Tag Archives: Prince George’s County

PGCPS School Board Millenials

Published on Jul 12, 2017The Prince George’s Board of Education has three of the youngest school board members in Maryland. Learn who influenced them to run for office & what they consider important issues in the educational system. Patricia Villone reports.

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Former Staffer Accused Maryland Judge of Years of Sexual Harassment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She said she began seeing a therapist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Former Staffer Accused Maryland Judge of Years of Sexual Harassment | NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Former-Staffer-Accuses-Maryland-Judge-Years-Sexual-Harassment-415520063.html?_osource=SocialFlowTwt_DCBrand#ixzz4alf07mzQ
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County schools see all-time high grad rates – is work of fiction and Misrepresentation.

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According to keen observers of the Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) system, the recent all-time high grad rates presented to the media – is work of fiction and misrepresentation. The reasons why PGCPS is cooking up numbers are considered many but can be tailored down to the following

  • A bill pending in Maryland legislature to repeal HB1107 (See PG 402-17),
  • the system is facing several lawsuits due misconduct by the executives,
  • PGCPS corruption is spreading to other states (See here) and (here)
  • Some Board members themselves in Prince George’s County might be preparing to run for a future political office.
  • County Executive plans to run for Maryland wide state office.
  • CEO Kevin Maxwell wants to have another new contract.
  • The Democratic party regime in Maryland wants to show off good numbers.

Real improvements in a school system such as  Prince George’s County take time and hard work. Miraculous sudden improvements in student achievement as shown below in the article  is likely the result of outright fraud or a rigged evaluation system designed to produce desired results. Several people who have been following this agrees with this assessment. (See facebook screen shots below).

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UPPER MARLBORO — For the fourth consecutive year, Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) is celebrating increased graduation rates.

On Tuesday, the Maryland State Department of Education released its annual Maryland Report Card detailing graduation and drop out rates for the 2015-2016 school year, and PGCPS has a lot to celebrate, said its Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell.

“I’m very, very proud of the work that we’re doing,” he said. “We came in 2013 after the 2013 scores were at 74.1 and we said, ‘we should be able to do better than this.’”

For 2016, the county school system reached an all-time high in graduation rates in the new scaling system that was introduced in 2010. The state of Maryland also set a new record.

Prince George’s seniors are now graduating at a rate of 81.44 percent – a 2.69 percentage point increase over the 2014-2015 school year, which saw a 78.75 percent rate. The statewide average now sits at 87.61 percent, up more than half a percentage point from last year.

Montgomery County took home a 0.47 percent increase, while Anne Arundel had 1 percent. In Virginia, Fairfax County saw a 0.2 percentage point loss as Arlington County saw a 1.8 percentage point decrease, though both Virginia systems remain in the 90 percents for graduation, according to Virginia Department of Education data.

Moreover, since 2010, the state has seen a six-point increase in graduation rates, while Prince George’s County saw a 5.26 increase.

“The new data is great news for Maryland, as the high school diploma is the important first step of a successful journey,” said State Superintendent Karen Salmon. “We continue to strengthen our standards and our classrooms to better prepare each student for employment or additional education.”

Maxwell also attributed PGCPS’ success to a number of administrative changes on how schools address struggling students.

“We did a number of things and we’ve just been consistently working on getting better. We developed the early warning system and we went to the public education leadership program at Harvard to refine that work,” Maxwell said.

The early warning system helps PGCPS target struggling students and their needs, Maxwell said. That also helps the individual schools get the support needed to reach their goals.

The school system also initiated a credit recovery system to allow students who have fallen behind recover credit for their missed work.

Segun Eubanks, chair of the county’s board of education, said those changes have resulted in evident progress as PGCPS saw  “promising” increases across the board – at their specialty, vocational and neighborhood schools alike.

Some of the biggest increases were at Surrattsville High School, which saw an increase of 10.61 percent, Tall Oaks Vocational, which saw an increase of 17.56 percent, and Gwynn Park and Suitland high schools, which both increased by around seven percentage points.SurratGrad_01.jpgGraduation rates for Caucasian students increased by 1.4 points, to 80.3 percent. African American students’ rates rose 4.16 points, to 85.4, while Asian students rose 2.45 to 91.7 percent and American Indian or Alaskan Native students rose 13.26 points to nearly 72 percent, after a significant drop for that cohort in 2015.

Hispanic/Latino graduation rates, however, dropped by 0.64 percentage points.

Special education students saw a 6.36-point increase in their rates over 2015, bringing their rate to approximately 67.4 percent. Students on free and reduced meals also saw increases, as their graduation rate rose by two points to 77.49 percent.

“We talk about every student, in every school, everyday,” Eubanks said. “This is a focus on saying, ‘this is about the system, this is about all kids.’ All means all, so that’s the kind of mentality we’re trying to have.”

County Executive Rushern Baker, III said he is ecstatic over the increase and pointed to Maxwell’s leadership as a turning point for the school system.

“These are the things that I asked Dr. Maxwell to do when we hired him, and that is to come here and turn around our graduation rate,” he said. “And the reason it’s so important is that we know if our young people come out of high school with at least a high school diploma, that puts them on a path where they can get a job, where they can go on to community college for a four-year degree. But their chances are so much better.”

Other notable increases were at Potomac, with a 5.2 percentage point increase after a 13-point increase in 2015 over 2014’s 57.8 percent graduation rate. Bowie rose roughly 4.7 percentage points at the same time Friendly rose 4.5 points, Charles H. Flowers rose 4.8, and High Point rose 3.3. Rates at the now-closed Forestville rose by nearly four points.

“They show our residents of the county how well the public school system is doing preparing our children to graduate, and I think it gives greater confident of our folks to put their children into our public school system,” Baker said.

This year also showed an increase in schools that now rest in the 90percent zone for high school graduations. Bowie High broke into the 90 range, as did Charles H. Flowers, Gwynn Park and Surrattsville. DuVal increased from 91.6 to 92.3 while Eleanor Roosevelt moved from 90.45 to 91.47 and Frederick Douglass increased from 90.3 to almost 92 percent.

Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. is just outside 90 with an 89.17 percent graduation rate.

“Those percentages, they actually represent kids who are graduating that might not have been graduating a few years ago and that’s a credit to the work we’re been doing and it gives them opportunities they wouldn’t be having,” Maxwell.

Eubanks said, though he is proud of the accomplishments the school system has made in gradation rates, he also noted the school system is not just graduating students for the sake of moving them along. PGCPS is also proud of the quality of its graduates and their accomplishments, he said.

“We’re graduating with higher standards,” Eubanks said. “We’re keeping up with preparedness for people for jobs and a career. So if we’re graduating at higher percentages and they’re ready, that’s the way we want to go.”

Despite gains, both Maxwell and Eubanks said the school system still has “a lot of work to do.”

The Hispanic graduation rate decreased while students with limited English proficiency (LEP) also decreased by 4 percentage points from 53.61 percent in 2015 to 49.6 in 2016. That also reflects a consistent decrease since 2013 when the LEP graduation rate stood at 63 percent.

A few schools within PGCPS also saw some significant decreases in their graduation rates. Croom Vocational saw a more than seven-point dip. Northwestern Evening School saw a five-point decrease and the Community-Based Classrooms experienced a nearly 13-percentage-point fall.

In addition Fairmont Heights, Parkdale, Central and Baldensburg all saw 1 and 2 percent decreases.

And while an increasing number of PGCPS high schools are reaching 90 percent and above rates, schools like High Point and Northwestern are still in the 60 percent range.

Maxwell said his goal is still to catch up to the state average, though he admitted brining up PGCPS’ rates would increase the overall state percentage as well.

“We’re really proud of where we are, but we know we still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “We’re one of the larger districts in the state, so when we get better, the whole state gets better. That’s true, but we can still close that gap and we’re going to continue to pursue that.”

Via Prince George’s County Sentinel

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Pr. George’s County Politician Busted For drunken driving – requests jury trial

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Prince George’s County Council member Mel Franklin is known to have an alcohol problem due to his high level connections with the Attorney General Offices of Maryland.  

Prince George’s County Council member Mel Franklin has requested a jury trial on drunken driving and other related traffic charges connected to a November 2016 crash that wrecked a government car and left two injured. Even though the trial is yet to be set, he is expected to walk scoot free because of the state of corruption in Prince George’s County. “It will be a surprise if an example is set out of him because of the people he knows and interacts with on daily basis” said one concerned parent.

Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro) was scheduled to appear in Prince George’s County District Court on Monday, but his request moves the case to the county’s circuit court, where he will receive a trial date.

His lawyer appeared at Monday’s hearing briefly to inform the judge of the request for a jury trial. She declined to comment after the hearing.

Franklin was charged with driving under the influence on Nov. 21, 2016 after he rear-ended a car stopped at a traffic light around Pennsylvania Avenue and Dower House Road at high speed while drunk. A police report obtained by The Washington Post showed Franklin’s blood alcohol concentration measured 0.10 after a breath test, above the minimum concentration of 0.08 required to support a DUI charge in Maryland.

Franklin is accused of crashing into a Mercedes stopped at a traffic light at Route 4 and Dower House Road near Forestville last week Nov. 21. According to Maryland State Police, Franklin was found outside the vehicle some distance from the crash site.

 Dwyer said her group’s concerns come not only as a result of the November crash, but also reports that Franklin had been involved in other crashes involving county cars.

The Washington Post reported last year that Franklin was involved in two previous crashes while driving county-issued vehicles: one in October of 2012 that resulted in $1,500 in damage and a second in December of the same year in which the county vehicle was totaled.

In that crash which was not reported to the public, Franklin reportedly slammed into a Yukon GMC. The Post reported that crash was the result of distracted driving and that Franklin was changing the radio station in the vehicle at the time of the crash. Franklin was not cited in the incident.

Franklin has been stripped of his access to county vehicles.

 It’s not the first time a county council member has had that perk taken away. In 2011, then-Prince George’s County council member Leslie Johnson was forced to surrender her county car after she pleaded guilty to conspiracy and evidence tampering in a federal case tied to the corruption case surrounding her husband, former County Executive Jack Johnson.

In 2012, Council member Karen Toles, facing a charge of reckless driving, offered to surrender her access to county vehicles until she completed a “driver improvement course.” Instead, the council acted to bar her access to county vehicles according to a council statement “for her safety and the safety of others.”

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An SUV allegedly driven by Prince George’s Council member Mel Franklin in a Nov. 21 collision in which he has been charged with DUI. (Image via Jaklitsch Law Group)

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The car allegedly hit from the rear at a traffic light by Prince George’s Council member Mel Franklin in a Nov. 21, 2016 collision. (Image via Jaklitsch Law Group)

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Happy Valentine’s

Red_Bow_with_Heart_Decor_PNG_Clipart_Picture.pngSaint Valentine’s Day (Italian: San Valentino, Latin: Valentinus), commonly known as Valentine’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is observed on February 14 each year. It is celebrated in many countries around the world, although it remains a working day in most of them.

The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. By the 15th century, it had evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.

Here are beautiful happy hug day images for 2017. Enjoy the day!happy-valentines-day-3

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Reform Sasscer Movement for Prince George’s County wishes everyone a Happy Valentine’s day.  

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This suburb spends more than $110,000 a year on cars for its lawmakers

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The Prince George’s County Council votes during a meeting in council chambers of the County Administrative Building on Dec. 6, 2016, in Upper Marlboro, Md. At the meeting, the council authorized creation of a Vehicle Use Review Board. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

The Prince George’s County government spends more than $110,000 a year on automobile allowances and take-home cars for county council officials, a perk that goes far beyond what is offered in neighboring jurisdictions.

All nine council members and the council’s two top administrators are either assigned a government vehicle or paid a yearly car allowance.

Between 2011 and 2016, council members driving take-home cars were involved in at least 15 collisions, including a major crash Nov. 21 that resulted in the arrest of council member Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro) on drunken-driving charges.

They also received at least 107 speeding, missed-toll and parking citations, according to public records provided to The Washington Post.

Forty-six of those tickets went to council member Karen R. Toles (D-Suitland), a popular lawmaker who drew attention in 2012 after she was ticketed for driving 105 mph on the Capital Beltway.

“No one is ever pleased to be on the receiving end of a ticket,” Toles said in an email. “I am making every effort to reduce further infractions.”

Most council members declined to discuss details of the car program or defended the perk as an important way for lawmakers to get around and stay visible in the 485-square-mile suburban jurisdiction. A few said more accountability is needed.

Community activists say the public is largely unaware of how the privileges work and would be concerned if they had more information.

“It is a benefit that most workers do not get,” said Joseph Kitchen Jr., who lives in the county and is president of Maryland Young Democrats. “For a government that continues to complain about being strapped for cash, they have clearly not done enough to eliminate a lot of fat in the budget.”

A lucrative benefit

Take-home cars and allowances have been a perk for top Prince George’s County Council members since at least 2001. County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) — who does not oversee the council — rescinded the benefit for all but one of his senior staff members in 2011 as part of a broader attempt to clean up the county government.

In 2016, take-home cars and allowances for council officials cost the government more than $111,000, according to records obtained by The Washington Post through a Maryland Public Information Act request. That amount does not include payments associated with Franklin’s collision, when he totaled a county-owned SUV for the second time in four years.

Last year, lawmakers with take-home cars pumped an average of $1,400 in discounted gas from county fueling stations. The lowest gas bill, for a fuel-efficient Ford Fusion used by council member Mary A. Lehman (D-Laurel), District 1, was $633.87. The highest was $2,709.73, for Toles’s SUV.

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Council member Mary A. Lehman, left, speaks with council member Karen R. Toles during a Prince George’s County Board meeting on Jan. 27. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

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The other three council members, along with administrator Robert Williams Jr. and auditor David Van Dyke, received car allowances of $9,688 each.

Elected officials in the District, Arlington, Montgomery and Fairfax use their personal vehicles for work and have limited access to the government fleet for specific out-of-area or business trips.

Last year, Montgomery’s nine council members were reimbursed an average of $2,469 for work-related travel — about a quarter of the cost of a take-home vehicle or car allowance in Prince George’s.

Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors spent $8,000 on reimbursements. Most went to compensate staff members working in district offices for their trips to the main government complex. Supervisors themselves cannot be reimbursed for travel within the county. They claimed $554 for trips elsewhere in the state.

Prince George’s Council Chairman Derrick Leon Davis (D-Mitchellville) said in a statement that the county’s vehicle program “provides a key tool extending an elected official’s ability to serve their community and represent residents as board members on state and regional bodies as well.”

Davis, who declined to answer questions, noted that the council voted to create a Vehicle Use Review Boardafter Franklin’s arrest that is supposed to examine the car program and recommend changes by June 30.

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The vehicle allowance rose this year to $10,315, based on the estimated cost of gas, maintenance, insurance and yearly payments for a used vehicle of the type assigned in the take-home car program. Officials get just under $400 every two weeks, which is considered taxable income.

Council member Deni Taveras (D-Adelphi) called the allowance “a real help,” noting that she and her colleagues are paid about $11,000 less than their counterparts in more expensive Montgomery.

Van Dyke, who as county auditor analyzes financial and budgetary data and tracks council spending, said the car allowance “absolutely ends up being higher than my actual [commuting] expenses … It’s not a matter of need, it’s a perk.”

Williams, the council’s chief administrative officer, did not respond to a request for comment.

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Board members Deni Taveras, left, and Mel Franklin during a Prince George’s County Council meeting. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Although council members with take-home cars are supposed to use them for only limited personal trips, they are not required to log mileage or account for where they traveled, said council spokeswoman Karen Campbell. Several lawmakers said they drive their take-home vehicles on their own time, as well.

“There are not clear-enough restrictions on personal use,” said Lehman, who said she consulted with former council members and staff and concluded it was fine to drive her county-owned car on days when she had no council business.

She said some council members have tried to maintain logs to document nonbusiness trips but that it quickly became an overwhelming task.

For Franklin, “personal use” meant commuting and “stopping to eat after or before work or after or before events,” he said in a written statement. “If traveling out of the county solely for personal reasons, I always used a personal vehicle.”

Council member Obie Patterson (D-Fort Washington) said he tries to be disciplined in using his county car strictly for official business. He said he also has two personal cars.

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Council member Todd M. Turner (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Council member Todd M. Turner (D-Bowie) said he chose a take-home car when he joined the council in 2015 so his teenage daughter could drive his personal vehicle. Now that she is away at college, he said, he plans to get the car allowance instead.

Council members Andrea C. Harrison (D-Springdale) and Toles did not respond to questions about personal use of their take-home vehicles.

Baker declined to take a position on the council’s policy, saying it was not his role to police the legislative branch.

When he came into office, he eliminated the car allowance for members of his administration. He cut the number of executive branch officials with take-home car privileges to his chief administrative officer and 31 others who travel extensively for work — mostly prosecutors and investigators in the state’s attorney’s office and the heads of the homeland security, corrections and public works agencies.

Crashes and citations

Five current council members have been involved in collisions while driving county cars since 2011, the records provided to The Post show. Lehman and Toles each had two, Harrison had three, and Franklin and Patterson each had four. In at least eight of the 15, council members were at fault.

The most serious incidents involved Franklin, who rear-ended drivers in three separate crashes that resulted in injuries. He has declined repeated requests to discuss the incidents.

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This SUV driven by Prince George’s Council member Mel Franklin in the Nov. 21 rear-end collision. (The Washington Post)

Franklin banged up the front of a county SUV in October 2012 andtotaled the same vehicle that December. The county paid more than $61,000 to purchase a new SUV and cover repairs on the other vehicles and liability claims. Neither crash was reported to the public when it occurred.

After the second collision, Franklin stopped using a government car. He received a vehicle allowance until May 2016, when he again was given a county vehicle.

Following the Nov. 21 crash, which sent two people from the other car to the hospital, Franklin was suspended from the take-home car program and denied a vehicle allowance Davis said in a statement at the time that Franklin may eventually be able to get reimbursed for business travel, depending on “his legal status and the status of his driving privileges.”

Franklin, whose blood alcohol level measured 0.10, is scheduled to appear Monday in Prince George’s County District Court, according to online records. He wrote in a report to the county that he was on his way home from a restaurant the night of the crash and was tired.

“But I thought I was fine to drive home,” he wrote. “I briefly dozed off and failed to stop at the intersection with Dower House Road and struck one vehicle from behind.”

During the years he drove a county car, Franklin racked up 20 citations — more than any colleague except Toles. Lehman had 17 citations, Harrison had 15, Patterson had seven and Turner had two, according to the records provided.

“Any speeding camera, parking or toll camera tickets were unintentional mistakes and were personally paid for,” Franklin said.

Patterson said he is often surprised by the location of speed cameras in his district, in the southern part of the county. “I probably just got caught,” he said.

Lehman said in an email that she had been ticketed fewer than three times a year over a six-year period, in some cases for toll violations because her E-ZPass wasn’t properly activated.

“I’m trying to be more careful, but I don’t believe it’s a significant problem for anyone except me!” she wrote.

Harrison did not respond to questions about the tickets she received.

Toles’s 46 citations were for parking illegally, speeding or ignoring tollbooths or red lights.

A speed camera in Berwyn Heights caught her driving 57 mph in a 40 mph zone on March 28, 2011, three months after she took office. That July, Toles was ticketed for leaving her car in a no-parking zone on Main Street in Upper Marlboro, near a popular lunch spot for county government employees and about 400 yards from a government garage where council members can park free.

Toles lost her take-home car privileges for several months after she was pulled over in July 2012 for driving 105 mph on the Beltway. She told police that she was applying makeup and answering emails on her phone but did not notice that she was making unsafe lane changes or speeding.

The council member was granted judgment before probation, apologized and completed a driver improvement course, which enabled her to avoid points on her license. By spring 2013, she was back in a government car. Again, the citations began to roll in.

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Council member Karen Toles, second from right, poses with Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.) during Edwards’s recent Senate campaign. To the left are council members Mel Franklin and Obie Patterson (partially hidden). At the far right is council member Andrea Harrison. (Arelis Hernandez/The Washington Post)

In her statement, Toles said she accumulated the tickets while “executing my duties as a public servant.” She noted that she had paid all the fines, which totaled $4,400, including $1,200 in late fees.

Records also show that Toles pumped $2,709.73 in county-provided fuel in 2016, more than double the 1,170 average gas bill of her colleagues. The council member, who is taking night classes at the University of Baltimore Law School, did not respond to questions about why she used so much gas or whether she drove the county SUV to get to her classes.

Toles’s citations were not serious enough to affect her driver’s license or record. But the volume concerns longtime critics. Community activist Bruce Branch, who ran against Toles in 2014, called her driving record an “egregious violation of public trust.”

For Toles supporters like Elsie Jacobs, however, the citations are not a big deal. “I don’t have an issue with it, because if they have a ticket, they got to pay it,” said Jacobs, a local leader in Suitland. “We have other things to worry about.”

Possibility of change

The council voted Dec. 6 to establish a three-person panel to study the county’s car-use and allowance policy and records.

On Wednesday, Davis announced the board appointments: business executive Jacqueline L. Brown, community activist Samuel A. Epps IV and engineer Enor R. Williams Jr. In a news release, he said the board would begin its work in early March.

The board could recommend suspending or revoking the driving privileges of any council member or changing the council’s vehicle policies.

But some council members have suggested it may be time for a change.

“There are some aspects of car use that really are not as clear as they could be,” Lehman said. “Along with the issue of should council members have county cars, the vehicle-use board should look at the finer points” of personal use and requirements for documenting travel.

Patterson said that although most council members have not committed major infractions with county cars, the risk of losing the public’s trust on this and other perks may outweigh the benefit to lawmakers.

“I think even before this started popping up, we should’ve been looking at this and all of our policies,” Patterson said. “We need to be more aggressive in our oversight responsibilities.”

Via Washington Post

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County council takes no position, board of education opposes 1107 repeal

Annapolis-State-House-MD-flagUPPER MARLBORO – Both the board of education and the county council weighed in on the state’s efforts to change the structure of the Prince George’s County Board of Education yet again.

The Prince George’s House Delegation is considering a bill, PG 402-17, which would repeal major provisions of HB 1107, passed by the General Assembly in 2013. The repeal would return the body to an all-elected board and create provisions for special elections – at county expense – to fill vacant board seats. Under current law, the county executive has the power to fill vacant board seats, as well as to appoint four members to the board and choose the chief executive officer (CEO) for Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS). The repeal would give the board the power to choose who heads PGCPS.

During a Feb. 2 work session, the board of education voted 9-2 to accept the board’s policy committee’s recommendation to oppose the bill. Edward Burroughs, III and Raheela Ahmed, both elected members, cast the no votes.

“The power really lies in the hands of three individuals, and it’s not fair. It’s not fair to those individuals, and it’s not fair for our system to have this form of governance that is so determined by three individuals,” Ahmed said of the current structure. “If one of the key players changes then that can cause some imbalance in our system, and that’s not fair for our students and our schools either.”

Demetria Tobias, associate general counsel for PGCPS, said the policy committee recommended the board oppose the bill for several reasons. She said it is premature, because HB 1107 already included provisions for reporting and evaluating progress under the new governance structure to allow the General Assembly to revisit the changes in the 2018 session. Tobias also said the impression was that the bill was partially in response to the issues the school system has faced over the last year, such as the loss of Head Start funding and child abuse allegations. She said those problems are not symptoms of the school system’s governance structure being broken.

“It is unfair, in our view, and inaccurate, to blame those issues, those crises, those problems that we are actually working on, on the new governance structure,” Tobias said.

Burroughs disagreed. He said the board’s inability to hold school leadership accountable for failing to share information about the warnings sent by the federal government about the Head Start program resulted in the loss of the funds.

“If I have the ability to select my own leadership, those individuals would have been held accountable by this board. The county executive refused to hold the leadership accountable, and as a result we lost the funds,” Burroughs said.

He also said the fact that the board of education needs a two-thirds vote to override the CEO’s decisions was a cause of rising class sizes and administrative costs within PGCPS.

His board colleague Beverly Anderson also criticized that two-thirds vote policy, but said the structure of the governing body isn’t as important as the people that make it up.

“I think 1107, almost any structure is okay, but it’s the attitudes and the implementations and the transparency of workers and what my peer Ms. (Lupi) Grady said – it’s bringing our best to the situation,” Anderson said. “And I think that our best has not yet been brought, but this is not to speak against 1107 but rather to speak to the need to refine 1107.”

Board member Sonya Williams agreed that refining HB 1107 would be preferable, and said the board should take a more active role in doing that work because they understand best the needs of the school system.

“I think in order for us to be proactive, I think we need to take the time between now and next session to determine what we want the House Bill 1107 to look like,” she said. “No one sitting outside this boardroom knows the details we review, approve, conversate on. So, no one can tell us what this House bill should look like. No one can tell us what the governance of this board should look like.”

On Jan. 31, in a 6-1 vote, the county council approved a letter to the House and Senate delegations stating the council takes no position on 402-17. Councilwoman Andrea Harrison was the dissenter, and Councilmembers Mel Franklin and Karen Toles were absent. The council arrived at its position while meeting as the Rules and General Assembly committee last week, but members held individual, and strong, opinions in spite of the consensus.

A major point of dissent was the statement in the draft letter that the board’s composition prior to the enacting of HB 1107 was problematic.

“I disagree with the statement that there were ‘inherent problems with the former board’s composition.’ I don’t know where that’s coming from. That’s how the county board of education looked for years and years and years before it was temporarily replaced with a nine-member appointed board,” said Councilwoman Mary Lehman.

Lehman said the issue is with the board’s effectiveness, not its composition. Her colleague Deni Taveras disagreed, saying the prior system did not require the board members to have high-level degrees in the educational field.

“I do recall that there were a lot of problems with the fact that we were basically the laughing stock of the region in terms of the qualifications of the board that was in place,” she said. “I think that when we’re dealing with $2 billion worth of money, I think that people should expect some level of qualification, that they’re experts in their field.”

Harrison disagreed and said it was “snobbish, uppity, and judgmental” to say someone is not qualified for the board of education because of a lack of a degree. Lehman said more concerning to her was the fact that some board members did not have children in the school system they were overseeing.

In the end, the council agreed to some minor wording changes in their letter to the state. The letter as amended says, “We believe that a complete repeal would require some further discussion on the type of replacement or alternative. Simply returning the governance structure back to how it was prior to HB 1107 may not likely be the best approach to furthering systemic edification in (an) effort to increase student achievement.”

The letter also indicates the council supports another bill before the delegation, PG 416-17, which would create a task force to study school system governance. The council, according to its letter, feels that “any further changes to the board will require some type of intensive study of best practices.”

The council did request the timeline for the task force’s report be moved up, from Oct. 1, 2018 to Dec. 31, 2017, to coincide with the reporting required under HB 1107.

Although the letter has been sent, the council’s discussions with the delegation will continue. Council Chair Derrick Davis urged his colleagues to be precise in those conversations.

“When you talk to your friends on the Maryland state legislature, that you separate the things that we agreed upon from the things that you may feel as a specific and individual member,” he told his colleagues.

via sentinel

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