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UPPER MARLBORO — Board of Education (BOE) Member Edward Burroughs III, who represents District 8 in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), was announced as the vice chair on Jan. 10. In his new position, he intends to ensure that the BOE begins working on behalf of the students again.
“I want the Board to work on behalf of our students and our system again. That’s really my top goal,” he said. “I want the Board to be very focused on issues our students and our system are facing and start working on those.”
Burroughs was nominated by members of the BOE to serve as the new vice president after Carolyn Boston ended her term after this past election. Angela Alsobrooks accepted the BOE’s recommendation on Thursday.
Elected to serve on the school board back in 2010, Burroughs made history as the youngest person elected to the BOE and the youngest person in office in Maryland at the time. He began as a student board member from 2008 to 2009 when he attended Crossland High School.
“Any of the board members would have been acceptable for vice chair. We had a process where we asked for nominations of people who wanted to serve and out of that process Mr. Burroughs was one of the candidates and he received the most votes from the board members,” said BOE Chair Alvin Thornton.
“He is the most senior board member in terms of years of service, so he has an extensive background in terms of service to the board, not only as a student but also as an elected board member. He has been on the board for a decade, so that’s very impressive. He brings that kind of background to the board, and as chair of the board I certainly look forward to working with him.”
Being the longest serving members of the current BOE, Burroughs said he had seen the breakdown the county’s school board over the last five years where the board has served more so in its own interests and in the interest of making the county executive look good instead of improving the system.
One of the first changes he plans to make as vice chair is the BOE’s policy on standing committees. Under the current model, there are seven committees which board members are assigned to, but not much really comes out of it, Burroughs said.
He hopes to change these committees to more focused work groups that include not only board members but experts and members of the community so that these stakeholders can be part of the solution and restore the community’s confidence in the BOE.
“There has been some confusion about public education in the county lately,” Thornton said. “We want to remove as much confusion as possible.”
The “school-to-prison pipeline” is one of the issues Burroughs wants to address within these focus groups to address those students who are habitually truant and often expelled and even arrested. Another issue is financial literacy. As the majority of students are at or below the poverty line, they graduate with no education around finance and teaching the basics will help to break the cycle.
“The Board has to be honest again, transparent again and the Board has to work on behalf of the students and our system and not on behalf of the politicians,” he said.
“So I think when we put those resources into the classroom, I think when we address our most vulnerable students, our students with special needs, our students who are habitually suspended, expelled or even arrested, when we start teaching financial literacy to our students, we become good faith stewards of our system. That helps build a relationship with the community.”
“We have, like any board of education, we have the 25th largest school system in the nation, we have to deal with funding issues like all school systems in Maryland, equity and adequacy of funding, and helping to educate the public about Kirwan funding, and helping to educate the public about the significance of that and how that affects our ability to deliver educational services that the people expect,” Thornton said.
“The second thing is to make sure that there is accountability in the administration in educational policies, that the staff who works for the public, the CEO in this case…making sure those people are accountable and responsive that they use those resources that we do get, although they are inadequate, but whatever we get to make sure those resources are used maximally for the children and those resources are closest to the children. I’m sure Mr. Burroughs and I agree on that and I’m sure the Board agrees on that. Prince George’s is probably, not probably, it is, the state’s most diverse school district.”
Burroughs said he is looking forward to working with the BOE this year in part because there are a lot of millennials on the Board who are graduates of PGCPS.
In addition to himself, Raaheela Ahmed, David Murray and Joshua Thomas graduated from Eleanor Roosevelt and Paul Monteiro went to High Point High School. Burroughs would like to give back to the teachers who made it possible for them to be in this position.
Millennials have led a lot of recent changes to the BOE with the partnership and help of the older board members, and that is something Burroughs said he would like to see continue.
“I am still thankful to the system and all of our teachers, guidance counselors and administrators who helped position to be where we are today and it is with that in mind that we make some of these changes,” Burroughs said. “Some of the changes we want to make are not going to be easy, but they will be worthwhile.”