounts to too little, too late, the Democrat said.

“The buck stops at the governor’s desk in terms of accountability,” Luedtke said. “Everything that he’s proposing are things that existing state agencies can do. And if they’re not doing it, he needs to tell them to. They work for him.”

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New Study: More Spending Improves Student Process.

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new study of over 600 districts across the state of New York — the first of its kind to look at the recent effects of increased school spending in the state,found that, more spending improves student process. The researchers found that increased per-student spending led to higher math and reading scores on state tests.

Their research is the latest evidence linking increased school spending to positive outcomes for students, including graduation rateslifetime wages, and college attendance. State-level studies in CaliforniaMassachusetts, and Ohio have also found benefits of increased spending. On the flipside, Great Recession spending cuts appeared to have negative consequences on students.

Yet there are many elected officials including here in Maryland who disparage that money matters. They say that class size doesn’t matter. They ignore real world problems of staffing schools and teaching kids with widely varying needs.

The new study finds that indeed spending more does matter. When affluent parents spend large sums to send their children to a private school or to live in an expensive neighborhood, they are paying for small classes, well-maintained facilities, and a stable, experienced teaching staff.

We are unwilling to pay the price to provide similar resources to all children, even when we know that it matters.

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