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Q&A with Juanita Miller

When Juanita Miller got married and settled into a house in Prince George’s County in 1973, she said “it’s like I died and went to heaven.”

Miller, a retired special education teacher, instructor and administrator with 40 years of experience in the Prince George’s and the District of Columbia public school systems, now settles into a new position: school board chair.

Miller, who received chaired a doctorate in leadership and policy management from George Washington University in Northwest, chaired her first county school board meeting Thursday, Jan. 14. She will help craft policies for the state of Maryland’s second-largest school system of more than 136,000 students.

County Executive Angela Alsobrooks appointed Miller after former chair Alvin Thornton stepped down, departing Jan. 8.

Miller, who last worked in the county school system as an instructional specialist in 2011, comes on the board as the school system faces a possible $110 million deficit as the county continues to battle the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

A proposed $2.3 billion fiscal year 2022 budget focuses on mental health programs, increased technology services and enhanced cleaning and maintenance of buildings.

Before Miller chaired her first school board meeting last week, the District native talked about school resources, serving on a hybrid board and changing the county’s image.

Here are a few of her responses in her own words:

What are some resources the county could use from the state?

“When I talk about taxpayer’s dollars, I want to ensure that we’re continually investing in resources and services that will enhance the educational programs in our school community. Hire qualified teachers and administrators who will help get those programs into implementation. The kind of resources to improve skills for the students. The Kirwan Commission recommendations would really offer the kinds of funding that is needed to bring the kinds of additional resources to address the kind of diverse population Prince George’s County serves. It will help bring in personnel and work with those students that are lagging to decrease that achievement gap.”

As a former state delegate, how do you ensure politics don’t overtake the focus on students?

“You’re not always going to agree on everything. You don’t have to showboat. You can agree to disagree. My attempt will be to bring a culture change and be a professional organization. To keep the dirty laundry in the laundry room. It’s a team effort. I like to think I’m a superwoman, but teamwork makes the dream work. We have to work as a team. Everybody has a part. Not one person. Just like football. You have a quarterback who throws the ball. The other person has to catch it.”

Why serve on the school board?

“Because the county executive asked me. She knew I had the skill and talent to work with people. I have a passion for making sure our Black and brown kids that look like us are given the same opportunity as those on the other side of the tracks. I’m retired. It’s a good opportunity. I’m not running all over the place. Everything is being done virtually. In my career, I would never run for the school board. I chose not to serve on the school board. If I’m asked…to play a role in enhancing our public school programs, services and resources, then I’m OK.”

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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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