Tag Archives: Board members

PGCPS School board approves increase in meal prices

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UPPER MARLBORO — The Prince George’s County Board of Education passed $.10 and $.15 increases for school meals in a 7-5 vote June 25 2015.

The increases, which was met with opposition from some board members, includes both breakfast and lunch meals at schools in the district. Both elementary and secondary schools will see a $.10 rise in breakfast prices, bringing the total cost to $1.60, and a $.15 increase in lunch, brining elementary school lunch costs to $2.75 and secondary schools costs to $3. The costs will not affect the families already in the free and reduced lunch program.

The change in prices stems from a recommendation from the department of food and nutrition services so the department can “maintain a financially self-supporting operation,” to comply with requirements from the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 and the rising cost of healthy foods.

The motion was introduced at the June 11 board meeting but was not discussed. Student Board member Jeffery Taylor II said he feared that the lack of discussion on the Board’s part kept parents uninformed.
“You’re basically telling them (they’re) paying $.15 more for the same thing and if I was a parent and I did not get that memo, I know that the school system just sent out a survey to parents, this week or last week, and I think that this is something that should be brought to their attention, especially before we come here to make this decision. I know that it was on first reader, but this is not going to sit well,” Taylor said.

Joan Shorter, director of food and nutrition services, said the school system last increased meal prices in 2011 and the schools have endured many changes in the federal opinion on school lunches, including the amount of fruit and vegetables required in a lunch. Because of the requirements from federal law, she said the school system does not have much control of the products it must offer.

“We’re basically a nutrition program and we want to encourage our students to eat fruits and vegetables and canned vegetables have a lot more sodium, they’re not as fresh and wholesome, so we offer up more fresh fruits and vegetables, but that’s all part of the cost that was associated with the changes in the meal pattern requirements, in addition to whole grain products, which are more expensive as well,” Shorter said.

Board member Curtis Valentine agreed parents should have been informed sooner, but said he understands why prices are increasing.

“It costs to eat healthy. I know that, everyone knows that. You want to go to Wegmans, you want to go to Whole Foods, and you want fresh fruits? That costs,” he said.

Despite opposition, the motion passed and the change in costs will take affect at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year.

Via Prince George’s sentinel

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Application Process For Vacant Board Position Underway

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UPPER MARLBORO – With County Executive Rushern Baker III beginning to mull applications for a vacant seat on the Board of Education, advocates and former board members are hoping Baker selects somebody with the students’ interests in mind. 

Baker’s office released the application on June 29 for the at-large spot seeking applicants who “demonstrate a high level of knowledge and/or experience in the area of management.” All applications must be postmarked or date stamped by close of business on July 27.

“The appointee must possess a high level of knowledge and expertise concerning the successful administration of a large business, nonprofit organization, or government entity,” according to the application. “The appointee, who must be a County resident, will serve a four-year term.”

The application asks people to list professional and organizational memberships and positions they have held and what community involvement experience they possess. The application also requires applicants to provide answers to three questions at no more than page per question:

1) What is your exposure to, or experience with, Prince George’s County Public Schools?

2) What do you believe are the three most critical issues currently facing Prince George’s County Public Schools? And what specific idea do you have to address these issues?

3) What are you interested in serving on the Prince George’s County Board of Education? Please include an explanation of the primary strengths you would bring to this position, and what you believe is the proper role of a Board member?

The job description does not include any mention of education, but Peggy Higgins, a former board member, said she does not have any concerns about the omission. Higgins, who served from 2010 until 2014 when she lost reelection to Lupi Grady, said she did not have a background in education but believes she still made helpful contributions.

“The diversity of backgrounds is beneficial as well, so I don’t necessarily think an education background is critically important” Higgins said. “I do think being able to have enough strength to have an independent voice, because right now the structure is such that it’s the County Executive’s board and the County’s Executive’s ex-brother-in-law who is the chair and certainly Dr. Maxwell is on the cabinet of the County Executive, so it’s more even than having an education background, its being able to provide perspective that may not necessarily be the administrations.”

Higgins said she is more concerned about how Baker picks his appointees than with the candidates’ experience.

“I think it’s not so much who is applying but how they are going to pick the person. I think they are going to focus on people who are going to vote ‘yes’ for whatever the administration wants,” Higgins said.

Board member Edward Burroughs III expressed the same sentiment as Higgins and said he hopes for an applicant that is smart, thoughtful, and has the flexibility to “vote with their conscience.”

“Once you appoint someone that you believe in, from there they ought to have the flexibility to do what they believe is best for kids, because simply appointing a ‘yes’ person does not move the district forward, does not help kids in any way,” Burroughs said. “It has to be more than just control and power, it has to be about appointing someone that’s a value added and allows them to do what you appointed them to do.”

Tehani Collazo, the education policy advisor to Baker, said the last time a position was filled was in December 2013, when Baker appointed Sonya Williams to represent district 9. Collazo said the application process will close on July 27, and the process for filling the position will take approximately seven weeks.

Baker gained the power to appoint members to the Board of Education after the General Assembly passed House Bill 1107 in 2013.

Neither the public, nor the Board of Education will consult Baker on the appointment, but he will seek advisement from his Commission on Education Excellence.

“County Executive Baker has asked his Commission on Education Excellence to serve as the review committee for the Board of Education applications,” Collazo said. “The Commission will select 3-5 finalists who will be interviewed by Mr. Baker. Mr. Baker determines the finalist for the Board of Education At-Large position.”

Although Burroughs worries about how much control Baker has within the board, he said he hopes the new board member will be passionate about issues that students face, especially in special education.

“My hope for the district is we have a board and superintendent that does what is best for the kids, not just for image solely, not what’s best for high ranking elected officials. We really need a board and superintendent whose number one objective is making sure that every child has a high quality education in Prince George’s County. That’s my biggest aspiration,” he said.

Genevieve Demos Kelley, a member of the Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools, said she hopes the next board member will actively engage the community and seek information constantly.

“I hope that the new Board of Education member will be actively engaged in listening and responding to the concerns of parents. I also hope that he or she will give teachers an opportunity to share their practical knowledge of the challenges and solutions that work in the classroom,” Kelley said. “Additionally, I would like all Board members to pursue a thorough understanding of next year’s operating budget. With the hard choices that the school system faces, the Board needs to know the ins-and-outs of our nearly $2 billion budget.”

In 2013 the County Executive received 118 applications for the vacant board seat. As of Thursday, July 2, no applications for the at-large position have been received.

>>>Prince George’s County sentinel

OPINION

County Executive Baker’s take over of the schools in Prince George’s county was not based on sincere efforts to take the schools forward but had a different political agenda. Our hope is for Mr. Baker to withdraw his involvement and focus on other issues other than education. His propaganda is not helping PGCPS in anyway. Selecting “YES” men and women of Prince George’s County  who are well connected to Mr. Baker for other interior motive is not going to take the county school system in the right direction.

The Prince George’s County school Board will be better served without injecting Baker’s selected Board members or a secretly appointed CEO who is a “YES’ man to county Executive Baker. We fought for a better school system using this blog. However, we are afraid we might never get there under Mr. Baker’s oversight which appears driven by “fraud” and mega mismanagement of county resources. Kudos to the two board members who have resigned on their own after seeing the light!

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Prince George’s school board approves credit card ban.

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Prince George’s school board has the green light to cut up their credit cards after a unanimous Feb. 12 vote to adopt a reimbursement policy.

The new policy will take effect in April, said school board chairman Segun Eubanks.

The board decided to take action following of dollars in local meals on their board-issued credit cards.

Delegate Alonzo Washington (D-Dist. 22) of Hyattsville proposed House Bill 707 to the General Assembly that would take away the county-issued cards, but Washington said he would withdraw his legislation if the school board passed the ban themselves.

David Cahn, co-chair for the education watchdog “Citizens for an Elected Board,” commended the board for the move and said it was preferable for the board to ban the cards themselves.

“A lot of times, legislation like this is created to get the target of the legislation to do it voluntarily,” Cahn said.

The new policy also caps the amount board members can get reimbursed for local meals to $39 for dinner, and lesser amounts for breakfast and lunch, and limits the number of local work-related meals for which a board member may be reimbursed to two per week.

Board member Verjeana Jacobs (Dist. 5) motioned to amend the policy to allow board members to carry over unused amounts of their expense accounts to be donated to school-based programs in the following fiscal year, pending approval from the board.

Prior to Jacobs’ amendment, the revised policy stated that unspent funds could be donated to schools or school programs at the end of June, when schools are not in session, Jacobs said.

“So what happens is funds left over from this year will go over to next year, and that will give board members an opportunity to present to the board different activities or events or things that they feel are good for schools, and make recommendations for funds to go there,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs’ amendment was approved unanimously.

>>> Read more Gazette

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Md. General Assembly Considers Taking PGCPS School Board Credit Cards

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Maryland state legislators will consider a bill to strip government-issued, taxpayer-funded credit cards from members of the Prince George’s County School Board.

The bill, already formally drafted and submitted, would take effect July 1, 2016. The legislation’s supporters referenced recent reports by the News-4 I-Team, which detailed controversial credit card expenses by board members, while lobbying on behalf of the bill.

The proposed legislation, authored by Prince George’s County State Delegate Alonzo Washington, would require school board members instead pay their future expenses upfront, then seek reimbursement through vouchers. The use of credit cards would be prohibited.

An October review of Prince George’s County School Board credit card expenses by the I-Team revealed some members of the board purchased dozens of meals at local restaurants with their cards, totaling several thousand dollars over the course of a year. Those meals included steak, seafood and desserts and were purchased at local restaurants within minutes of offices and members’ homes.

>>> Read more NBC4 Team

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Expose corruption

Expose corruption

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An Excellent Editorial in the Los Angeles Times about the iPad Debacle

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Karin Klein of the Los Angeles Times wrote an excellent editorial about the disastrous decision to spend $1.3 billion on iPads for every student and staff member of the LA schools. It should be a cautionary tale for every school district that is about to invest hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in new technology.

The District’s Inspector General investigated the purchase and found nothing wrong. But he never looked at the emails that passed between district officials and the winning vendors (Apple and Pearson). The school board never released the results of that investigation. Now a federal grand jury has been impaneled to look at the evidence of possible wrong-doing, and that is a very good thing. The grand jury will also examined the botched computer system that cost millions of dollars and never performed as it was supposed to.

She writes:

When the school board reached a severance agreement with Deasy in October, it issued a statement that board members do “not believe that the superintendent engaged in any ethical violations or unlawful acts” in regard to the emails. That statement was completely inappropriate considering that Bramlett’s investigation into the emails was still underway—as it is now. The board has no authority to direct the inspector general’s investigations—but it can hire and fire the person heading the staff office, and controls his office’s budget. (In fact, just a week or so before the board made its statement, Bramlett’s office pleaded for more funding, according to a KPCC report.) The statement could be seen as pressuring the inspector general not to find wrongdoing; in any case, board members are in no position to prejudge the matter.

For that matter, none of us are in that position. The emails could be perfectly legal and appropriate—or not. It’s unknown whether even a federal grand jury will be able to ferret out the full picture, since many earlier emails were apparently deleted and aren’t available. And if it uncovers ethical rather than legal problems, the public might never know; the grand jury is looking for evidence of crime. Federal crime at that. This might not be the best mechanism for examining the iPad purchase. But the investigation at least ensures that an independent authority is examining the matter, unimpeded by internal politics or pressures.

Yes, the public has a right to know and a right to expect that public officials will act in the best interests of students. As for the huge purchases for technology, we in New York have learned that even the sharpest and most ethical city officials have trouble monitoring the technology purchases. The largest financial scandal in the city’s historyoccurred recently, when a company called Citytime won an IT contract for $63 million in 1998 which ballooned into a $600 million payout; the principals went to jail. The school system’s ARIS project, launched in 2007, was supposed to aggregate data on the city’s 1.1 million students; it was recently dumped because so few teachers or parents used it, at a loss of $95 million. There were other instances where consultants bilked the city, in large part because no one supervised what they were doing.

Is there a moral to the story? Choose your own. Mine is that these multimillion dollar technology purchases must be carefully monitored, from beginning to end, to be sure that the public interest is protected and served. The problem is that many school districts lack the expertise to know whether they are getting what they paid for, or getting a pig in a poke. When even New York City and Los Angeles can be misled, think how much easier it will be to pick the pockets of mid-size and smaller districts.

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State delegate proposes bill calling for school board to ban credit cards.

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Delegate Alonzo Washingon (D-22)

For the second year in a row, a delegate from Prince George’s County will propose a bill to ban the use of taxpayer-funded credit cards by the county’s Board of Education, and the legislation has the support of at least one board member.

“I think there’s some members who used their credit card in an appropriate manner,” said Board of Education member Edward Burroughs, who does not have a board-issued credit card. “I think there’s some members in the past who have not used it in an appropriate manner. Taxpayer dollars are so important it’s best for no one to have a card.”

Delegate Alonzo Washingon (D-22) said he proposed the bill last year for transparency and accountability reasons, and he decided to propose it again this year.

Earlier this year, The Sentinel reported the Board’s vice chair, Carolyn Boston, and school board member Verjeana Jacobs used their credit cards for the most meals of any board members between January 2013 and May 2014. Boston purchased 114 meals totaling more than $5,500 and Jacobs purchased 87 meals totaling more than $6,200, according to credit card statements and expense reports.

Boston declined to comment and Jacobs did not respond to requests for comment.

“Unless there’s a policy change within the school system this year, I plan on going full steam ahead,” Washington said. “A lot of my constituents are alarmed by the reports. They’d like to see a change happen based on reports that came out. They’re absolutely right.”

Board Chairman Segun Eubanks said the school system conduct an internal review of its policy following reports by The Sentinel and other media outlets, but the school board does not have plans to ban credit cards completely. Details of the policy changes will not become public until January, Eubanks said, and the changes will mainly clarify certain things, like maximum daily meal allowances and frequency of meals.

Additionally, Eubanks also said the school board is not considering an external audit of the reimbursement policy because “there is no evidence that board members have misused the reimbursement policy with use of their credit cards.”

Read more >>> Prince George’s County Sentinel. 

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Time for Change in PGCPS is Now.

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There are only a few moments more defining in the destiny of a county than the ones that are currently underway in Prince George’s County District system.

It has always been our view that the ultimate priority of democracy in a developed County like PG is minimizing the cost of changing leaders.

In light of the current circumstances, which include lack of competency and/or college education with regard to the majority of Board members, the fine citizens of PG Co. must invoke change and stop /reelecting non-qualified criminals for various elected positions. Ms. Verjeana Jacobs has been chairing the incompetent Board for years, despite no improvement on the part of the Board.  The malefactor trait possibly runs in her family, as her husband seems to be a criminal (see our earlier reports here). Mr. Baker is infinitely more qualified to oversee PGCPS than any elected Board member. We say give Mr. Baker all of the oversight he wants and discard the elected Board of Education. Real change will have real impact on student achievement and we support the retention of our best teachers.

But the “my way or the highway” approach adopted by Ms. Verjeana Jacobs (BOE Chair) has no root in a real democracy and will not be tolerated.

We have suffered reversals in individual and collective aspirations. But our form of response has mostly been crippled by a sense of restraint.

In the bigger picture, our realization of the potential of the county’s school system serves as the rightful incentive to stick together and bring proper changes within our county school systems, whether for ourselves or the benefit our children and their children.

The top guns of our politics have the most capacity to achieve our expectations. After months of divisive posturing concerning the flawed superintendent search by the Board of Education, Ms. Verjeana Jacobs finally admitted to inadequacy.  There would be no concern if her admission only reflected on her own incompetence; instead, her admission reflects on the Board of Education, which is our conduit for change.  The Board of Education, which is an extension of members like Verjeana Jacobs, has defaced the entire county with as much hate mongering as the motley of campaign posters she helped distribute in 2012. At that time in November 2012, Ms.Verjeana Jacobs and her husband traveled the loving terrain of PG County spreading hate propaganda against her only opponent on November 4 2012 Election.

When asked about the no bid contracts in millions of dollars issued illegally by the same Board which she chaired, she denied the charges. However, documentation shows otherwise.   When asked if she was willing to work with the opposition in addressing the issues, she rolled her eyes and left the venue.

No one has a right to seek to lead our county unless he or she sees the county as larger than his or her aspirations. And times of tense transition and public anxiety are the best moment for genuine leadership to show its face.  County stability requires that we ensure closure of contest and open the door to collaboration.

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The things that our officials say, where they go, and what they do at key moments like this are what distinguish great leaders from opportunists.

Our elected Senators, Delegates, Board members et al must closet the garbs of contest and try on the apparel of leadership. They must become couriers of a patriotic and inclusive message that changes are necessary. The reform agenda must be enacted without any fear or favor. An inspector General position must be considered and the Unions must be checked in order to ensure accountability on their part. 

Above all, leaders must be willing and ready to confess their endorsement of persons that time have proven to be inadequate, whether by their actions or inaction.

We must reject this scenario for the sake of precedent and make proper change right away.

Sadly, even a blind man can see that it truly is time for a change in the educational system in PG County. How long must the children pay the price for such an ineffective educational process? If not now, when? How many more children will be lost while the grownups play money, politics and power games? It is truly time for a change!!

The integrity and peace of Prince George’s County should be placed on a pedestal above the power ambitions of any leader or group of leaders. That means the PGCPS Board members must make sacrifices and corroborate with the County Executive Rushen Baker in order to create a bright future for our kids.

Of course, holding together a stable county in a critical time of transition is a responsibility that cannot be entirely left at the hands of a few leaders; however vigil they will be or prove to be. Members of the General Assembly, including our beloved Governor O’Malley, are key residual players.

While they are key guarantors of order, they play the best role when they are rendered unnecessary.

As articulated before in the previous blog, our courts and media must continue to play their rightful roles.

Diverse players from the non-state sectors must raise their voices.

Our pursuit of democracy is grounded in the dream of a prosperous future here in PG County. We appoint rulers in exchange for their promise to contest inadequacy in conformity with the goal to make our community wealthier and happier. We mustn’t allow the public mismanagement to result in the denigration of our communities, as manifested in high foreclosure rates, death of innocent students in the last few weeks and corruption involving recruitment of unqualified candidates to be superintendent.

Let us all demand of each other that our conduct and utterance reinforce the image of PG County as a land of stability and promise.  Let’s arrive together achieve a competitive destination for private capital where schools are designed to have a great future and are at peace.

The Prince George’s County reform efforts especially for schools will only show a maturing County if we collectively minimize the social cost.

 Sincerely

Reform Sasscer Movement for Prince George’s County

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