Prince George's County Councilman Sydney Harrison holds a microphone for a woman as she asks a question during an Aug. 29 discussion forum on education at a Starbucks in Clinton. (Brigette White/The Washington Informer)
Prince George's County Councilman Sydney Harrison holds a microphone for a woman as she asks a question during an Aug. 29 discussion forum on education at a Starbucks in Clinton. (Brigette White/The Washington Informer)

Special-education and government services, construction of new schools and changing overall school culture were some of the things Prince George’s County residents told officials they want improved.

Dozens of people packed a Starbucks in Clinton to express concerns and ask questions at a “coffee and conversation” discussion hosted by Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Monica Goldson and county Councilman Sydney Harrison.

“I need you to help,” Goldson said. “I’m not looking for a one-time photo-op. I need my kids to see someone who will be in their lives.”

Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Monica Goldson (second from right) speaks during an Aug. 29 discussion forum on education hosted by Goldson and county Councilman Sydney Harrison at a Starbucks in Clinton. (Brigette White/The Washington Informer)

Goldson pleaded for those to help judge science fair contests, businesses provide school supplies and read to students.

Some parents are active in their children’s education and serve on PTAs such as Anisha Lewis, a PTA president at Oxon Hill Middle School, where her daughter receives special education services.

However, Lewis said some staff at the school became rude after she questioned her daughter’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) and believed “I wouldn’t understand the data.” Lewis works as an executive director for the American Evaluation Association in Northwest, which helps conduct research and assess data for various organizations.

“I’m now public enemy number one at the school, but I let them know I’m not going anywhere because I challenge things,” she said. “Them telling me I wouldn’t understand the data when I’m a professional researcher and evaluator doesn’t sit well with me.”

Anisha Lewis talks about special education during a “Coffee and Conversation” discussion on education hosted by Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Monica Goldson and county Councilman Sydney Harrison at a Starbucks in Clinton on Aug. 29. (Brigette White/The Washington Informer)

Goldson called what happened with Lewis “unacceptable” and obtained her information.

Reginald Butler of Clinton said the county needs to build more new schools, especially in the southern part of the jurisdiction.

“I’ve been here since ’73 and my kids are adults. Nothing has changed since then,” he said. “When you come to [a new] school, you feel better.”

Not all the talk focused on education.

Destini Harris of Upper Marlboro summarized the county should research how surrounding jurisdictions are able to provide better schools because of impact fees.

Harris specifically mentioned County Councilman Derrick Davis (D-District 6) of Upper Marlboro, who was also in attendance, because he co-sponsored legislation to provide exemptions for certain projects in order to bring in more county revenue.

Harris and other residents in the Westphalia neighborhood hired an attorney to challenge a proposed merchandise logistics center in Davis’ district. The applicant, which possibly would have built an Amazon warehouse, withdrew the proposal Aug. 23.

“If we see that year after year after year it’s the same problems, then what are we going to do differently?” said Harris, who received an ovation after she spoke. “We will never come up in Prince George’s County if we don’t do things differently.”

Davis responded and explained for several minutes how each jurisdiction has different funding formulas and hard to compare them with Prince George’s. In addition, he said, the state of Maryland provides the “lion’s share” of the budget that comes to the county.

“We are the second-largest jurisdiction in the state of Maryland, but our property values aren’t as high as at least 15 other jurisdictions,” he said. “When you multiply that reality, you come up with the best resources to do all of the things that we’ve been trying to do. … We have to incentive to raise revenue because everyone who wants to do something can do it anywhere they want to do it in this region.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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