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UPPER MARLBORO — Teachers, staff and students convened at the last Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Board of Education meeting of the year to urge the board to take action regarding bullying from teachers and administration members and to address the poor working conditions of transportation staff on Nov. 28.
The bulk of the meeting was spent hearing comments from those that were attendance followed by the approval of various budget items.
Jerome Phillips, an 11th grader at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, got up to tell the Board of Education (BOE) of the detrimental effects he has seen bad teachers have on students at his school.
Phillips said that these teachers at Roosevelt have been allowed to fail students without evaluation, degrade students without consequence, over-complicate assignments out of spite and set students up for failure.
It is considered normal when a student is suspended for minor infractions while a teacher’s actions and shortcoming are hardly given any attention at all.
“These teachers are those given too much power and too much responsibility,” Phillips said. “Students are often left defenseless to those teachers. It’s gotten to the point where in order to succeed some students are often expected to be forced to behave with more dignity than the adults in the classroom.”
He said that teachers like these are a liability to the school system and stifle the growth of students.
In contrast, Prince George’s County Educators Association (PGCEA) President Theresa Mitchell Dudley explained how much of an issue the same type of bullying is, but from the perspective of the teachers.
“When you’re treated badly it’s transferable,” she said. “Right now we’re feeling awful, and we’re feeling awful that we’re not treated like professionals.”
Dudley said that everything Phillips said about teachers, she could interject about administrators who are allowed to treat teachers cruelly without any consequences and ask teachers to do an unreasonable amount of work. Her solution was for the more accountability when it comes to the way teachers are treated and the development a bullying policy for staff members.
In addition to the ongoing strife of teachers and students that was brought up during the meeting, a group of bus drivers, led by 10-year PGCPS bus driver Roland Roy, brought to the board their grievances with their working conditions.
Roy told the BOE how they were short on drivers because many had left due to pay issues. Because of this, the buses are always running late to pick up kids, and the new bus tracking app does not work properly, leaving parents to complain.
Their bus trailers are in bad condition, such bad condition that the Goddard Bus Lot where Roy reported to was infested with black mold. They were then moved to the Robert Goddard Elementary School lot and have had to stay there for three years.
Older, less able-bodied bus drivers are made to wash their own buses, and there are no proper restroom facilities in many of the lots.
“Drivers are not being paid what they deserve, that’s why they are not answering the radio and transportation needs help covering runs, and the kids are suffering from it,” Roy said. “Buses are running 30 minutes, sometimes an hour late picking up kids in the a.m. and p.m. Taxpaying parents do not deserve this kind of service.”
After taking comments from the public, the Board of Education approved proclamations to recognize Maryland Emancipation Day on Nov. 1, American Education Week to celebrate public education to take place from Nov. 12 to 16, Native American History Month throughout the month of November and Computer Science Education Week from Dec. 3 to 9 to encourage students to take interest in computer science.
They approved final payments for various school repairs such as the air conditioning in Allenwood Elementary School, fire alarm replacements in Bowie High School, Laurel High School and High Point High School and roof replacements for Gwynn Park High School and Benjamin Tasker Middle School.
Finally, they approved a request for the third renewal of the EXCEL Academy Public Charter School.
However, three board members, Raheela Ahmed, David Murray and Edward Burroughs, abstained from voting as they felt that there was not enough information provided on the student achievement data, justification for a geographic preference area and clarification on the amount of funding the school would get for its Free and Reduced Meal Service (FARMS) students to go forward with the request.
Board Chair Segun Eubanks also took the time at the beginning of the meeting to thank Lupi Quinteros-Grady, Carolyn Boston and Dinora Hernandez, who will be departing from the board, for their service during their terms and allowed them to give parting speeches.
The three of them will be replaced by Joshua Thomas, Belinda Queen and Pamela Boozer-Strother as they will begin their term on Tuesday, Dec. 4.