SPRINGDALE – Prince George’s County residents overwhelmingly showed its support for Interim CEO Monica Goldson during a public hearing as the search for the new head of Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) began on May 13.
However, some residents cautioned the search committee that attended the hearing at Charles H. Flowers High School that the new CEO must have experience to carry the school system forward.
Filling the role for CEO requires the county to complete a wide search and interview multiple candidates according to the state and officials are confident it will get completed in less than two months before Goldson’s current contract expires on June 30.
“I have to say about this process, I am glad it is getting started,” County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said. “And after this process is done, I hope we can move forward with the selection of our permanent CEO; we have had a wonderful year with the leadership we have seen and I am looking forward to more.”
According to Alsobrooks, the search requirement was a law enacted prior to her coming into office and because Goldson, who has been at the helm of the county school system with an interim tag since July 23, 2019, was not appointed as a permanent successor to former CEO Kevin Maxwell, the county must go through the state process.
Goldson will be considered for the role as part of the search, the county executive said.
Alsobrooks joined two representatives from Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates (HYA), the search firm hired by the county to lead the nationwide search for candidates, and the three-member search committee assigned by the state of Maryland to listen to the recommendations and concerns of county residents.
The three-member committee includes Accokeek Academy PTSA President Hallie Williams, education advocate of over 40-years Oretha Bridgewater-Simms and Gen. William Sumpter. Once HYA selects six-to-seven candidates, the state’s search committee will go through and select three that Alsobrooks will from to make her nomination. Her final pick for CEO must then get approval by the state before getting started in the role.
The auditorium was filled with community members who voiced their support in keeping Goldson at the role. They told the search committee that she has been easier to work with that previous school system leaders and her work in the interim role should be taken in account.
One-by-one, residents applauded Goldson’s work in going to Annapolis to fight for funding while not “embarrassing” the county as CEOs have done in the past while in the role.
“She knows and understands every aspect of the school district,” State Sen. Joanne Benson said. “She has worked in the instructional and operations side; she has good relations with the Board of Education, parents, students, teachers, labor unions and elected officials.”
Several teachers, including Prince George’s County Education Association President Theresa Mitchell Dudley, spoke on her willingness to work with the teacher’s union and fight in better teacher pay.
“I have worked all over the world so I am speaking in terms of administrators that I have experienced in Ghana and Abu Dhabi, the Middle East and other countries in Africa, she is the best,” Monique Scott Hurd, a 27-year educator, said. “She is always there and be there while students come in during the day… I cannot think of any reason she couldn’t be chosen.”
“I just want to join the love fest for Dr. Goldson,” Joe Murchison, executive director of Side by Side, said on Goldson’s responsiveness. “She was having a listening session for two hours and sat there graciously, listening and taking notes and repeated everything at the end and by the next morning, I had an email in my inbox on what I talked to her about.”
William “B.J.” Page, 37, recalled butting heads with Goldson during her time working at Frederick Douglass High School. However, her willingness to deal with him as a disgruntled student and seeing her work in a school system that gets a negative reputation makes her the best candidate for the job, he said.
“As a person who is not her buddy buddy is telling you that she is the right person for the job,” Page said.
Out of the countless number of residents, community leaders and heads of organizations who spoke during the public hearing, less than 10 did not give an opinion on Goldson’s job performance or keeping her on as the permanent CEO. Instead, they provided job requirements that the next CEO should pay attention to moving forward.
Several parents mentioned the need for more programs that support a trade school option for high school students that do not want to go to college, receiving vocal approval from Board of Education member Belinda Queen who was in the audience. Others asked for continued support for charter schools and immersion programs.
Overall attention to detail is what concerned Jumanne Smith, 48, when he spoke in front of Alsobrooks and the search committee officials. His wife works in the school system but the father of two said he sends his children to Good Counsel High School in Montgomery County. Information Smith receives from his significant other about the hiring process of teachers as well as the treatment of special education children makes him “not trust” PGCPS, he said.
“All we are hearing today is all these people say ‘raw-raw’ but behind closes doors, when they go to their principal meetings; those kinds of stuff, that is what is really happening,” Smith said. “I would have to hear (from his wife) that there is change and there is accountability in the executive branch of the administration that cares about what is happening.”
Another parent, Rachell West of Bowie, spoke about the county’s lack of response in helping her with the care of her four-year old son Marcus, who is of special needs. She has to travel to Howard County in order to get Marcus help for his speech disorder known as childhood apraxia of speech and asked that the committee make sure that the new CEO not ignore special education and special need children.
“The resources that we have in Prince George’s County, in terms of children with disabilities, being mild or severe, are limited,” West said, holding back tears. “So I am standing here right now for my son because I’m his voice right now because he cannot speak the way he needs to speak. We just need more resources and we need more schools that deal with voice disabilities in this county.”
Overall, residents asked the committee to make the hire a local one or a person that is invested in making Prince George’s County a priority. One parent mentioned that the CEO cannot treat the school system that a stepping stone to a better opportunity. All the participation by parents and community members was important details for her and the search committee to consider, Alsobrooks said.
“I have not seen anything like this before,” Alsobrooks said. “The engagement was phenomenal; this was the largest amount of people to come out to a hearing for us that we have ever had… This was a great process, it was transparent, the selection committee was here to hear their concerns and desires so it was a good night.”
More feedback will be taken by residents who were not able to attend the public hearing online. According to Alsobrooks, a link will be placed on the county executive’s webpage and will be heavy promoted on social media once it is available.