Strengthen and continue to bring academic specialty and vocational programs
Our school system has some phenomenal academic specialty and career-centered vocational programs. It is important, however, that there is equity in terms of program placement across the county. I plan to advocate for International Baccalaureate, PTech, law, language immersion, Talented and Gifted, Advanced Placement, Middle College, Fine Arts, and other specialty programs to come and sustain equitably in our district. Additionally, vocational programs are important to give a balanced approach to career readiness and skill-based learning.
Equitable Access To Technology
Technology access is not equitable in the county. Certain schools have greater access to Chromebooks and other technologically-centered instructional environments while other schools have to share equipment in ineffective ways. Equitable access to technology is a necessity in today’s world and in a $2 Billion budget, there is no excuse as to why technology access is not a priority.
Prince George’s County educators are several steps below where they should be on the designated salary scale. Currently, I am paid at a level 3 steps below where I should be paid. Every step is equivalent to 3%. This disparity is especially discouraging when I know that I could make a significantly higher salary in a neighboring jurisdiction like D.C., Montgomery County, Howard County, or Virginia. As a current classroom teacher, I have a stronger incentive to ensure that my colleagues are paid the wages they deserve. Ensuring appropriate pay is a cornerstone of employees feeling valued and that they are treated as professionals by their Government.
Fully Staffing Schools
Every school in our county is understaffed. This is the case not only for schools that are underutilized but schools that are at max capacity/ overcrowded. Students are not only in environments that are less safe but do not receive the instructional supports that they would if enough educators are present. As a school system, we need to ensure that our schools are fully staffed with enough general educators, special educators, math/reading specialists, and other instructional personnel including non-instructional personnel like parent liaisons and behavior management focused employees.
Reduce overcrowding and balance school enrollment
My goal is for all families to have confidence that their student could receive the highest quality education in every school across the district. When families do not feel that way, you start to have overcrowding at one school leaving some others under-utilized. The vision that I have is to look very closely at school boundaries to ensure that students attend institutions that are in proximity to the communities that they live in without sacrificing the quality of academic programming and leadership they expect. The foundation of this approach is that equity, as it relates to programming, technology, staffing, and pay, is ensured.
Help minority and local business get contracts in the school system
All too often, companies which acquire contracts in our public schools have little to no vested interest in our county other than providing services as they are not based in Prince George’s County. Their children do not attend our public schools. Therefore, they don’t always shop and spend money in our community. It is important that we support local and minority businesses who can provide the same quality of work even though they may not have as extensive of a portfolio. Many of these business owners are products of our public schools and we should be able to bring equity to that process of selecting vendors and contractors.
Prioritizing school renovation and improving maintenance budget
Every school in the district should have the facilities to deliver the highest quality education to students. These include clean facilities that have adequate heating, cooling, pest control, mold control, lead testing, deterioration, etc. Ensuring building maintenance is not just for cosmetic purposes. It is too necessary to ensure complete safety for our students and should be made a priority. All schools must have necessary maintenance and restoration across the board.
Broaden restorative practices throughout the district and create community schools
Not only am I a classroom teacher, but I am a proud member of the Prince George’s County Educators Association (PGCEA), the labor union which supports “educators” in Prince George’s County Public Schools. The time for teacher voice in the decision making in public schools is now. We are the people that are on the front line every day that serve students, families, and educators in our community. Restorative practices and community schools are initiatives being pushed by educators just like me in our union and I am a firm believer in supporting them.
Restorative practices is a philosophy and “framework for building community and responding to challenging behavior through authentic dialogue, coming to understanding, and making things right.” Restorative practices can be very helpful in shifting the culture of the schools in District 9 to strengthen them internally prior to outside interventions being put in place. I am a firm believer that the answers are in the room and restorative practices are examples of that.
Secondly, community schools exemplify the idea that the schools are the center of the community. Public schools should offer wraparound services like social services, mental health, financial literacy, athletics, and other community-centered services that uplift the community and instill local investment. Community School models have been successful in other areas of the country and should be implemented in our county.