In the first performance audit conducted in 18 years, members of the Prince George’s County School Board and County Council received a draft assessment with a focus on management, information technology and other services.
According to a summary from the Parthenon-Ernst & Young consulting firm, the most significant improvements deal with transportation, including an upgrade of bus lot restrooms, development of a plan for an indoor garage for mechanics and improvement of the facilities for operational staff and bus drivers.
Other highlights in the “Continuous Business Process Improvement” document offer recommendations such as replacing all analog cameras with digital cameras connected to the central system, revising written job descriptions for custodial and maintenance staff to clearly identify their duties and improving practices to discern validity of sick-leave requests.
“When we went through the project, we made this to be rigorous and objective,” said Chris Librizzi, managing director of the firm’s Boston office. “We hope that the body of work we share gives you a real and unique set of opportunities to consider. We see opportunity in Prince George’s County.”
The county council, which is tasked with approving an annual budget with the biggest spending item being education, requested the audit Librizzi presented Nov. 14 at Charles H. Flowers High School in Springdale. Those in attendance received copies of the summary with all the information and data from the 2015-16 school year.
Although the report credits the school system remains on par with informational technology security and student cybersecurity, suggestions to enhance it include defining strategies and policies on the use of mobile, cloud and social media.
County schools received online threats last month that resulted in the arrest of a Parkdale High School student who police said set up a Twitter account with a clown theme while in class. Police charged the student with threat of mass violence and other related charges.
Police also arrested an eighth-grader at Kenmoor Middle School in Landover for making similar online threats that caused increased security at various schools. Additionally, a Bladensburg High School student was disciplined by school officials for an alleged bomb threat. Police said neither threat was credible.
Parthenon didn’t focus on salaries and whether spending levels are out of line, but the company did note “the lack of a long-term financial plan for the district as a whole has consequences in the budget process and throughout the organization.”
The firm also analyzed the number and location of specialty programs such as art, Science Information Technology and Math and International Baccalaureate, but determined that not everyone benefits from them.
Municipalities in the northern part of the county — Riverdale, West Hyattsville, Mount Rainer and Adelphi — rank near the bottom in terms of average participation rate of specialty programs in the schools. About 5 percent of Latinos in that region are enrolled in the programs.
In comparison, Glenn Dale, Lanham and parts of Upper Marlboro have the highest participation rate of specialty schools.
“I’m frankly upset with the level of participation of Latinos,” said Councilwoman Deni Taveras (D-District 2) of Adelphi. “They are just not being reached. There’s been a disenfranchisement of this population.”
School board member Curtis Valentine (At-Large) questioned if the school system has successfully communicated these programs to Latinos and immigrants from African communities.
“How can we more effectively communicate our programs to all of our students and whether we are doing it well?” he said. “We can be the best system in the world if we put our mind to it.”
Librizzi said to reach the full scale of implementation of these programs across grade levels, or 6,000 students, it would cost $19 million annually.
Vice Chairwoman Councilwoman Dannielle Glaros (D-District 3) of Riverdale Park asked when would a full report be released.
“Quickly,” Librizzi said without giving a specific date.