Carolyn Boston calmly explained the Prince George’s County Public Schools system has made strides that include an enrollment increase to 134,000 students, the opening of two international high schools and the creation a task force to analyze school construction projects.
In a passionate rebuttal, Belinda Queen said she would use a hands-on approach to “go outside the box” to seek more money for school projects, increase teacher salaries and push for an all-elected school board.
The two women, who are both vying to represent District 6 on the county school board, explained their viewpoints at a candidate forum Saturday at the Glenn Dale Firehouse in Glenn Dale.
“This is your meeting,” Delegate Erek Barron (D-District 24) of Mitchellville said to the dozens in attendance. “Please continue to let us know what topics we should be addressing.”
Barron helped organize the discussion as part of the Route 450 Coalition, also led by state Sen. Joanne Benson and Delegates Jazz Lewis and Carolyn J.B. Howard, for residents to hear each candidate’s platforms before early voting in Maryland begins Thursday, Oct. 25.
The District 6 region has about 26 schools that include Seat Pleasant Elementary, Ernest Just Middle School and Central and Largo high schools. Largo houses one of the international high schools for students who moved to the county within two years and speak limited or no English.
Lewis read about 20 questions, including some from the audience written on index cards, on a variety of topics, including how each candidate would resolve conflicts, opinions on public charter schools, and college and career readiness.
One question arose of how Boston and Queen would restore trust with the community and change school culture.
The school board took some criticism this year when some members expressed support for former schools chief Kevin Maxwell. It became public when Maxwell authorized raises of at least 10 percent for some central office personnel.
Maxwell also donated $500 to the campaign for Boston, who served on a committee to evaluate Maxwell’s performance. She eventually returned the money.
Boston, the incumbent in the District 6 race, seeks a third four-year term on the school board and currently serves as the vice chair. She said the transition to replace Maxwell with interim CEO Monica Goldson has improved trust. She praised Goldson for a reorganization of the central office that will reap $2.4 million in savings.
“The new transition has proven to be a move in the right direction,” Boston said. “We are doing good things in [the] Prince George’s County school system.”
Queen, a former member of the county’s Democratic Central Committee who has been openly critical of the school board at various public sessions, including those members who supported Maxwell, spoke about trust in general terms Saturday.
“Your reputation is everything,” she said. “I am going to be transparent. The next school board representative you have is … a person who is willing to stand up and speak out and not sell out your children’s future.”
Boston and Queen agreed more resources should be granted to students with special needs. Boston’s granddaughter received services when she attended the school system and Queen’s adopted daughter currently gets assistance with a therapist at Central High School in Capitol Heights.
After the more than 90-minute discussion, some in attendance were still undecided about which candidate to support, but Jim Rogers of Mitchellville was decidedly in Queen’s corner, telling her afterwards, “You got my vote.”
Rogers briefly explained why Queen’s “enthusiasm” would benefit the school board.
“She’s an advocate for disadvantaged Black youth,” he said.