Prince George country 2020 school board candidates

Schools in Prince George’s remain in an all-virtual-learning mode through at least late January, with

Schools in Prince George’s remain in an all-virtual-learning mode through at least late January, with students getting their lessons online. State officials have been pushing for a return to school buildings, but the county — hit hard by the novel coronavirus — does not appear headed in that direction.

The Nov. 3 ballot will list five races but just three are contested. Incumbents David Murray and Raaheela Ahmed are running unopposed for seats on the 14-member board, which is a hybrid body of appointed and elected members.

Here are answers to questions posed by The Washington Post for candidates in the three contested races. They are edited for clarity and brevity:

Shayla Adams-Stafford, 33, founder and chief executive of AdaptiveX, an educational consulting and software company, says her passion is addressing educational inequities. She cites experience as a national board-certified teacher, business owner and teacher trainer.

Top issues: A coronavirus response that ensures student safety and continued learning, and recruitment and retention of outstanding teachers.

How soon should the school system bring back at least some students for in-person learning?

In school districts I am working with throughout the country, I see many systems implementing a hybrid model. I think that Prince George’s should move toward this once we have a strong plan for sanitization and teachers have strong training in this area.

What should the school system do to better support learning online? Provide extensive and free training on ways to make online learning more inclusive and effective. The school system can continue to expand student access to technology and hotspots.

More broadly, name one idea to improve Prince George’s schools.

We need to create a pipeline between our schools and the high-demand, high-wage tech jobs in this region.

Background: Received her bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and her master’s in teaching from Duke University. She lives in Glenarden and has a young daughter.

Bryan M. Swann, 40, who has been filling an open seat on the school board since January, works as the deputy director of financial management for the Treasury Department headquarters. He cites his work in finance and public administration as qualifications, and says he grew up in the county as the son of an educator.

Top issues: Mental health support and financial efficiency to support increasing teacher pay, smaller class sizes, new schools and welcoming schools for all.

How soon should the school system bring back at least some students for in-person learning?

Soon, but only when it is safe to do so (schools are still experiencing coronavirus cases), and when adequate resources, personal protective equipment and plans are in place to ensure a safe return with feedback from parents, teachers, staff and students.

What should the school system do to better support learning online?

We need to be transparent, accountable and fully engaged to make sure our families have the resources they need and no one is left behind, (and to) ensure our teachers are fully equipped with training and tools.

More broadly, name one idea to improve Prince George’s schools.

I have a plan to increase academic achievement through identifying inefficient expenditures . . . and redirecting funds directly into the schoolhouse.

Background: Received a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from the University of Maryland and a master’s in public administration from Harvard University. A Marine Corps combat veteran, he worked in the White House during the Obama years. He lives in Glenn Dale and has two sons in county schools.

Alexis N. Branch, 22, who lives in Suitland and works for the Transportation Department, is a school system graduate who says her experiences in teaching and activism have helped prepare her for work as a school board member.

Top issues: Inequity in our schools and teacher pay.

How soon should the school system bring back at least some students for in-person learning?

I do not believe we should be bringing students back into the schools anytime soon. If we had to, we should utilize all of our schools for grades K- 8 and allow high school students to still learn from home so that we can have very small classroom sizes.

What should the school system do to better support learning online?

Develop more private and public partnerships so that all of our children have Internet access. More tutoring resources and stability in the classroom.

More broadly, what one idea do you have to improve schools in Prince George’s?

Pushing our elected officials to increase payroll taxes on individuals who work in the county but do not live in the county, so that money could flow into the school system.

Background: Received a bachelor’s degree from Bennett College in North Carolina, working on a master’s degree at Bowie State University.

Kenneth Harris II, 28, a senior engineer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, said he would bring skills in budget and project management and communication to the board. He lives in Upper Marlboro.

Top issues: Removing school resource officers from schools and instead investing in those who are trained in supporting students: guidance counselors, psychologists and early reading interventionists. Another top issue is community and parental involvement.

How soon should the school system bring at least some students back for in-person learning?

While we should be making provisions now, we should not put our students back into school buildings until we are extremely confident there will not be casualties from this virus.

What should the school system do to better support learning online?

We must shrink the technology gap for our students while working to provide efficient and effective distance-learning tools for our educators.

More broadly, what one idea do you have to improve schools in Prince George’s?

Bring more STEM/STEAM internship programs to our students, helping to focus on their futures after their time in the classroom.

Background: Received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and is working on his doctorate in engineering at George Washington University. He has a young son and says the child’s future education is one reason he is passionate about the school system.

Edward Burroughs III, 28, legislative affairs director for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office, is the longest-serving member of the school board and its vice chairman. He lives in Temple Hills and started on the board in 2008, when he was a student member. He has won election three times as an adult.

Top issues: Increase innovation and dismantle the cycle of low-performing schools, and increase wraparound services at schools, with an emphasis on mental health supports.

How soon should the school system bring at least some students back for in-person learning?

Students should return when it’s safe, with priority given to the most vulnerable students. It’s important to closely watch and learn from what other school systems do.

What should the school system do to better support learning online?

Continue to support parent resource centers and ensure that students have the technology they need, while closely tracking and monitoring attendance and still keeping high expectations.

More broadly, what one idea do you have to improve schools in Prince George’s?

Recruit and retain the best teachers in the region and place them in the schools where they are needed the most.

Background: Received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland at Baltimore County. He has been a leader in a group of millennial board members who have had a major influence.

Gary Lee Falls, 70, a retiree from government service who lives in Oxon Hill, owns a small renewable energy business and does website design. He says he has experience on the issues and challenges of his district.

Top issues: Government-paid full-course school meals and a unified curriculum from age 3 to grade 12 toward proficiency in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, inalienable rights, Ten Commandments, differential equations, calculus, quantum mechanics and dark matter.


How soon should the school system bring at least some students back for in-person learning?

Scientists have no cure for the coronavirus and the best of the best scientists have directed the world’s populations to simply use common sense: Wash your hands, wear a face mask and keep a safe distance apart. Schools can reconfigure classrooms and control behavior to meet these common sense health directives.

In-person classes should be occurring now!

What should the school system do to better support learning online?

The Prince George County school system has no proven experience in educating students online!

More broadly, what one idea do you have to improve schools in Prince George’s?

Direct the $1.8 billion school budget toward meals to help make healthy students ready to learn, academic proficiency, training in inalienable rights and morals.

Background: Graduated from Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston and served in the U.S. Army, including as an air defense missile radar supervisor. He worked for 24 years in the D.C. Department of Corrections, including as a supervisor.

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