Category Archives: Uncategorized

Shocked Board member Belinda Queen argues County Residents to demand better after witnessing abuse.

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Board member Belinda Queen (center) in dotted dress.

By Reform Sasscer Staff:

One of the newly elected Board of Education member Belinda Queen has hit the ground running and is demanding answers after discovering corruption at High Point High School in Prince George’s County public Schools (PGCPS).  First question which the public should be asking: What took anyone in the Board so long?

Some outrage would be welcome at long last after the board of education failed over the years to protect the youth in this school. Other facilities have similar problems and serving contaminated water.

Question 2: Where was the fraud unit or PGCPS internal audit and why did it take a newly elected board member from another district to get this case made?

Question 3: Given overt partisanship, Can elected officials in the Prince George’s County council wide office be credible leaders of a review of legislative corruption?

We recommend Hon. Belinda for speaking out and exposing an issue affecting hundreds of students in Prince George’s County.

She writes:

“I prayed hard on this and HE knows I gotta express my concerns. I’m a Public Elected Official who speaks my mind and who believes in Educating, Engaging and Empowering the people.

I need your help…PGC Residents
“Speak Out! Speak Up & Demand Better!”

We need to put pressure on our Elected Leaders in the State and the County to vote on the funding of the Kirwan Commission and to invest more money into these old schools and distasteful trailers and the schools with major Maintenance issues.

We had our Public Budget Hearing at High Point HS last week (not a really old school😂 right just like Central HS )and it has been bothering me ever since… you’ll know me w/ my camera 👀😤 at these Disgusting Bathroom our kids have to use. How Nasty!

What makes me more upset is our Delegation wants to mandate laws without funding the mandates. We already seem to have major maintenance backlog. Where’s the Money?? If we are $600 Million Dollars short already why would you even think about mandates without funding? We gotta replace these 🤬 people who are not putting our Kids First. Let this mess be in their homes. 🥺

Reach out to your Elected Leaders and “Demand Better” in our Public Schools.

PS: I am human and wasn’t elected as a perfect person so please forgive any typo’s or incorrect English in advance.”

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‘Major Tragedy:’ PGCPS Students among 5 Children Killed in Bowie Crash

5_Children_Killed_in_Bowie_Crash_When_Car_Struck_TreeFive children — all from the same extended family among them students from Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) — died in a car crash early Saturday morning in Prince George’s County, according to Maryland State Police.

Firefighters responded around 5 a.m. to an accident on Route 301 between Route 214 and Pointer Ridge Drive, where a 2005 Chrysler Pacifica veered off the highway and hit multiple trees, ejecting the five children inside and injuring the two adults in the front seats.

The Pacifica was traveling north on Route 301 when, for an unknown reason, it went off the left side of the road and into the woods. It began to spin in the snow-covered field, police said, throwing the children from the car. There was only one vehicle involved in the crash.

Police identified London Dixon, 8, and Paris Dixon, 5, both children of Taylor from Bowie, attended PGCPS Northview Elementary School; and Zion Beard, 14, Rickelle Ricks, 6, and Damari Herald, 15, all from Washington, D.C., as the victims. They were pronounced dead at the scene.

Police don’t yet know what caused the crash, but haven’t ruled out any possibilities. They believe the children weren’t properly seat-belted. A standard 2005 Chrysler Pacifica seats six, with two front passenger seats and four rear seats — there were seven passengers in the car.

Dominique R. Taylor, 32, of Bowie, and Cornell D. Simon, 23, of Oxon Hill, survived the crash but suffered injuries. They’re being treated at University of Maryland Prince George’s Hospital Center. Police identified Taylor as the driver of the vehicle and Simon as a front seat passenger.

Gov. Larry Hogan expressed his sympathy in a tweet.

“Deeply saddened by this tragic auto accident in Prince George’s County. Praying for everyone involved, including first responders,” he wrote Saturday.

Later in the afternoon, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks also expressed her sympathy in a tweet in the afternoon.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the family members of the five children killed, and the two adults being treated for their injuries, following a tragic accident on Route 301 early this morning. PGPD is assisting @MDSP as they thoroughly investigate this incident,” she wrote Saturday afternoon.

A woman identifying herself as a grandmother to several of the children took to social media Sunday, saying her family was experiencing “loss like no other.”

“My heart is broken,” Sarita Johnson-Herald wrote in the post.

An investigation is ongoing. State police announced just after 11 a.m. that all lanes of Route 301 have been reopened.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for all five victims.

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Authorities are investigating a deadly crash in Bowie, Maryland, that left five children dead.

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Authorities are investigating a deadly crash in Bowie, Maryland, that left five children dead.

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DC mom blows whistle on unlicensed business serving charter school students

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The Future Family Enrichment Center serviced special needs students who were suspended from their charter schools.

Author: Delia Goncalves

Questions remain unanswered on how an unlicensed alternative charter school was able to operate in D.C. while taking in special needs students from at least six different charter schools.

“Trust me. If you push me I’m going to fight back,” said Loretta Jones, “especially when it comes to my kids.”

Jones’ 10-year-old son Frederick is a 5th grader but was getting busy work on a 2nd grade level at The Future Family Enrichment Center.

That’s when his mother started asking questions. Jones didn’t know it then, but she exposed a major crack in the charter school system.

The center, which has no website and no business license, was operating out of an unassuming row house on Minnesota Avenue, in Southeast D.C. The facility ran completely under the radar. The Office of the State Superintendent wasn’t even aware it existed. OSEE and the Public Charter School Board are now investigating the center. Charter schools, including Monument Academy, referred special needs students to the center on a temporary basis after they were being suspended. 791fa31a-ea07-462c-a325-ceaae37db43c_750x422

According to federal law, those students still need to get their Individualized Education Plan fulfilled so sending them to the center was the charter school’s way to make sure that happened until that student was placed at a different school.

Jones’ 10-year-old son was suspended from Monument 10 times in about a month’s time.

“They (Monument educators) determined the stuff they were suspending him for was because of his IEP,” explained Jones.

That is illegal. Federal law says a child cannot be suspended if that behavior is due to his special needs.

Jones worked with parent advocate Jennifer Fox-Thomas with the support organization So Others Might Eat, or SOME. They said educators at Monument Academy gave Jones an ultimatum: either they continue to suspend her son, or she agree to send him to the “interim alternative educational setting” – that’s what they called the unlicensed center.

“I was stressed, I was about to go out of town and my child needed to be in school, so I said I’ll send him to the lateral placement and I’ll fight you later,” she recalled.

Now thanks to Jones, the center is under investigation by OSSE and the PCSB to make sure the owner complied with the federal disability law and that children weren’t just housed at the so-called center but not educated.

“There’s a real problem with the governance, monitoring and oversight of children in D.C.,” said Maria Blaeuer who is an attorney and program director with Advocates for Justice and Education.

It is still unclear how long the facility was operating and how many children were referred there.

Jones finally got her son in a different school, but he was stuck at that center for three months because she said Monument didn’t approve his transfer.

She said the school failed her son by not being able to provide his special needs services like they promised and then sending him to a facility that was not fully vetted. We reached out to Monument Academy for their side of the story but have not been able to reach school leaders because classes are not in session from the winter break.

Via WUSA 9

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Nashville schools board tensions fly in contentious night as group calls for Director Shawn Joseph’s ouster

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Former PGCPS Executive and Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Shawn Joseph (center) is flagged by Sito Narcisse, Ed.D who was the Associate Superintendent for High School Performance in PGCPS before he left for Tennessee. Nashville’s school board voted to reign in how much its superintendent can spend before needing permission, a change that comes just two years since increasing the threshold. (Photo: File photo/Larry McCormack / The Tennessean)

Former Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Executives who moved to Nashville, Tennessee, are in deep water for a variety of issues. First, there is a lawsuit accusing them of cover up involving sexual harassment. Second, there are allegations against them for misuse of funds which has led to a new purchasing policy. The new purchasing policy now requires that “the director shall seek approval of the board before committing to any single purchase greater than $25,000.” The $25,000 threshold falls in line with the spending policy used by the district for previous directors.

The policy also spells out that the district’s superintendent must also seek permission from the board for special purchases.

The policy says that those purchases are capital expenses “such as vehicles, buildings, major contracts, purchases of major equipment, items for long-term use, and supplies of an unusual quantity or nature.”

The policy also says purchases in those categories will require approval on an item-by-item basis.

At the moment, the Nashville public schools board is facing a $13 million debt. The Nashville school district now wants to sell four properties to make up a portion of its arrears. A unanimous decision was passed after a heated discussion over a fifth property some members wanted to sell.

In the meantime, a group of about 10 showed up with signs calling for Director of Schools Shawn Joseph to be fired or resign.

Several addressed the board during the public comment period who addressed the board about their concerns.

We reprint the entire report by tennessean part of the U.S.A Today network below  – Nashville schools board tensions fly in contentious night as group calls for Director Shawn Joseph’s ouster

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Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Shawn Joseph.
(Photo: Larry McCormack / The Tennessean)

Anger, frustration and distrust were on full display at the Nashville public schools board meeting Tuesday, turning the night into one of the most contentious gatherings in months.

A group of about 10 residents showed up to protest Director of Schools Shawn Joseph and call for his firing.

Meanwhile, as the district struggles to balance its budget, the board took a controversial vote to sell real property to fill a $13 million budget hole. Then, while discussing a reading curriculum, several board members expressed a lack of trust in Joseph and his leadership team.

Already, two board members have publicly said they have lost confidence in Joseph.

The meeting highlighted months of frustrations among board members, and tensions are likely to boil over in the future.

Board leadership asked for dissenting members to remain calm, prepare for meetings properly and refocus on their jobs.

Those critical of Joseph said they are pointing out the district’s woes under the director. Joseph said he wants to stay in Nashville for the long term.

“I love my job, and I am committed to the children of this district,” Joseph said. ” I will continue to work with our dedicated board members, principals, teachers and parents to continue accelerating achievement and opportunities for all kids.”
Joseph controversy distracting from board work

Board Vice Chair Christiane Buggs said on Wednesday that she hopes the issues can be resolved, but added she is increasingly frustrated with board members who are off topic or don’t read materials provided to them.

“We are focused on personality conflicts. I feel we are not doing our jobs,” Buggs said. “We are not overseeing data and not engaging in budget advocacy. We are not troubleshooting or looking at policies.”

Buggs said she and Board Chair Sharon Gentry have tried to create space for complaints, but some members have been absent from committee meetings recently where questions can be posed to district leadership.

“Committee meetings are set up for a reason,” Buggs said. “Our retreats are set up for a reason … so we can do the work and ask in-depth questions of Joseph and leadership.”

Gentry couldn’t be reached Wednesday for comment.

Board member Amy Frogge, a frequent Joseph critic, said on Wednesday she has increasingly heard from “hundreds of fearful district leaders, teachers, support staff and MNPS parents.”

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School board member Amy Frogge (Photo: Michael Murphy / Tennessean)

She said that “it’s past time for new leadership.” Board member Jill Speering also said she has lost faith in Joseph.

“Dr. Joseph has created a toxic work environment, causing veteran educators to leave in droves and unnecessarily pitting board members against each other,” Frogge said.

Frogge added she will continue to speak out about the issues she is hearing.

“The constant theme is incompetent and unethical leadership, mismanagement of the district and its resources, devaluation of teachers, a lack of trust in the current administration and Dr. Joseph’s unprofessional, vindictive and divisive behavior,” she said.

A tense Tuesday night

During the meeting, about 10 people showed up to protest Joseph and called for his resignation or firing.

The group said they are worried about the district’s finances and respect for teachers under Joseph.

Later in the night, tensions boiled over after Frogge said a presentation on reading curriculum was a  “dog and pony” show, which included teachers and principals.

It caused anger and tears from some in the group and strong reactions from board members, who thanked the teachers present.

Frogge later said her comment questioned leadership, not the teachers. She said she’s heard from many teachers that don’t like the reading curriculum and that she didn’t mean any disrespect to the educators present.

That was followed by a series of questions from board member Fran Bush. Joseph later addressed one of the questions, which led to Bush talking over the director. She then said she would let him finish.

It hearkened back to a similar confrontation at a previous board meeting that led to Board Chair Sharon Gentry and Bush talking over each other.

Bush, who was elected as a critic of Joseph, has been a lightning rod on the board, questioning many aspects of the director’s work. Bush didn’t return a call for comment Wednesday.

After the meeting, Joseph said that he is focused on improving student achievement, working to help teachers and in increasing parental voice.

MNPS NEWS: Nashville school board revises how much Joseph can spend without board approval

Read more >>>👇👇👇

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Millennials join the school board, not long after high school – Youth participation is vital

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David Murray (Seen on the left) told reporters the memo written by previous chairman was a clear example of why so many whistleblowers are so afraid to come forward. He said it appears that the school system was attempting to make an example out of him and Edward Burroughs (Shown Below).

By: Reform Sasscer staff

Upper Marlboro – Washington post has published an article concerning young peoples’ desire to make the Prince George’s County public Schools extraordinary.  The youthful Board members in the Prince George’s County Public school Board are expected to help keep education relevant and administration more transparent, fair and corrupt free.  Students, teachers and the community will benefit greatly. “Accountability is the big issue. Citizens pour all that tax money into public schools, and they want evidence that the increased funding has been effective,” said one concerned citizen. If it hasn’t improved the situation, reduce the funding to what it was five years ago.

Youth participation is vital

Engaging youth is essential for success in curbing corruption not only in Prince George’s county, but world wide as well. This is because the youth represent a significant portion of the population and are generally more open to social change and political transformation, since they may have less interest in maintaining the status quo.

In addition to representing a significant part of the population, young people tend to be more exposed to bribery and therefore particularly vulnerable to corruption, as they are involved in almost every aspect of society – as students, pupils, workers, customers and citizens. According to Transparency International’s (TI) Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) 2013, 27 per cent of people under the age of 30 paid a bribe worldwide that year.

Against this backdrop, youth can play a pivotal role in the fight against corruption. Young people are an integral element for the success of a cultural change in attitudes and behaviour towards corruption and in the shaping of the values of tomorrow, since they represent the future of their countries. Empowering the youth to refuse corruption is a pre-condition to enable them to act as leaders in their communities and workplaces, both in resisting corruption and promoting good governance practices.

On Monday, November 6th, 2017,  School Board member Edward Burroughs shared a memo sent to him and fellow board member David Murray dated Friday November 3rd, 2017, which called on the pair back then to turn over information they had regarding grading policies, including the names of “whistleblowers who have information regarding the audit.” The memo from the previous board chairman Segun Eubanks and previous vice chair Carolyn Boston warned that if Burroughs and Murray didn’t comply with handing over any and all information they might have regarding concerns over grading policies, including names, by noon Monday November 6th, 2017, “We will refer a recommendation for action to the full board,” stated the memo. As fate had it, Segun Eubanks and Carolyn Boston are no longer part of the Board today.

Leaders of tomorrow

The nation belongs to its youth. They are the makers of tomorrow. What they do today will reflect in the society tomorrow. To live in a society that is corruption free, we need people with high quality of mind and thoughts. If those people come forward to build a strong nation, our dream of a corruption free society is never far away.

We reprint the entire report by Washington post  below – “Millennials join the school board, not long after high school” .

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Millennial school board members, in front of the Prince George’s County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro, from left, Raaheela Ahmed, Edward Burroughs III, David Murray and Joshua Thomas. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

By Donna St. George

The millennial generation has arrived in school board politics. Maybe not in great numbers, and not everywhere. But surely in one Maryland school system, where millennials once again make up a majority of elected board members.

In Prince George’s County, five of nine elected members are in their 20s. All grew up in the county and graduated from its schools. They don’t have children, but they say they are deeply connected to the classrooms they once learned in.

Several have been among the board’s most outspoken members.

“We bring blunt honesty,” said Raaheela Ahmed, 25, a program manager for a nonprofit group. “Some folks are very concerned about style and find it uncomfortable to be so forward. But it’s necessary for progress to have people who are willing to do that.”

As new school board members were sworn in last week, Prince George’s stands out for the number of its millennials — a generation now about 22 to 37 years old — and the extent of their effect in a school system that is one of the country’s 25 largest, with more than 132,000 students.

Nationally, the median age of school board members is 59, according to a recent survey by the National School Boards Association — more than twice the age of Ahmed and others.

“Especially for a large school system, that is remarkable,” said Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, who has done research on school boards nationally. “It’s more typically going to be citizens who are older, who have developed deep roots in the community and who have a web of relationships.”

Hess and others say school board seats often attract parents who want to see a particular change in their children’s schools, former educators, or middle-aged and retired people looking for ways to serve. For some, the positions are a springboard to higher political office.

Still, they are not the glamour jobs of politics.

“It’s very demanding,” said Frances Hughes Glendening, executive director of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education. “Many more meetings than people think. Most people don’t realize how much time goes into it.”

Several county school boards in the Washington region said they had no millennial members. Fairfax County counts two on its 12-member board, a spokesman said.

In Prince George’s, the millennials belong to a 14-member school board — with nine elected members, four appointees and a student member. Their number increased after the 2016 election.

Several millennials have been the force behind a minority bloc that in the past two years brought attention to inflated graduation rates, large pay raises to executive staff and a nearly $800,000 contract payout to a schools chief whose tenure was marred by scandal.

“Some of the things that were exposed needed to be exposed and probably would not have been if not for them,” said Doris Reed, executive director of the union that represents the county’s principals and administrators.

The graduation rates controversy led to a state-ordered investigation that found some students improperly graduated and others lacked evidence they had met requirements. A second audit, released last week, found high absenteeism in the Class of 2018.

Several of the millennial board members say they bring political independence and urgency about change to the job. And then there’s this: Given that they’re just a few years out of college, the issues that students and teachers face are not a distant memory.

“It helps to have walked in our students’ shoes more recently, in the very schools that they attend,” said David Murray, 26, who graduated from Eleanor Roosevelt High in Greenbelt in 2010 and is in his second year as a teacher in the District.

But getting a seat on the board is not easy. Murray lost twice before he won a spot. Ahmed lost once before her victory.

Board newcomer Joshua Thomas, 25, won against an incumbent 20 years his senior but said he did so without support from most local political leaders. He was endorsed by unions and knocked on 10,000 doors in his district, he said.

“Millennials are really ready to push back against the traditional way of governing as we know it,” he said, saying that while they collaborate with others, they don’t “fall in line” according to political leaders’ expectations.

The Pew Research Center defines the millennial generation as people born between 1981 and 1996. As a group, they are more educated than earlier generations and have children later, researchers said.

The Prince George’s board includes members in their 40s and 50s, but its longest-serving member is a millennial: Edward Burroughs III, who joined as a student board member when he was 15 years old, attending Crossland High in Temple Hills, and has won three elections as an adult. He is 26.

Since 2016, Burroughs has found allies in Murray, a friend since sixth grade and onetime student member of the Maryland State Board of Education, and Ahmed, a year younger, once a student member on the University System of Maryland Board of Regents. Together, the three call themselves the accountability and solutions caucus. They were at odds with the board majority through a string of controversies.

But last week, as new members were sworn in, board dynamics appeared to be shifting.

Newcomers included Thomas, a manager of recruitment for historically black colleges and universities at Teach for America after serving as a teacher for two years, and Paul Monteiro, 38, an almost-millennial who worked in the Obama White House and was named to an appointed position.

A new county executive, Angela D. Alsobrooks, named a new board chairman: Alvin Thornton, 70, a longtime college professor who led a state education funding commission commonly known by his name.

Burroughs said he and others see Thornton as a voice of integrity and experience and “someone we would be honored to learn from and partner with in this work.”

He and others tick off some of their top issues: boosting academic performance, improving employee pay, reducing class sizes, improving maintenance of school facilities.

“It is a tragedy that the lowest-performing schools today were low-performing 20 years ago, and nothing has changed,” Burroughs said. “We are going to be laser-focused on fixing them.”

Some on the board say it is not all about age.

Belinda Queen — a mother, stepmother, foster mother and grandmother — said people don’t have to be the same age to be like-minded. She is 56 and allied with Burroughs, Murray, Ahmed and Thomas, she said. “I’m in tune with that generation,” she said.

Another exception is K. Alexander Wallace, a millennial who started on the board as an appointee, was elected in 2016 and has often voted with the board majority. He said that while he agrees on some issues raised by his board-member counterparts in their 20s, he has not agreed with some of their tactics.

“They want a response instantaneously,” Wallace, 27, said. “I do, too. But I also know I’m on a governing body, and I have to work through proper procedures.”

Wallace said the Burroughs bloc took problems to the media or to Gov. Larry Hogan (R) when they could have been handled by the school system.

“The progression of the school system would have been light-years ahead of where we are if we had been one cohesive board,” he said.

Former board chairman Segun C. Eubanks said that while the board benefits from youth, it needs diversity.

“It’s important to have a balance — youthful energy and experience,” Eubanks said.

Although Eubanks was at odds with some of the board’s millennial members — especially Burroughs — he said he hoped the group would bring energy and innovation in years to come.

“I hope they just don’t bring critiques of the system but also support and ideas and positive change,” he said.

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Paul Monteiro a future county executive prospect appointed to the Board recently is expected to ask tough questions. To live in a society that is corruption free, we need people with high quality of mind and thoughts.

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On Monday, November 6th, 2017, School Board member Edward Burroughs shared a memo sent to him and fellow board member David Murray dated Friday, calling on the pair to turn over information they had regarding grading policies, including the names of “whistleblowers who have information regarding the audit.”

 

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PGCPS Mother upset after she says staff didn’t intervene in school fight timely.

still1009_00001_1507584222975_4312126_ver1-0_640_360 (1)Warning: The links contain videos and pictures which are grisly and very distressing… For the faint hearted do not open.

By: Reform Sasscer staff

Upper Marlboro – Several horrific fights at Dr. Henry Wise High School  were caught on camera and posted to Twitter recently after first exposure on October 31st. The disturbing videos have parents and school leaders shaking their heads in disbelief.

One mother of a Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) student is upset after she claims the principal and staff are not doing much. In this specific fight, staff did not intervene timely in a fight involving her daughter.

Several incidents have happened recently at Dr. Henry Wise High School. In one incident,  a teenage student told her mother she was attacked in the hallway. When her mother saw the video, she email our blog including our social media account upset about the fight and the lack of timely intervention by school staff.

It happened right in the hallway with many students watching, including someone holding a camera.

In the background, an adult walks up to the fight, but in another video staff doesn’t stop the fight and it continues and moves away from him.

The teenage student hits the ground and then she is pulled by her hair across the hallway like a sack of maize.

“When I saw that tape, my heart went numb,” said the girl’s mother. “I was so angry.”

This mother, who does not want to be identified, said she was concerned because her daughter told her two adults were there, but did not break the fight up. In the video, you can see other students jump in trying to separate them. Security staff finally shows up.

But the mother said she was told after the fight, staff members cannot put their hands on students — only security personnel can.

“I understand that,” she said. “You are not supposed to put your hands on them, but there should be some type of protocol that if you see something going on, call for help. Children get out of the way. Break it up. You can walk towards it [and say], ‘Excuse me, this is not going to happen.’ Say something.”

The mother said fortunately her daughter is okay, and thankful for the students who jumped in to help. But she wonders if the adults could have done more.

The mother also expressed her frustration because the administration does not seem to care even after writing to Interim CEO Monica Goldson on several occasions.

We reached out to the school’s principal to ask her about the fight, but she was not available and could not talk about it.

Prince George’s County Public Schools has no policy in place that tells teachers and staff members to not break up a fight. There is also no policy in place that instructs them to get involved.

Here is another major brawl that happened at PGCPS in which the principal hit a student with a walkie talkie. In that incident, the parents at the school were not notified  and only found out by a video on twitter.

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Suspicious New PGCPS audit boasts improvements but some ‘strain credulity’

C4LMY12XAAAjorO.jpg-large-1780x1002.jpegPrince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) is well known for bribery schemes which includes paying off lawyers and law firms as part of organized schemes. Prince George’s County will only be built by the willingness of the county citizenry and that will have to be informed by deliberate decisions towards greater transparency.

The private sector must commit to be at the forefront in the fight against corruption in the county. To be meaningful, this commitment on the private sector side must go beyond the companies pledging not to pay bribes or be bribed as happened to several law firms recently. The next logical and necessary step is for the county government and private sector to implement internal policies, procedures, and mechanisms to ensure that the risk of improper payments is minimized. There are reports the firm hired by the state to review the issues might have been interfered with to make a favorable report while shielding the major shenanigans.

We reprint the report by WTOP below.

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A follow-up audit of Prince George’s County Public Schools graduation rates states that improvements have been made but more oversight is still needed. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/Wittayayut)

By William Vitka and Kate Ryan

follow-up audit looking into allegations that Prince George’s County Public Schools had been changing grades in order to allow more students to graduate determined that, while improvements have been made, more oversight is still needed.

And some are voicing concerns about the improved numbers.

In a Tuesday statement that boasts how grade accuracy and certification have gotten better in the last six months, interim PGCPS CEO Monica Goldson acknowledged that the Maryland State Department of Education-commissioned audit found that “we must provide more oversight and support to enforce attendance-related grading requirements and ensure data accuracy.”

“We will review the new audit findings and submit a plan to MSDE by January 11, 2019,” she wrote.

The new findings, conducted by Alvarez & Marsal Public Sector Services and focusing on the class of 2018, echo a report from November of last year that also hinted at problems with a lack of oversight.

A news release claims A&M found evidence that 38 out of 40 recommendations in the original audit had been fully or partially implemented. The company reviewed 1,085 students in its sample, concluding that 98.9 percent of students graduated without any grade change or transcript violations, according to the release.

“PGCPS greatly reduced the degree to which grade changes were used and misused,” the study noted.

Others, however, are concerned about the validity of those graduation numbers.

At a Tuesday meeting, Maryland State Department of Education Board member Rose Maria Li said there seemed to be a dozen schools with “unbelievably great improvements” of 20 or more percentage points in graduation rates.

“What’s the process in terms of having somebody check that these numbers are valid? Are we just taking these numbers as given?” she said.

One of Li’s colleagues, David Steiner, took pains to say he didn’t want to pour cold water on good news.

“Sometimes it’s deeply earned,” he said.

But Steiner was more skeptical of other data.

“When, for example, Crossland Evening [High School] goes from a graduation rate of 18.4 percent to 52.8 percent in one year, I imagine there has to be a powerful explanation,” he said, referring the jump in numbers from the initial audit.

Citing the number of schools recording leaps in graduation rates over the span of one year, Steiner said, “That strains credulity.”

Prince George’s County Public Schools, meanwhile, says it has been taking numerous steps to correct the situation and any lingering issues.

“Parents, employees, community members and especially students must have confidence in high school diplomas awarded by Prince George’s County Public Schools. My job is to continue our focus on doing right by those who matter most,” Goldson said.

Allegations of grade-fixing first made headlines in June of 2017.

In other news, 83.6 percent of the county’s public schools (168 altogether) received 3-star to 5-star marks on Maryland’s new accountability system.

Eighty-four schools (55 elementary, 16 middle, nine high and three charter) received three stars. Seventy-five (61 elementary, five middle, four high and six charter) received four stars. Nine (seven elementary, one high and one charter) received five stars.

Read more on the audit at PGCPS’ site.

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