Tag Archives: Students

PGCPS CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell meets with Md. State Board of Education to discuss grade-fixing audit

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Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell

BALTIMORE – The head of Prince George’s County Public Schools faced the Maryland State Board of Education Tuesday, the first time since a troubling state audit showed grade-fixing and policy violations allowed students to graduate without meeting state requirements.

At the hearing, state board members pressed Dr. Kevin Maxwell on the root causes of the findings and whether there has been a shift in culture in the school system.

“It seems like something is going on here,” said Maryland State Board of Education President Andrew Smarick. “I don’t want to go too far, but it seems like some signal, something is happening to suggest to schools, to teachers, to someone, ‘We gotta graduate these students irrespective of some of these rules we have.’ And that is what I have been grappling with here.”

Smarick noted some of the most outstanding audit findings — grade changes that could not be verified, late changes to student transcripts and students graduating despite more than 50 unexcused absences.

In response to questions about the driving forces behind the audit findings, Maxwell spoke about staff confusion on grade change forms, lack of automation, high staff turnover and people who were not clear on policies. He emphasized the audit found no intimidation or fraud by him or his staff.

After the hearing, FOX 5 asked him again about the underlying causes of the problems uncovered.

“The audit, I think, gave us a very good roadmap to the fact that there are some issues that need clarification, there are some procedures that need to be updated, there is a lot of training and there are some compliance issues,” Maxwell said.

At one point, a school board member asked whether emphasis on graduation rates by the state and federal government was to blame, but Maxwell did not agree that outside pressure was a factor.

Maxwell and his staff outlined their plan to correct what was found by the audit and the ways the school district is tightening up policies, putting more oversight in place and retraining staff.

Janna Parker, a Prince George’s County community member who attended the meeting, said the plan is a good first step, but feels what she did not see from Maxwell was accountability at the top.

“I think when you base any plan on not fully accepting accountability or placing the accountability on who and where it needs to be, it’s flawed plan,” Parker said.

When asked about Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent statement that some of what is going on in Prince George’s County Public Schools is criminal, Maxwell said he did not agree with the governor.

Smarick said the state board is now going to decide how and if the state will intervene in the school system and what is legally possible. He said there should be decisions made by the next meeting in February.

There could be another audit, and while there has been no public talk of the state taking over Prince George’s County Public Schools, it is something that’s happened in other states.

After the meeting on Tuesday, the state released graduation rates for districts across the state. Prince George’s County had a record high of 82.7 percent for 2017.

via Fox 5DC  >>>Read more >>>Washington Post

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4 Empty PGCPS School Buses Catch Fire in Parking Lot

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Fire officials say four school buses caught fire in a parking lot, causing a quarter of a million dollars in damage.

The Prince George’s County Fire Department says the fire was reported about 9 a.m. Sunday in the Brandywine area at a school bus parking on Short Cut Road. Four buses were on fire.

The fire was extinguished and no one was injured. Investigators believe the fire originated in one of the buses and then spread.

The cause remains under investigation.

Damages are estimated at $250,000.

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Prince George’s Co. bus drivers worried office infested with mold

IMG_9153PRINCE GEORGE’S CO., MD (WUSA9) – Bus drivers with Prince George’s County Public Schools say the office they check in and out of every day is making them sick. Many are worried the building is infested with mold.

“It’s unbearable. When you go in there you just smell some kind of weird odor”, said driver Kirt Williams. “And then after that your throats starts scratching and your nose feels kinda funny. And with me, my eyes get real watery.”

The building is a temporary trailer, but Driver Tujuana Bigelow said it has been there for about twenty years old.

“It’s hard- our foreman is in such bad shape being in that building all day long he was in the emergency room last night,” she said. “So I mean we can’t continue to work in this environment.

One hundred and eight bus drivers go in and out of the building each day.

Officials with the PGCPS said the building had been tested earlier this week to confirm whether there is mold.

Prince George’s County School Board member Edward Burroughs III said he’s been waiting at the site all week for testing crews- that didn’t show up.

“Frankly, I’m livid,” he said. “And if it has been tested Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday where are the results? We need to make those results public.”

The building was tested Wednesday afternoon.

Susan Nelson is among others who are now wearing face masks when they go into work.

“It feels like your throat is stopping up for one thing, you nose gets discomfort, very much so, and your eyes water,” she said.

via WUSA9

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The big problem with early childhood education

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In this Washington post, which appeared on Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” blog, Nancy Carlsson-Paige explains that the biggest problem in early childhood education today is the erosion of time for play.

Carlsson-Paige is an emeritus professor at Lesley College, where she taught teachers of early childhood. She explains in this post that the changes in the recent past have damaged children and their classrooms.

She said, in a recent speech:

For the last 15 years or so, our education system has been dominated by standards and tests, by the gathering of endless amounts of data collected to prove that teachers are doing their job and kids are learning. But these hyper requirements have oppressed teachers and drained the creativity and joy from learning for students. Unfortunately, this misguided approach to education has now reached down to our youngest children.

In kindergartens and pre-K classrooms around the country we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in play. There are fewer activity centers in classrooms and much less child choice, as well as less arts and music. At the same time, teacher directed instruction has greatly increased, along with more scripted curriculum and paper and pencil tasks.

Play is very important in child development, she says:

Children all over the world play. They all know how to play, and no one has to teach them how. Any time we see a human activity that is wired into the brain and accomplished by all children worldwide, we know it is critical to human development.

So much is learned through play in the early years that play has been called the engine of development. Children learn concepts through play; they learn to cope and make sense of life experiences; and, they develop critical human capacities such as problem solving, imagination, self regulation and original thinking.

She notes that early childhood educators were never at the table when government officials, think tanks, testing companies, and standards writers decided that play didn’t matter. It does matter, and strangely enough, we need to fight to defend the right of children to play.

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PGCPS system looks for answers to Mt. Rainier enrollment woes

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Thomas Stone Elementary is nearly 200 students over capacity. The school is slotted to hold 574 students, but currently enrolls 746. That puts the elementary school at nearly 130 percent utilization.

MOUNT RAINIER – A major problem faces one small city in Prince George’s County as it tries to tackle the tale of two elementary schools.

Mount Rainier, in Northern Prince George’s County, is in the middle of a problem that is not uncommon for the northern area: overcrowding. However, while one elementary school, Thomas Stone Elementary, struggles with finding room to place more students, across town Mount Rainier Elementary is dealing with an issue that is quite the opposite. Mount Rainier Elementary is in the midst of an enrollment decline.

According to number provided by the school system, Thomas Stone Elementary is nearly 200 students over capacity. The school is slotted to hold 574 students, but currently enrolls 746. That puts the elementary school at nearly 130 percent utilization. In contrast, Mount Rainier Elementary can hold 406 students but currently has 315 students, making the school 78 percent utilized.

Rhianna McCarter, a pupil accounting and school boundaries staffer, spoke with a group of about 30 parents with the help of translator to inform the families of both elementary schools about the options Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) has to balance enrollment in the area.

“The last time (Mount Rainier Elementary) had a boundary change was in 2003 and that was when Cottage City was reassigned to Rodgers Heights (Elementary). Thomas Stone in 2006 had a boundary change,” McCarter said.

Elizabeth Chaisson, a planner with PGCPS, said part of the reason for the urgent need to address the overcrowding issue is the lack of boundary changes over the past several years. She said PGCPS has hesitated to make changes because residents and political leaders alike recoil at the mention of boundary changes.

“People get very upset. They feel, ‘I moved to this neighborhood. This is my school. Don’t change it,’” Chaisson said. “The bottom line is we’re here tonight to talk about boundaries and people don’t like boundary changes, so we’re here to get your feedback about what the best change is for your community.”

The school system has slotted Thomas Stone for renovation in phase two of its 20-year capital improvements plan, but that is approximately six years away from initial discussions of funding, and both Chaisson and McCarter said a solution is needed in the meantime.

Previously PGCPS held a meeting on several different enrollment issues in the northern area of the county at Bladensburg High School on Oct. 28. Approximately five residents from Mount Rainier attended that meeting and requested a follow up.

As a possible interim measure, McCarter said, PGCPS has opened up the possibility of families volunteering to transfer from Thomas Stone to Mount Rainier, though it has not been effective.

“As we look toward possible solutions, one of them is the idea of getting students to volunteer to transfer,” she said. “Right now there is fewer than 20 students that have taken advantage of that opportunity. So, that hasn’t really been an effective solution so far.”

However, McCarter said the school system is currently looking at three different options to solve the enrollment issues at the two schools, but also said PGCPS is open to, and really wants input and ideas from the community.

The three ideas presented to those gathered all dealt with ways to increase numbers at Mount Rainier and decrease those at Thomas Stone and include: 1. creating a major boundary change to reroute the eastern-most portion of the city (the Kaywood Gardens Apartments and surrounding areas), areas of Brentwood essentially between the midsection of the town and Route 1 and all of North Brentwood to Mount Rainier Elementary, and moving all sixth grade students to their boundary middle school, 2. moving pre-k and Early Start classes to Mount Rainier, or 3. making a minor boundary adjustment to reroute Kaywood Gardens to Mount Rainer, which McCarter said would have “no material impact on enrollment at either school.”

All of the homes in Mount Rainier, Brentwood and North Brentwood are within the “walk zone” for Mount Rainier Elementary, meaning they are within 1.5 miles and transportation would not be provided for the students to get to school.

At the end of the meeting, parents and community members were given a feedback sheet to rank the three options and provide their ideas for more options. Several residents asked for another follow-up meeting held at Mount Rainier Elementary.

McCarter said PGCPS would try to schedule another meeting before Kevin Maxwell, chief executive officer of PGCPS, presents his recommendation to the school board on Jan. 19. A public hearing for the changes is anticipated on Feb. 2, 2017.

via prince George’s county sentinel

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Mount Rainier Elementary can hold 406 students but currently has 315 students, making the school 78 percent utilized. The school is less than a mile from Thomas Stone Elementary.

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PGCPS to no longer cover cost of AP exam for all students.

– Students in Prince George’s County are outraged after learning they will have to start paying for their Advanced Placement exams.

The tests used to be paid for by Prince George’s County Public Schools. But now, due to a budget decision plan, the test will no longer be paid for.

It costs around $90 a student for each advanced placement tests and Prince George’s County Public Schools says it cannot afford the half-million dollars it spends every year on paying for the tests, so it’s pulling the plug on the funding. There will be exceptions, but school board member and Parkdale High School senior Juwan Blocker says the timing is terrible.

“We are just now finding out about this, and students – they’ve just now signed up for AP classes planning on taking these tests at the end of this year. So for you to now inform students and parents to pay $93 if they’re not on free or reduced lunch – that’s ridiculous,” said Blocker.

“We are certainly sensitive to students in extreme financial circumstances so we will continue to pay for those students who qualify for free and reduced meals and we will also pay for students who get a three, a four or a five on the exam,” said Raven Hill, a spokesperson for Prince George’s County Public Schools.

Some students say they are not giving up without a fight. There is an online petition that already has 1,500 signatures. Students say they’re going to pack the Board of Education meeting on October 13 to have their voices heard.

via Fox 5 DC

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PGCPS makes international news with horrible school lunches.

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FORT WASHINGTON, Md. – Students attending Prince George’s County Public Schools are complaining about some disgusting discoveries in the school cafeteria. Complaints about moldy and undercooked food were issued to the school district through Twitter directly from these students who say they have not heard a response from the school system.

But the outrage on social media was more than evident from these students who say someone will end up getting sick from these school lunches.

“Criminals are getting better food than we are,” said Tamera Perry, a senior student at Friendly High School in Fort Washington.

Photo Prince George’s County students claim school lunches are undercooked, contain mold
It’s not prison food, but these students allege their school lunches are not up to par.

“You’re giving us something that’s not healthy, that can possibly cause us to die and it’s just unacceptable,” the high school student told us.

A school lunch menu for Friday, Sept. 11 at Friendly included “Rojo Fiesta Pizza.” But Perry said, “What was in it was nowhere near salsa. That wasn’t pizza at all. It was just disgusting.”

Some students may not share the taste in ingredients or choices made by Prince George’s County Public Schools. But they said burger buns with mold and undercooked meat are nothing new to their lunch trays.

“I’ve gotten lunch where my mandarin orange has mold on it,” said Perry. “There have been incidents where the lunch lady had to collect our fruit cup because they were expired. Our milk has been expired. Open up apple juice cartons and it’s been green. It’s just disgusting.”

One picture showed hollowed out chicken nuggets. For these students, their lunches come at a price too high for many.

“They raised our lunches to $3,” said Perry. “We’re paying $3 for something that’s not edible, not organic and it’s not healthy … For some of the population of students, that’s their only lunch, so you’re putting them in a sticky situation where they can either continue to starve or they eat it because that’s the only thing they have to eat.”

FOX 5 reached out to Prince George’s County Public Schools on Monday. The school district was observing a holiday and there were no classes and their offices were closed.

But a school spokesperson wrote in a statement, “PGCPS cannot confirm the origin of the photo circulating on social media, but encourages anyone who has concerns regarding meals to call 301-952-6580. Providing healthy and nutritious meals for all students is a contributing factor to high academic achievement and the district prides itself on doing so for over 129,000 students each day.”

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