EducationLocalPoliticsWilliam J. Ford

Md. Education Plan Seeks to Improve Prince George’s

For being one of six Maryland schools to receive a Blue Ribbon honor for education excellence, Glenarden Woods Elementary will receive $2,000 from the state Department of Education, $1,000 gift certificate and a cookie party for its 491 students.

The talented-and-gifted school in Glenarden showcased its $7,500 interactive Smartboard when state and county officials visited the school Thursday, April 4.

After the nearly hourlong celebration for its second Blue Ribbon designation, during which students said the Pledge of Allegiance in English and Spanish, Principal Cecelia Bowlding said the school can become even better.

For instance, the school must pay for an assistant principal instead of having funds for the position allocated in the budget. Also, a media specialist and an art teacher work only part-time at the school, which incorporates art into the core subjects of science, technology, math and reading.

“Human capital is always the best capital,” Bowlding said. “The question is: ‘Do you need more when you’re doing so well?’ We would probably soar even higher if we had more staff.”

The school could possibly receive help, thanks to state lawmakers approving a statewide education plan known as the “Education Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.” The two-year plan would boost teacher salaries by 1.5 percent from the state if counties and Baltimore City provide 3 percent, incorporate a college- and career-readiness standard by the end of 10th grade and offer additional resources for students with disabilities.

Schools that had at least 80 percent of the student population receive free or reduced lunch in the most recent two school years are eligible to receive a variety of services, including grants to hire a full-time health practitioner during school hours and to incorporate school-based health centers and in-school and after-school programming.

The education package is based on two years of recommendations by the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission, led by William E. “Brit” Kirwan, former chancellor of the University of Maryland System.

The legislature already approved an additional $255 million in the budget toward the Kirwan recommendations.

The measure, which now heads to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk for signature, allocates $725 million through 2022 with an additional $130 million if lawmakers can pass legislation next year on how to pay for additional programming.

One school that qualifies for the 80 percent lunch baseline is William Wirt Middle School in Riverdale, which is located in Del. Alonzo Washington’s district.

“It’s a high area with a concentration of immigrants and minorities,” said Washington (D-District 22), who serves on the 25-member Kirwan commission. “This bill would specifically wraparound services not only for the students, but also the families in that community. It’s huge for us.”

In Prince George’s County, nearly 50 schools could be eligible under the free and reduced lunch guideline and other wraparound services. To help pay for those needs, the legislation highlights each school would receive a grant of nearly $250,000 in fiscal 2020 and 2021.

According to the legislation during that timeframe, the county would receive the highest percentage of state funding at 15 percent for students with disabilities.

“We’re the second-largest jurisdiction in the state of Maryland that will get funding to help our schools,” said Monica Goldson, interim CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools. “That begins to close the equitable gap that exists in terms of financing a school district that’s 91 percent children of color and 60 percent on free and reduced lunch.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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