Buoyed by a new chief executive and infusion of state funds, Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) is focusing on the fundamentals this academic year.
Chief Executive Officer Dr. Monica Goldson has launched the Blueprint for PGCPS, a $53 million investment to improve teaching and learning in the state’s second-largest school system. PGCPS is also undertaking an innovative public-private partnership for school construction with the goal of building new facilities faster and at lower cost.
Dr. Goldson envisions a schoolhouse that supports the whole child with high academic standards that prepare students for college, career and life while emphasizing grade-level fundamentals of literacy, math and science.
“We work each day to ensure students and families in our community receive the highest quality teaching and leadership at every school. Our students come to us with a diverse set of needs — academic, social and emotional,” said Dr. Goldson, who was appointed in June to a full four-year term by Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks. “We must meet their needs with our best educators, administrators, resources and supports.”
Prince George’s County educates the majority of African American and Latino students in Maryland. “We must ensure that students come to school ready to learn by providing them with the tools they need to be successful in the classroom and life,” she said.
The Blueprint utilizes state funds to raise teacher compensation and expand prekindergarten and “wraparound” school services, such as additional social workers and counselors, extended learning time and student supports. Education leaders and county officials successfully advocated for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, based on the Kirwan Commission recommendations, which increased funding to school systems statewide.
Dr. Alvin Thornton, Prince George’s County Board of Education Chair, noted, “The Board of Education shares the community’s concern about the need to assign high priority to social-emotional learning support systems, teacher and staff compensation enhancement and the expansion of programs to improve college and career readiness.”
THE BLUEPRINT HAS SEVERAL COMPONENTS:
High Needs Schools: Expanded wraparound services to 45 schools with the highest numbers of students living in poverty to include additional health care practitioners, social workers and counselors, extended learning programs, transportation and other initiatives. ($11,197,485)
Prekindergarten Expansion: Increased access to full-day prekindergarten programming at nine schools, offering more families the chance to give their youngest learners a strong foundation. As part of the school system’s ongoing push towards making high-quality prekindergarten available to all families, a universal pre-k pilot program will be launched in 17 schools. ($14,026,871)
Mental Health Services: Additional funding to 45 schools for certified mental health therapists. In addition, the PGCPS mental health coordinator will guide staff through mental health first aid training so anyone trusted with caring for a child can effectively do so. ($83,333)
Teacher Compensation: Restorative salary increase to all employees who lost steps between 2009 and 2012, yet remained with the school system, in recognition of staff sacrifices during the economic downturn. ($13,386,052)
Supporting Students with Individualized Educational Programs: Focused funding on implementing individualized educational programs (IEP), more teacher planning time and system-wide staff training on compliance and supports. ($10,114,897)
Support for Students Struggling with Reading: New digital literacy program focused on evidence-based strategies to help students who struggle with reading. Components include one-on-one tutoring, peer tutoring, screening and addressing literacy deficits and new technology in kindergarten through third grade classrooms at 53 schools. ($4,819,614)
Alongside academic investments, the school system is embarking on an ambitious facilities plan. e average county school building age is nearly 50 years old, more than five years above the state average. With the support of County Executive Alsobrooks and the County Council, Prince George’s County will invest $25 million to $30 million annually for the next 30 years in school construction funds, the largest infrastructure investment in generations. Over the next decade, more than 30 schools will undergo renovations to enhance learning conditions.
“Our infrastructure investment, paired with the Blueprint for PGCPS, is a bold statement of our commitment to improving learning environments inside and out,” said Dr. Goldson. “Through all of these measures, we are moving student achievement forward throughout Prince George’s County.”