CLINTON — When Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Interim CEO Monica Goldson came into her position in July of last year, she knew she had to do something different.
The school system was aching for change, a change that started with the fourth day and has been “moving fast ever since.”
And on that fourth day, she made the first significant change of her term. After reorganizing the central offices of PGCPS, she was able to redirect $2.4 million back to the people who needed it the most: the students.
From there, the momentum kept on going as the school year got underway.
“It is our responsibility that we provide one basic promise,” she said. “And that basic promise is that every graduate of Prince George’s County Public Schools are adequately prepared for the workforce, higher education and beyond.”
During the 2019 State of the School System Luncheon, Goldson highlighted this and other accomplishments the school system has made this school year, improvements that are still needed and announced the new Adopt-A-School Program on Wednesday, March 6.
The third annual luncheon took place at the Colony South Hotel and Conference Center. A number of state and county leaders attended such as Prince George’s County Councilmembers Dannielle Glaros, Calvin Hawkins and Jolene Ivey, Board of Education Members Alvin Thornton, Edward Burroughs and Belinda Queen, as well as Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski and Prince George’s County Educators Association (PGCEA) President Theresa Mitchell Dudley.
Following lunch and a presentation of colors by the Joint Base Andrews Honor Guard speeches were given by Prince George’s Business Roundtable President and CEO Jim Estepp and County Council Chair Todd Turner.
In his speech, Turner emphasized the immense support that the county council has for PGCPS and how all of its members “want to be supportive of Monica Goldson and the Board of Education.”
Most of the county budget goes towards the school system and, according to Turner, the funds allocated to the PGCPS yearly budget has increased by $133 million.
Additionally, the Maryland General Assembly just announced its first down payment on the Kirwan Commission that will bring in an extra billion dollars to fund things like extended pre-k and teacher compensation for the next two years.
With all of the money going into the school system, Turner also emphasized the need for accountability for the use of funds and following the last performance audit of the school system, and he said PGCPS has been “responsive to the findings and recommendations.”
“Our school system has challenges, but it also has a great opportunity before us, and we are striving, and we want to be supportive to CEO Goldson, Dr. Thornton, members of the board and our teachers, our administrators and our students in our public school system,” he said.
In addition to redirecting funds from central offices at the beginning of the school year, Goldson highlighted many accomplishments made throughout PGCPS up to this point.
The school system began a Career and Technical Education pre-apprenticeship program where students can start taking courses and earning money for trades beginning in their junior year.
They have expanded dual enrollment opportunities where about 1,000 students are taking college courses at the University of Maryland and Bowie State University. Additionally, adjunct professors will be sent to schools in the southern half of the county for students who cannot get to the universities as easily.
The Board of Education recently passed its fiscal year 2020 requested budget that includes increased teacher compensation, reduced K-3 classroom sizes, infrastructure upgrades, mental health support, Pre-K expansion, and financial literacy.
As far as infrastructure goes, Goldson said the school system is working with the Maryland General Assembly on a Public-Private Partnership that will expand school construction opportunities that will give PGCPS $18 million to allow the school system to build 18 schools in seven years.
“There is no other time. Now is here,” Goldson said. “There is a sense of urgency…We have to work every day to provide an environment that we value and that they value, so they know that we value them. We have a sense of urgency.”
While listing the accomplishments of the 2018-2019 school year, Goldson did not shy away from the problems. She acknowledged the ongoing issues with the late arrival of buses which she attributed to the school system not having the money to pay bus drivers which led to a lack of retention, Goldson said they are working to address the problem.
Goldson also acknowledged scandals the school system has been involved in such as a media specialist who called a black family a racial slur in a parking lot. Because of this, Goldson said every employee will be trained on implicit bias in July.
The Interim CEO brought up the recent issues with waste, fraud and abuse where hundreds of thousands of dollars were found missing from PGCPS funds. Goldson said that although the problem did not start under her administration, they have “set the process in motion so that it won’t happen again.”
Finally, Goldson announced the new Adopt-A-School Program where public schools can be “adopted” by a business, community or interfaith partner for the 2019-2020 school year to enhance their educational experiences, financial support and volunteerism.
Goldson came up with the idea for the program back in November when Soles4Souls came to District Heights Elementary School to distribute shoes to the students, she said. When a student asked Goldson afterward when the nonprofit was coming back, she knew PGCPS had to do more.
Soles4Souls, a Tennessee-based nonprofit, strives to create sustainable jobs and provides relief through the distribution of shoes and clothing around the world with events such as that held at District Heights Elementary School.
Through Adopt-A-School, Goldson said, businesses will serve as mentors to students and provide support for the schools such as tutoring and funding as well as participate in one service activity in the school.