Category Archives: Uncategorized

Outrage after Interim CEO covers up for an Employee involved in a misconduct says the system can’t fire employee in racial slur video

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Interin CEO Monica Goldson

In a major fiasco in the county never seen before, Interim CEO Monica Goldson say the system can’t fire an employee caught on video admitting she used a racial slur because the woman is a union employee.

Monica Goldson, interim school CEO, said in a statement released Friday that she is “disappointed and deeply disturbed” by the employee’s behavior.

“While there have been calls for me to take disciplinary action, current negotiated agreements with our the union representing this employee limit my ability to address this situation directly,” Goldson said in the statement. “Additionally, there are other legal considerations. This employee, like all of us, is entitled to due process.”

Goldson said the employee, who has not been identified, has been reassigned.

A viral video posted on Facebook Nov. 12 by a Maryland woman named Dawn Tolson-Hightower showed part of an encounter in a La Plata Walmart parking lot that began after she said the woman didn’t like the way her husband pulled out of a parking space.

“Did you just call my husband the N-word,” Tolson-Hightower asks the woman in the video.

“Yeah, I did,” the woman says.

In a message to the school community, Goldson said: “Any employee who does not recognize, value and celebrate the value of our diversity has no place in our community of schools. Students of color comprise the overwhelming majority of our enrollment. We educate more students of color, send more students of color to college and employ more people of color than any other school system in Maryland. Diversity is the strength of Prince George’s County Public Schools”.

Goldson said she hoped the “unfortunate situation” could be used to “engage in meaningful dialogue to enhance our civility, respect and empathy.”

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KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: When Public Officials Censor You on SOCIAL MEDIA

kyr-social_media_blockingAs social media continues to grow as a form of communication, know your First Amendment rights in advocating for your children!! “Blocking users, deleting comments or forcing users to delete critical posts because they express critical opinions offends the Constitution and principles of transparency.”

As social media sites have increasingly become go-to platforms for personal and political engagement, our political leaders, system administrators are turning to Facebook, instagram and Twitter to communicate with their constituents or followers.

The PGCPS press is keeping a close eye on the implications for Marylands’ free speech after Governor Hogan was censored last year. This year, the interim CEO for Prince Georges County Public Schools (PGCPS) Monica Goldson recently forced a board member this year to pull down a Facebook post because she feared exposure. We have also received other reports in which citizens have been asked to remove messages from social media. In particular, when public officials use social media as government actors, the First Amendment prohibits them from censoring differing viewpoints. (See attached complaint below)

Blocking users or deleting comments because they express critical opinions offends the Constitution and principles of transparency.

So, what if public officials block you, delete your comments, or otherwise censor you on social media?

You have free speech rights when you use social media, and this webpage aims to help you understand them. However, this general guide should not be interpreted as an offer of legal advice for your circumstances.

What are your free speech rights when you use social media?

Both the U.S., Maryland and other states Constitutions guarantee your right to free speech. That right doesn’t go away when you go online.

The government cannot unjustifiably interfere with your freedom of speech when you use social media to share your thoughts or to engage in discourse with public officials.

What are public officials’ obligations to you when they use social media?

The answer depends on whether they’re speaking as private individuals or as government actors.

Private individuals can censor you, but government actors cannot generally censor you based on your viewpoint. However, the boundaries are not always cut-and-dry.

People who hold public office still have their own First Amendment rights. When they’re speaking as private individuals, they can express their views like anyone else, including on social media. The First Amendment protects their right to limit their audience or curate the messages on their personal social media accounts, just like it protects any other member of the public.

But when officials act on behalf of the government, they are subject to the limits that the First Amendment imposes on them as government actors. If a public official invites comments on a social media page concerning public matters or otherwise intentionally designates it as a space for public discussion, the social media page may become a “limited” or “designated” public forum. Where public forums are involved, public officials cannot exclude people from accessing the page just because the official disagrees with them.

Here are a few ways to identify whether an account is operating as a government actor:

Although it depends on the facts, there are three basic types of social media usage to watch out for:

If a social media account is clearly maintained as an official page by a government actor, such as using an official title or the name of an agency, it’s generally considered the official account. Example: @GovLarryHogan

In other cases, a page can shift from a personal account to an official one when an officeholder and other government actors treat it as an official government account. Example: @LarryHogan

Finally, accounts may appear to be personal in name and recognition, but a public official uses it as though it were an official government account. This can occur in at least three different ways:

  1. Officials opening up their social media for public discussion.
  2. Officials allowing individuals to ask for government services through their social media accounts.
  3. Officials using their accounts to publicly announce government information or policy – not just retweeting or sharing other government information, but making an announcement themselves.

When public officials are engaging as government actors, they are not allowed to censor you based on your viewpoint.

If a public official uses social media as a government actor in the above ways, the official cannot exclude people for having differing viewpoints. This means they can’t block users, delete specific comments, or restrict access in other ways on the basis of the viewpoints expressed.

A few principles guide what officials can and can’t do when they use social media as a government actor:

  • They cannot stop people from joining a public conversation on the social media account because of the views they express on the topics at hand.
  • They cannot block critical voices from asking for government services through the social media account because of those critical viewpoints.
  • They cannot prevent people from being able to see social media posts that publicly announce government information or policy because of their viewpoints.

A government actor can’t restrict speech based on viewpoint, but can they limit comments on social media using other criteria?

An official speaking as a government actor cannot limit interactions based on viewpoint, but they can limit other kinds of interactions. Depending on the circumstances, a person can be blocked for posting personal threats or profane language, including in accordance with the social media platform’s terms of service. An official can also preclude all comments or in certain circumstances limit discussions to certain subjects – in other words, government officials may have no obligation to open the social media account up for public comment, but if they do, they cannot discriminate as to which views get to be expressed in those comments.

What can I do if I’m censored by a public official on social media?

If you believe you have been wrongfully censored by a public official, you can contact the official or their office directly, as well the ACLU-MD.

Contact the public official to seek corrective action and more information:

Ask for your access to be restored!

Call or email the office of the public official or government organization and request your access be fully restored. You can refer to this document and other materials from the ACLU, other ACLU entities, NAACP and others linked below.

When contacting the public official or government organization, request a copy of the social media policy or guidelines for the page that blocked you. (You are entitled to the policies, and maybe more, through the state’s Open Public Records Act.) If policies are not available, urge the office to create guidelines and issue them publicly.

Contact the PGCPS Press so we can keep records:

Please share your story!

If you have been censored by a public official on social media, please submit a complaint form infor@pgparents.org. Include as much of the following information as you can:

  • A description of the problem, including if you believe you were censored because of your viewpoint.
  • A screenshot or photograph documenting that you were blocked or otherwise censored, or an explanation of how you know you were censored.
  • The name and or URL of the social media page.
  • Information about any attempts you’ve made to contact the public official directly, as well as any response you have received.
  • Although we may not be able to help, please also let us know if you would like additional corrective action.

We collect information about censorship so we can understand the scope of the problem, but we aren’t able to help everyone who contacts us. Please note that the PGCPS press will not pursue legal action or other advocacy on behalf of most people who contact us, and nothing in this resource should give you the impression that we can take your case.

What are other resources or examples I can point to?

ACLU-NJ Letter to Chatham Township Mayor:
https://www.aclu-nj.org/download_file/2464

National ACLU blog post Can a Government Official Block You on Twitter?: https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/internet-speech/can-government-official-block-you-twitter

ACLU of Virginia federal friend-of-the-court brief:
https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/aclu-amicus-brief-davison-v-randall

ACLU of Maine lawsuit against governor:
https://www.aclumaine.org/en/press-releases/aclu-maine-sues-lepage-over-facebook-censorship

ACLU of Kentucky lawsuit against governor:
https://www.aclu.org/news/aclu-ky-lawsuit-challenges-governor-bevins-social-media-censorship

ACLU of Maryland lawsuit against governor:
http://www.aclu-md.org/press_room/318

Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University lawsuit against President Trump:
https://knightcolumbia.org/content/knight-institute-v-trump-lawsuit-challenging-president-trumps-blocking-critics-twitter

Freedom of Religion

The right of each and every American to practice his or her own religion, or no religion at all, is among the most fundamental of the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. The Constitution’s framers understood very well that religious liberty can flourish only if the government leaves religion alone.

The free exercise clause of the First Amendment guarantees the right to practice one’s religion free of government interference. That includes government both using its power to advance particular religious beliefs or practices, as well as using its power to put unconstitutional limitations on the free exercise of religion.

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech, the press, association, assembly, and petition: This set of guarantees, protected by the First Amendment, comprises what we refer to as freedom of expression. It is the foundation of a vibrant democracy, and without it, other fundamental rights, like the right to vote, would wither away.

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PGCPS dealing with mold issues; parents say they want kids moved from school

Still1001_00014_1538451355610_6142195_ver1.0_640_360.jpgBy: Lindsay Watts

 – A Prince George’s County school is battling a mold problem after all of the rain that fell this summer and some parents believe it is bad enough that students should be moved from the building.

Benjamin Foulois Creative and Performing Arts Academy teaches students in kindergarten through eighth grade selected through audition or lottery.

Parents provided FOX 5 photos from inside the building showing dark mold on ceiling tiles, mold on instrument cases and in other locations in the school.

Jayde Huell, an eighth grader, described what she has seen in one of her classes.

“It looks like black mold,” said Huell. “I’m not sure what it is, but it’s definitely mold and it’s on the ceiling. And that room is where I really get stuffy and congested, and I start coughing a lot because I am asthmatic.”

Parent Nate Crittenden said it was a few weeks ago when he saw a dance class being held in a hallway.

“What set off the red flag for me is seeing the kids in the hallway having class,” Crittenden said. “They tell me there was mold in their dance class and from there I proceeded to check throughout the rest of the school, started finding things on my own. Trying to talk to teachers, teachers scared to talk back to me.”

He said since then, he and other parents have struggled to get straight answers.

“I called the health department today who told me to call 311,” said Adrienne Gantt, whose granddaughter attends the school. “I called 311 and they referred me back to the health department.”

On Monday, the school sent a letter home with students acknowledging the mold problem.

“Each time a potential mold situation is identified, I work with my custodial staff to immediately investigate and evaluate the situation,” the letter from the principal reads. “If necessary, both students and staff are moved to an alternate location in the building during the inspection period.”

The back of the letter lists work completed to remediate issues.LetterToParents2_1538452305335_6142409_ver1.0_640_360

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Prince George’s County Public Schools spokesperson John White elaborated on work underway now.

“One dance room is not in use,” said White in an email. “Ceiling tiles are being replaced and new insulation is being installed where condensation was dripping from HVAC pipes in the ceiling of two classrooms. The PGCPS Environmental Office inspected those two rooms and they continue to be safe for regular use. Maintenance also is fixing a leak in the roof of the library.”

Crittenden has been reaching out to other parents and the group plans to meet on Thursday to talk about the situation.

“I feel like the kids should be removed from the school until they get the situation resolved,” Crittenden said.

Last year, we heard similar concerns about mold from parents and staff at District Heights Elementary School. A year later and after all of the rain this summer, the school district did decide to close that building and move students to a vacant school.

via Fox5DC

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Prince George’s County pension-spiking is ripping off Maryland taxpayers

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The total value of Kevin Maxwell’s pension package is about $4.8 million.
(Image courtesy screenshot)

On Sept. 17, 20 weeks after his announced resignation, Maryland’s highest paid public-school employee will end his tenure as CEO of the Prince George’s County Public Schools. On July 12, PGCPS announced Kevin Maxwell’s severance package as $790,000, a sum that many considered excessive. The teachers’ union president attacked it as “appalling.”

But this sum grossly understates the actual cost of Maxwell’s post-employment compensation. Most notably, it fails to include the increased value of his Maryland state pension. When that compensation is factored in, the cost of his severance package doubles to approximately $1.6 million, with most of the unreported amount being paid by Maryland rather than the county school system. The total value of Maxwell’s pension package is about $4.8 million.

From one perspective, $1.6 million is a steal for taxpayers, because PGCPS had a four-year contract with Maxwell beginning last year. The cost of the remaining three years would have been more than $1 million in cash compensation plus additional pension benefits.

One reason PGCPS could be so generous in bolstering Maxwell’s pension is that Maryland, rather than PGCPS, pays for such pension spikes. The Board of Education wasn’t lying, then, when it said that the cost of Maxwell’s severance package would only cost PGCPS approximately $790,000.

To eliminate pension spiking, as illustrated by Maxwell’s case, pension costs should be completely shifted from the state to local level. Relying on the state to effectively eliminate pension spiking by tinkering with its rules not only has not worked, but cannot work.

Another reason that PGCPS could be so generous is that Maryland’s right-to-know laws have been designed to hide the type of pension spiking that PGCPS engaged in. To the extent that pension spiking can be hidden, it will thrive.

Maryland should require pension transparency at the individual level, just as it does for salary transparency. If the excuse for hiding pension data — e.g., unused sick leave — is protecting privacy, the solution is to change the pension formula, not to hide its components. Moreover, to have meaningful public disclosure, all compensation information must be proactively disclosed online. Relying on Maryland’s archaic and ineffective Public Information Act for K-12 public school compensation disclosure has been a recipe for public officials’ endless delays, doubletalk, noncompliance, and intimidation and deterrence of requesters.

Maryland’s local governments and teachers unions are staunchly opposed to these proposed reforms. Perhaps the best hope for reform is Gov. Larry Hogan’s new Office of Education Accountability, which began operation on Sept. 12 and is tasked with investigating K-12 public school corruption. But the General Assembly is unlikely to grant this office the subpoena power it needs to do its job effectively.

PGCPS ripped off the rest of Maryland, including Prince George’s County more generally, and then hid the full extent of its payouts from the public. If the law cannot be fixed, we should at least be able to expect a frank discussion from Prince George’s Board of Education and acting school superintendent.

Alas, this is legally prohibited because part of Maxwell’s severance contract mandates that neither the school board nor superintendent can henceforth engage in any public discussion that might be construed as “disparaging” to Maxwell. Since the public and press depend on conflict among such insiders to understand controversial issues, this ban harms First Amendment values of free speech. It should be challenged in court.

Given the practical difficulty of holding this conversation in Prince George’s County, it should be held elsewhere in Maryland. It should be central to the discussion of the Kirwan Commission Report, which will call for higher K-12 compensation, when it is publicly released after the November election. The public is entitled to know how much its public school employees are paid. Until the public has this information, including the huge and growing discrepancy in total compensation between junior and senior teachers, no changes in compensation should be made.

Maxwell’s case vividly illustrates not only how little the public knows about the magnitude and components of total public-school employee compensation, but also the perverse incentives that go into setting and disclosing it, especially when local governments determine its cost but the state pays for it.

J.H. Snider, the president of iSolon.org, publishes K12 Public School Compensation Transparency.

via washingtonexaminer.com

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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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