UPPER MARLBORO — The Prince George’s County Board of Education (BOE) unanimously approved a proposal to expand foreign language immersion programs to middle schools in accordance with the boundary and grade structure improvements for the school year, heard some of the public’s concerns and discussed upcoming legislative priorities in its latest meeting held at the Sasscer Administration Building on Nov. 21.
Board members in attendance were Chairman Alvin Thornton, Raaheela Ahmed, Pamela Boozer-Strother, David Murray, Joshau Thomas, Sonya Williams, Belinda Queen, K. Alexander Wallace, Paul Monteiro, Sandra Shephard and Joshua Omolola.
Largo High School senior Lydia Sampson formally welcomed participants and guests to the BOE meeting with a few opening remarks.
The board opened the meeting by showing a video entitled “PGCPS At A Glance” to update the audience on some of the philanthropic projects within in the school system, including a teacher supply giveaway at Charles H. Flowers High School and an interactive shoe giveaway for students at Port Towns Elementary School.
Three members from the Census 2020 Complete Count Committee of Prince George’s County – Erica Berry-Wilson, Thomas Johnson and Jacqueline Woody – attended to discuss the importance of the upcoming census, urging everyone present to be counted. Johnson was given the floor for about 10 minutes to lead a PowerPoint presentation soliciting the support of local residents for the 2020 Census.
The presentation highlighted outreach strategies and suggestions, including hosting a 2020 Census Town Hall, establishing a Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Census Week in March 2020, and printing out census coloring books to share with area elementary schools.
According to Thornton, 10 community members registered for public comment, one of whom was Michelle Clarke, an educator who accentuated the local and statewide importance of the Kirwan Commission, one of the BOE’s central focuses expected to have an immense impact on public schools throughout Maryland.
“I just wanted to mention that there is a place where we can come together as teachers, educators, hopefully Prince George’s County Educators’ Association (PGCEA) and the board, especially when it comes to supporting the full state funding for Maryland’s public schools – including the funding for the Kirwan Commission,” said Clarke, a pre-k teacher at Kenmoor Early Childhood Center.
“This is extremely important for us as a school system, as, over a 10-year period, it would bring approaching a billion dollars to us in state and local funding.”
Moreover, parents from Overlook Full Spanish Immersion School, Caesar Chavez Elementary and Phyllis E. Williams Elementary were at the board meeting to voice support for the board’s proposal of the extension of the language immersion program to middle schools.
“I come today after seven-plus years of advocating on behalf of the expansion of language immersion,” said Delores Millhouse, a PGCPS parent. “I am proud, I am excited, and I am very hopeful that what we have been asking for over the past seven-plus years will be approved today.”
Also present to communicate concerns was PGCEA President Theresa Mitchell Dudley, first expressing gratitude for the Kirwan Commission, and subsequently identifying the need for restorative practice training and trauma-informed education training for educators.
“I’m thankful for being in Prince George’s County, and I’m thankful because I know we have the strength to make a difference,” Dudley said.
The next item on the night’s agenda was the boundary and grade structure improvements for the 2020-2021 school year. Board member Queen thanked her colleagues and PGCPS CEO Monica Goldson for unanimously approving the proposal to expand language immersion programs to middle school years.
After seeing no opposition from his fellow board members on boundary and grade structure improvements for the 2020-2021 school year, Thornton said: “let the record reflect that it’s unanimous.”
Besides the expansion of the language immersion program, other structural improvements involve moving sixth grade to middle school along with developing boundaries for new upcoming elementary and middle schools in the county.
To conclude the meeting, Ahmed quickly outlined the 2020 legislative priorities to the BOE on behalf of the Policy and Governance Committee.
“We are recommending four major priorities when it comes to our legislative agenda,” Ahmed said.
“The first is support for full state funding for Maryland’s public schools. The second is support for robust state funding for school construction and renovation projects.
“The third is support for increased state funding to support the work of local school systems to ensure the Safe To Learn Act is implemented with fidelity, and the last is support for continued governance autonomy for local boards of education.”
The BOE’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 12.