UPPER MARLBORO – Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks touted education reform and county beautification as top priorities for her administration at the first community conversation on Jan. 30, marking the first of many similar events planned throughout her term.
Held at Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School, the event featured speeches from Alsobrooks and local government leaders from 16 departments in front of an audience packed with county residents and council members.
In addition to introducing members of the administration, Alsobrooks laid out plans to improve the county’s public school system and address a growing litter problem that has drawn strong public concern.
“We heard you loud and clear,” Alsobrooks said throughout the night.
Alsobrooks said the education of children in Prince George’s County is “the priority of our administration.” This includes expanding access to Pre-K, improving school facilities and increasing programs that support college and career opportunities.
Prince George’s County Public Schools is the second largest Maryland. It is home to more than 207 schools and about 34,000 students. The county is also home to 4,840 students in half-day and full-day Pre-K program, according to Dr. Monica Goldson, Interim Chief Executive Officer for PGCPS.
But PGPD cannot accommodate every student in the county, Goldson said. The school system also has an $8 billion renovation plan that has to be implemented, according to a 2014 report by an external organization hired by the county that looked at infrastructure and facilities.
To counter this, Alsobrooks plans to use money from lockbox funding, which ensures money from the state’s six casinos goes toward funding education, to improve upon the issues of the report. The MGM National Harbor, located in Oxon Hill, is currently the highest grossing casino in Maryland, bringing in about $60 million per month in gaming revenue.
“What that says to me is that there is no reason…we should beg at all to have the money that we need to educate our children,” Alsobrooks said. “That money belongs to our children.”
The administration also has plans to reduce class sizes and expand access to Pre-K using the Kirwan Commission, which uses a formula to determine how much money goes to each school district in the state. Maryland has $325 million that will be divided between the districts, and the administration has been making the case that their district needs a larger percentage of that funding.
“I am pleased that we have a county executive who understands the importance of beginning to chip away at what that priority…looks like,” Goldson said. “It’s what we need in order to expand and increase the property values in our county.”
Alsobrooks’ plan for county beautification also received approval from the audience, causing a few to give a standing ovation. The administration plans to launch a comprehensive litter education program, which will improve trash collection using cameras to catch illegal dumpers.
According to residents, these services are desperately needed.
“I think this county really does need to be cleaned up,” said Sally Hoffman, who was in attendance. “It gives a very bad impression to people when they come riding down any road and seeing the litter and lack of care about it.”
Hoffman said she recently asked the county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation for a crew to clean up Livingston Road in Fort Washington. She has not received a reply for that request, so she and her husband personally go out and clean up “quite a bit” of the area.
“Within a block and a half, I got a huge garbage bag and a half of trash,” Hoffman said. “I don’t think he and I should be doing it. So I appreciate (Alsobrooks) bringing this out.”
Alsobrooks is also proposing legislation for more transparency on the upkeep of state roads by publishing state schedules for upholding maintenance on state medians and litter pickup.
Her administration’s priorities are “centered around Prince George’s pride,” and she wants it to live up to her high expectations.
“This is the crown jewel of Maryland,” she said. “This is such a wonderful time in the history of Prince George’s County.”