UPPER MARLBORO—Parents, citizens and school administrators gathered at the Sasscer Administration Building for a public hearing to let the Board of Education know what they think needs to be included in the fiscal 2016 budget for Prince George’s County Public Schools, but only six people signed up to speak. Five parents and one student signed […]
UPPER MARLBORO—Parents, citizens and school administrators gathered at the Sasscer Administration Building for a public hearing to let the Board of Education know what they think needs to be included in the fiscal 2016 budget for Prince George’s County Public Schools, but only six people signed up to speak.
Five parents and one student signed up to speak on issues such as radiation control, improvement of education for international students, refurbishing schools that need maintenance and the reduction of standardized testing for students.
Board Chairman Segun Eubanks said all of the issues are important and the Board will consider all testimony as it works to finalize the school system’s budget.
“This is important for our community, but more significantly, for our students,” Eubanks said. “Hearing from the public, after all, it is your tax dollars that support our work every day. It is essential to us and our budget.”
When the Board has passed its recommended budget, the budget will then go to County Executive Rushern Baker, who will include it in his recommended budget to the County Council for approval.
Dr. Tehani Collazo, senior director of schools and communication at Casa de Maryland, spoke first about the needs of students enrolled in the English Speakers of Other Languages program.
The ESOL student population is much larger than the 800 students who will be served by international schools in Prince George’s County, Collazo said, and the county needs to find a way to meet the needs of ESOL students without just using international schools.
Collazo said only 30 percent of ESOL students go to college after graduation, while 80 percent of ESOL students are going to college after graduating in New York. Collazo proposed the county implement New York’s model.
“The New York City students have similar economic and cultural background as our students,” Collazo said. “We are implementing a proven model. The two international schools could be incubation sites for new ideas and implementing proven practices across the county.”
Collazo said the model used by New York City includes joint professional development sessions and the formation of learning communities between teachers at the international schools in the county and ESOL teachers.
Tommy Makila, whose son attends Accokeek Academy, said he would like to lessen the standardized testing used around the county. Focusing on specialty programs like physical education, arts and foreign languages will help children grow up and be successful, Makila said.
“Even President (Barack) Obama and the secretary of education have joined the forum of critics saying the amount of standardized testing is out of control,” Makila said. “Now that pretty much everyone is seeing the light on this testing craze, it is time to take action and actually reduce the amount of testing we have.”
Testing costs the county money, Makila said, so if the county cuts down on standardized testing, then it could save money while dedicating more time to actual instruction for students.
“I want you to keep in mind what Albert Einstein said about education,” Makila said. “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
County resident Thea Scorato asked the Board to fund the installment and use of radiation measurement equipment for the schools. Scorato said Montgomery County takes microwave radiation measurements and the county’s air quality manager has a meter that reads radiation levels.
“Dr. (Kevin) Maxwell wrote me last week stating that, because of budget constraints, the county did not do microwave radiation readings on their school. At Greenbelt Elementary, I found microwave readings to be especially high—especially in the cafeteria,” Scorato said. “It’s really important that you gather this exposure data. If the cell towers go up, they don’t have those readings.”
It should not cost more than a few hundred dollars, Scorato said, to purchase outside consultation or buy a reader for the county to use individually to take the radiation levels on school property. Scorato said parents and staff should know the radiation levels of the schools their children attend.
Helenia Walker, who has two children attending Samuel Chase Elementary, said she wants her children’s school to be refurbished or she will have her children attend another school.
Walker said the children do not have money to go on basic field trips and most of the children in the schools are on reduced or free lunch. When the county reconstructed other schools, Walker said, Samuel Chase did not receive any attention and remains in bad shape.
“Now the new budget is out and Samuel Chase is nowhere in there. It is a pretty good performing school. I just want to know what is going on. We’ve got two swings on a playground for a whole school of elementary school students. That is not fair to them,” Walker said. “There is broken concrete on the playground area where they play basketball. The hoops are too high for their age. But the school performs very well.”
If the school is not going to be redone, Walker said, then the students should be moved to other schools.
“I am forced to allow my children to go there, and I would like to get an answer as to why,” Walker said.