UPPER MARLBORO — The Prince George’s Board of Education (BOE) opened the new year to address an array of topics and hear concerns from community members and students, primarily discussing the 2020-21 school calendar in its Jan. 9 meeting.
BOE Chairman Alvin Thornton began the evening delivering a brief report, acknowledging officials from the Maryland General Assembly for prioritizing the furtherance of the Kirwan Commission when its series of legislative sessions opened Jan. 8.
“As you can see, the General Assembly opened (Jan. 8) yesterday. We are so excited about the new leadership of our General Assembly,” Thornton said with a smile as he addressed the small audience at the Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Sasscer Administration Building in Upper Marlboro.
“I’m most pleased, and I am sure you all are, with their strong commitment to full passage of the Kirwan Commission, or the Commission on Innovation and Excellence, and full funding of it…The Speaker of the House (Adrienne Jones), as well as our Senate president (Bill Ferguson), said that’s going to be a No. 1 priority.”
The BOE will begin its FY2021 budget hearings and work sessions on Jan. 21 at Northwestern High School, announced Thornton.
PGCPS CEO Monica Goldson announced a few important deadlines for graduating seniors, charter school applicants, and registration for evening school and other programs offered by the school system during her concise report. She also extended special gratitude to NBC4, Telemundo and TD Bank for donating 10 new Chromebooks to Hyattsville Middle School, and DARCARS Motors for clearing out more than $18,000 in school lunch debt.
Of the 15 registered speakers for the BOE meeting, the first to address the board was Parkdale High School student Neziah Osayi. His three-minute speech accentuated financial literacy being instituted as a graduation requirement in the county.
“My junior year, I took financial literacy, and undoubtedly it was the most important class I had taken all high school,” said Osayi, pointing out the long-term value from the lessons learned while taking the course.
“Through the financial literacy class that I took, I gained so much from it. And I think it should be a graduation requirement because no matter what career field a student goes in, whether they want to be an archeologist, president, a politician, anything like that, they have to know how to handle their finances because that’s the way to success.”
The Parkdale senior also said he conducted a survey asking sophomore, junior and senior students whether they would be interested in taking a financial literacy course, to which 70% of respondents said they would be.
Other concerns communicated during the guest speaking portion were school safety, library media services and advocacy for the P3 model among several others.
To begin the meeting’s consent agenda, the board unanimously approved proclamations commemorating African American Read-In Month, National African American History Month, Career and Technical Education Month and Professional School Counseling Week, all of which are during February.
Board members, in addition to Chief of Special Education and Student Services Gwendolyn Mason, discussed the expansion of speech and language therapy services for students in relation to the budget expenditures.
For about the final half of the session, the BOE extensively discussed the PGCPS 2020-21 school calendar.
Consequently, Joshua Omolola, student member of the BOE, inquired about professional development days starting school after Labor Day, monitoring snow days, and school delays. Likewise, board member Joshua Thomas asked about beginning school after Labor Day.
In response to the question about the purpose of professional development days, Goldson said that she and her colleagues utilize areas that they look at during the school year to determine types of support that they need to provide.
“Some examples of topics that we have used this year are implicit bias training for all of our staff members, providing additional training and support in areas of restorative practices as well as looking at social and emotional needs in support to our teachers and learning how to deal with struggling learners, as well as how to deal with students who’ve had some behavioral issues,” Goldson continued.
Correspondingly, Goldson noted statistics and comments from community surveys and employee survey responses when addressing other concerns from Omolola. Goldson made decisions for the presentation of the school calendar to the BOE based on comments from the calendar committee in addition to feedback from thousands of community members and school system employees.
Furthermore, three days have been built in for inclement weather for the calendar regarding the possibility of snow days subtracting days from spring break, Goldson said.
Before adjournment, the board voted 10-4 in support of the proposed 2020-21 PGCPS school calendar. School for PGCPS students will start on Aug. 31 and the last day is scheduled for Friday, June 18, 2021.
The BOE will convene for its next board meeting on Jan. 23 at 7 p.m.