Upper Marlboro: (Reform Sasscer) – Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) will move forward with a plan to consolidate the district’s five alternative schools, despite outcry and pleas to keep the schools in place. Tall Oaks High School and others will be consolidated following a meeting held Thursday night by the PGCPS Board of Education at Sasscer.
The vote to consolidate district’s five alternative schools passed 5 to 4 – 2 during the PGCPS Board meeting Thursday. Shayla Adams-Stafford, David Murray, Joshua Thomas, Belinda Queen, and Kenny Harris, all elected board members, voted in favor of the amendment. Sonya Williams, Pamela Boozer-Strother, Judy Mickens-Murray, and Paul Monteiro voted no. Curtis Valentine and Board Chair Dr. Juanita Miller abstained.
Current and former students and staff at Community Based Classroom, or CBC, in Lanham, have fought throughout the budget process to save their school from consolidation. There has been many protests from the community, with many begging the board to keep the schools open for at-risk students who struggle with traditional schools.
Over the past few weeks, the board received community feedback during listening sessions, during which a number of parents and students asked the board to keep Community Based Classrooms, or CBC open.
But CEO Dr. Monica Goldson has said, this is what the school Board needs at this time. She has assured staff they won’t be impacted with their jobs despite pressure to force some staff members to retire starting with Tall Oaks High School principal forced to retire abruptly and others. There seems to be no sympathy for the families and staff.
“If somebody was closing my school in my community, I would be down there advocating for more information,” Angela Simon said. “Tell me this, tell me this, why are we doing that. And that’s exactly how they were responding. They were trying to save that school. So, I’m very very much appreciative of their efforts.”
Consolidation plans were first presented to the PGCPS school board in last few weeks as part of Budget process. Tall Oaks, currently the smallest school in PGCPS with roughly 200 students, is also one of the area’s oldest. School officials said the closing is being done to reduce spending because of declining enrollment across the county schools and to save money.
However, many parents are still upset with the board’s decision from last night to follow the administration’s recommendation.
Under the new plan, Tall Oaks High School would combine with another alternative school, Annapolis Road Academy. Green Valley Academy and Croom High School — the remaining alternative schools — would also consolidate to offer a ninth to 12th grade program. Green Valley would be redesigned as a sixth to eighth grade program.
According to PGCPS, under the consolidation plan, classroom sizes will remain small, with a maximum number of 15 students per class.
But Gibson and other CBC students at a Thursday rally outside the Sasser Administration Building in Upper Marlboro said it wasn’t about class size, it was about future students not having the opportunity to experience what they call “a loving community.” They also sense something sinister going on based on the way these schools are being hurriedly consolidated and others closed.
“Pretty frustrated. You know it feels like except for four board members, the rest of the board came in with their minds made up and they were going to rubber-stamp the administration recommendation without question,” parent Angela Michael said. “It seems like their priorities are really skewed.”
One of the rally organizers, Rachel Sherman, is a product of the alternative school system. She dropped out of high school when she was 16. She’s now working on her second doctorate.
“When you see them try to defund and shut down programs like this you are saying to these at-risk and disadvantaged students that they don’t matter and we do,” Sherman said.
CEO Dr. Monica Goldson said her plan for the alternative schools has been misconstrued, and that it provides more opportunities for students, not fewer. A district spokeswoman said Goldson was not available for an interview prior to the meeting Thursday and provided a FAQ sheet about the alternative school redesign.
During the meeting, board member Shayla Adams-Stafford pointed out that the closures would save the school system $2.4 million, which is less than .1% of the total school system budget.
She asked why there wasn’t an effort to expand CBC, which has a 95% graduation rate.
On the social media, board member Shayla Adams-Stafford later on wrote:
“The appointed board members and the two elected board members who consistently vote with them voted against:
Increasing our Latinx teaching staff. Currently at 4%
Keeping our Alternative Schools open (they voted to consolidate them)
Providing Restorative Program Training
Paid time to reduce teacher paperwork and overload
I’m so tired yall. This is why we need an ALL ELECTED BOARD.
Child, democracy is under attack every day in every way.”
The budget will go to the Prince George’s County Council next for approval where Councilman Edward Burroughs III is expected to lobby fellow councilmen to reverse the situation and or educate them.
In addition, activists on social media are calling upon the public to Call Sentator Paul Pinsky and others shown here let them know the fiasco shown during the Board meeting on Thursday night, is why you want an all elected board. (410) 841-3155, (301) 858-3155 firstname.lastname@example.org; Senator Malcolm Augustine (410) 841-3745, (301) 858-3745; email@example.com; Senator Jim Rosapepe (410) 841-3141, (301) 858-3141 firstname.lastname@example.org; Senator Melanie Griffith (301) 858-3127, (410) 841-3127 email@example.com; Joanne Claybon Benson (410) 841-3148, (301) 858-3148
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3148 (toll free) e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.