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SEABROOK – After a turbulent year in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), voters decided to make changes to the Prince George’s County Board of Education (BOE), electing out two members and filling in a vacated seat on Nov. 6.
The three new faces coming into the BOE – Belinda Queen, Joshua M. Thomas and Pamela Boozer-Strother- ran on platforms of transparency and working together with teachers to run the county’s education system better.
The election results come after the BOE agreed to pay former PGCPS Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell a $790,000 severance package following his tenure.
One of the stunning results was Queen, a former member of the Democratic Central Committee, edging out with 53.5 percent of the vote to defeat Vice Chair Carolyn Maria Boston for the District 6 seat.
Queen ran on a campaign of improving trade opportunities for students and providing more job options for students post-high school graduation.
“I was very pleased with the people because I believe they really voted for somebody they know will stand up and speak out for them,” Queen said.
Queen, a Northwestern High School alum, attempted to go to college but decided to leave and pursue business school.
She worked for Verizon for 28 years and was able to retire early. Due to her success, Queen said voters were motivated to provide more resources on options like trade schools for students so they would be more successful long term.
“We have to realized everyone has different situations in life,” Queen said. “And so, we have to be very diverse. Some people can afford to go to college right away…So, this is very important to me.”
In the District 2 race, Thomas, a recruitment manager at Teach for America, ended Lupi Quinteros-Grady’s re-election bid, taking over 56 percent of the vote. His margin of victory was a sharp contrast to his primary results, where he finished in second place with 34 percent.
“Of course, we wanted to win and knew we had a shot, but it would take a full day-and-a-half for everything to sync in that we won,” Thomas said. “The first feeling was just incredible joy; I never pored this much effort in anything in my life so to work so hard and to see it play out the way it did, it was just an amazing feeling.”
Thomas, an Eleanor Roosevelt High School graduate, is a former middle school teacher and will be the second educator on the Board once sworn in. He has a “strong” relationship with the Prince Georges County Educators’ Association (PGCEA) and admits that they planned to hold him accountable for decisions that do not provide teachers with more assistance moving forward.
“I ran with the message that I am the only teacher running for this position; we have nine school board members, and only one was a teacher currently and that made no sense,” Thomas said. “We need more teachers to make the decisions that affect the schools, and as a former teacher, I feel that I have a good understanding of the issues and challenges they and their students face daily so I feel that I can become an important voice at the table.”
Boozer-Strother, a local business owner and community activist, will be taking over the District 3 seat after earning a double-digit victory over former student board member Juwan Blocker in a run-off election. Known for going to PTA and board meetings often, she hopes she can carry over her the community’s direct concerns directly to the BOE.
“I was really honored and excited that the voters of the general election expressed the same trust in my skills and leadership as the voters during the primary,” Boozer-Strother said. “I can now get to work on the Board on behalf of our children, families, educators and staff.”
With four or more Capital Improvement Plan projects set to take place in her district, Boozer-Strother said she hopes to be a part of overseeing timelines and ensure the proper funding is set to combat overcrowded classroom concerns.
“Funding and available land are critical concerns for new buildings that will need to be addressed at the county and state level,” said Boozer-Strother. “The maintenance backlog is a major issue, and I am glad to see it elevated during this leadership transition. I will work hard to help us make all school buildings healthy and safe places to learn and teach.”
All three elected board members voiced approval of Interim CEO Monica E. Goldson and her initiatives on improving the conditions on the aging school buildings. The goal for all three members is to care out the majority of their platforms in the first year but be able to work together with the current BOE members to solve problems with PGCPS.
The only incumbent board member who won their respective race was District 9 member Sonya Williams. Known for her monthly community coffee discussions in Brandywine, Williams won with 65 percent of the vote, edging out Accokeek Academy teacher Arun Puracken.