Tantallon Community (Reform Sasscer) – The proposed Prince George’s county public schools (PGCPS) Preparatory K-8 public school which has faced major push back from southern community remains on course. “The new school is essentially a leech on the resources of the community, it exist totally out of any public control,” Samuel Dodges said.
Several civic associations led by Tantallon Square Area Civic Association (TSACA) continues to oppose a forest being cleared for new school construction at Swan Creek Road and Fort Washington Road where flooding is a major concern for many residents. Standing flood waters can also spread infectious diseases, contain chemical hazards, and cause injuries. Each year, flooding causes more problems than any other hazard related to thunderstorms. The most common flood issue occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood waters which causes death in many cases.
“It’s been determined that the land that they are planning to build the school is on wetland and there are better option at Potomac Landing elementary school with enough space just like the way they are building the other 5 schools. This should not be an exception as the area will see a rise in various problems starting with congestion, destruction of wet lands and ecological systems, pollution and many other issues. There are a lot of wild animals in the forest including deers which go in there. The flooding is major issue and the current sewage system is not adequate to accommodate an additional population of 2,000. The way this project was rushed raises a lot of suspicion because the people who live here where not consulted over their objection. We only found out when they were having a press conference,” said Tantallon Square Area Civic Association President Hazel Robinson.
The kindergarten through eighth grade school would hold 2,000. It’s part of the county’s more than $1 billion public-private partnership plan to build six news schools.
“We have been in the dark. Just weren’t included, and our input wasn’t asked for on what we felt about having a school here, there is something very fishy going on even the way the trees are being uprooted right in the middle of the night. Something smell like a dead rat” said Mike Johnson of the Tantallon Square Area Civic Association (TSACA).
Details of the rapidly moving construction plan are spawning protests, especially after parents were told some schools would be temporarily relocated during construction.
Protests started last August and are ongoing. There have been protesters and a prominent person in the community associated with TSACA was arrested last year and taken to the police station. Their presence have been felt along the Swan Creek Road beginning of August last year. The protestors successfully halted tree clearing for the planned school before the construction continued. At the moment the contractors are proceeding on again — a 234,000-square-foot kindergarten through eighth grade school on wetland. Many residents said they’re in favor of the new school but not the current location.
Potomac Landing elementary school
“PGCPS should have renovated Potomac Landing elementary school which is less than a mile away instead of building a brand new school on a wetland and destroying the environment,” Rose Lowdon, said of the new school proposal. “While many people think renovating existing facilities is more expensive and time-consuming than building new ones, that’s not always the case. In fact, renovation can often be accomplished for less than the cost of a new building. It just requires careful planning and conscientious effort. Improvements do not happen by chance. They happen because district administrators, parents, teachers and community leaders actively participate in a planning process aimed at making the area a better place to live, learn, work and play. In this case, none happened like that here. There is bad will from the community towards this new school due to the due process violations and public corruption involved,” Lowdon said.
In a meeting with the Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks in August last year, residents were told construction will continue. However, there are questionable activities especially with some developers donating huge junks of money to her political campaign.
“We had real high hopes from Angela but it appears she is being used by developers to make money from the entire project at the expense of this community. I voted for her last election, I’m so disappointed with her that our meeting was a joke and nothing came out of it,” resident Jennifer Thompson said.
According to the press briefings from last year, “[Alsobrooks] said firmly that she does not intend to change the site, although she’ll make every attempt to try to address concerns. The neighborhoods in the area floods heavily after a hard rain.
“This is unacceptable,” said Marvis, a Prince George’s county native and former Brooklyn school educator who moved to the Prince George’s County thirty five years ago as part of fellowship to go to school in the region and decided to stay. “We shouldn’t be losing trees and damaging the environment without proper checks and balances because there are alternatives, free options available.”
“As we speak today, there are parents that are frustrated, and they are coming out of the district as we speak today, because they feel this was done undemocratically and don’t have choices,” Lane said.
“Whatever is driving this school system it is not being driven to serve the students. Whoever got the Covid relief money is celebrating, because it certainly was not the students, teachers or support staff. The disfunction is so pervasive that even veteran teachers can’t gather the fortitude to care anymore!”, said another staff members who cares.
School renovation is cost effective
School renovation is cost effective, and cheaper than new construction. With aging school facilities, shrinking budgets and declining school enrollments, many school districts are choosing to renovate rather than building new because it’s cheaper.
School enrollment is declining. Budgets are shrinking. Faced with these realities, more and more school districts are choosing to renovate rather than replace existing schools. There are many people in the community questioning what will happen to the current elementary schools which will combine once the new bigger school is finalized at Tantallon. Most elected official in Prince George’s county who might be benefiting from this corruption are reluctant to revert back to an all elected board.
The current board, chaired by Juanita D. Miller, an Alsobrooks appointee, has been criticized for a spasm of personality-fueled disagreements that led to the filing of ethics charges and attempts to remove several members of the panel after the questioned how public funds where being utilized through developers only known to the CEO, County Executive and others tied to them.
Grand corruption is the abuse of high-level power that benefits the few at the expense of the many. It typically has three main features:
A systematic or well-organised plan of action involving high-level public officials that causes serious harm, such as gross human rights violations.
Oftentimes, these public officials even give the contract to a company of which they themselves are the beneficial owner; the majority of grand corruption cases include the use of anonymous shell companies to secretly move financial assets, according to the World Bank.
Through grand corruption, vast amounts of public money are systematically siphoned off to the accounts of a few powerful individuals, at the expense of citizens who should actually benefit. Financial institutions and other enablers assist those involved in laundering the proceeds.
When grand corruption and state capture happen, high-level officials may also use control over legislative and regulatory powers to legalise their activities and to weaken oversight and enforcement functions.
Typically, those involved in grand corruption benefit from impunity by interfering directly with the justice system and stymieing enforcement in order to thwart being held to account. Using the levers of state control, they may also suppress independent efforts by civil society and the media to investigate and expose corruption.
How does it affect you?
If you live in a country with political leaders enriching themselves on public funds, this will affect your life on countless levels. Infrastructure, health care, education – all of these vital necessities, and many more, will be massively underfunded, depriving you of basic rights and services. It may even put lives at risk through products of inferior quality and poorly constructed facilities.
Grand corruption is a huge barrier to sustainable development as seen here in PGCPS. Even if you live in a country or county where grand corruption is not an issue, you should care – because sustainable development affects all of us. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a global effort towards a better future and the impact of grand corruption on them is far more destructive than from other forms of corruption. At the same time, less is being done about it.
On or around September 7, 2021, a month after the questionable construction and prince George’s county parents protest begun, then, Board Member Edward Burroughs III made a video to educate the public what was going on. It’s around this time when county Executive initiated a process to remove several Board members using the state machinery. This development would have a great impact on the environmentally peaceful area by adding increased flooding, traffic, light and noise pollution to the surrounding neighborhoods a petition signed by more than 2151 citizens says.
Nancy Bhargava organized marches throughout the neighborhood nearly six weeks before the construction begun to protest the proposed school.
“We’re concerned that we have been ignored. Our community, the residents here have been dismissed,” said Bhargava.
“I’m concerned because we are going to be losing a lot of tree canopy. The tree canopy absorbs the water and prevents the water from flowing out into the road and into my house, my backyard and my neighbor’s yard and causing serious issues,” said Bhargava to the press.
Ed Burroughs, a former member of the Prince George’s County Board of Education representing District 8 and now a councilman for the same District, was at a previous march talking with homeowners before and after he became a councilman. His problems at the Board with other Board members begun after they started questioning the secrecy and the public corruption surrounding the construction of the school and others.
In a letter sent to the Chief Executive Officer of the Prince George’s County Public Schools on March 23, 2021, board member Edward Burroughs wrote “I am writing to convey concerns that I have received from members of the community regarding the proposed site for the new Southern Area K-8 School. These members raised a variety of concerns in over an hour-long exchange between constituents and some of their elected officials.”
The letter went on to say, “Members of the community have expressed a strong desire to temporarily suspend construction activity surrounding the Southern Area K-8 School in order to allow the Board Chair to convene the proposed stakeholder meeting and discuss alternative locations for the school. I support the community in their request and I hope that the request for a pause in the development of this site can be granted. I look forward to continuing to work with you to successfully build a new Southern Area K-8 middle school while also addressing the flooding and traffic concerns raised by members of the community.”
As stated above, some homeowners worry that the tearing down acres of the wooded area which has been going will increase flooding in a neighborhood already prone to floods. They worry the problem will get significantly worse when construction begins which has been ongoing.
Other homeowners worry about the impact on traffic. The proposed location is near Indian Head Highway, a roadway known to be dangerous.
“Being here on Swan Creek Road, if you are here at any time of the day, cars come down here at least 50 miles per hour so it is not safe for our residents nor is it safe for any of the children,” said Anthony Mitchell, a homeowner.
Now some homeowners are trying to delay construction until they can work out these issues.
“They need to stop and they need to go through a comprehensive independent assessment of where we are as a community and what needs to be done,” said homeowner Brian Woolfolk.
In a statement posted online, the then District 8 Councilmember Monique Anderson-Walker now running to be a deputy governor asked for a comprehensive study to be done before construction begun.
“Flooding in South County is a historical and resource-draining scourge throughout District 8. My concerns with this project have always been directed at the flooding impact on the residents who live in closest proximity to the school on Swan Creek Road, as well as the potential for increased flooding in surrounding neighborhoods,” said Anderson-Walker. “Ensuring the project planners are giving EVERY consideration to environmental, traffic, and flood mitigation strategies and solutions through engagement with the community, independent third-parties, and an objective analysis of the school’s master plan and proposed stormwater management plan, is paramount,” Councilmember Monique Anderson-Walker wrote on March 28th, 2021.
Through the Blueprint Schools Program and without proper transparency such as in the case of Tantallon school construction project, PGCPS is accelerating the delivery of six new state-of-the-art schools in Prince George’s County, MD. One of the six is a new K-8 Academy, currently under construction in Fort Washington, MD, within the Tantallon community. Many parents in this area are opposed to the construction of the school due to the historical public corruption going back to former county Executive Jack Johnson. The big ties to developers are at play currently and the grand corruption which begun years ago.
more to come!