Subsequent Prince George’s faculty chief faces system struggling to rebound from pandemic

Next Prince George's school leader faces system struggling to rebound from pandemic


When Monica Goldson was appointed completely as CEO of Prince George’s County Public Faculties in 2019, the college system was nonetheless recovering from a number of scandals underneath the earlier district chief. She was extensively supported by the neighborhood for her deep county ties and status as a collaborator, and she or he had huge plans.

Throughout her first faculty yr as everlasting chief, the pandemic hit, derailing a few of her objectives of bettering educational efficiency for the district’s most struggling college students. After guiding the system by way of on-line studying, reacclimating college students to school rooms and implementing restoration packages, Goldson introduced her retirement in January and is scheduled to step down on the finish of the college yr.

Goldson is leaving a system of practically 131,000 college students that continues to wrestle with teachers. Current knowledge confirmed that 90 % of the county’s college students in third by way of eighth grades weren’t proficient in math; solely Baltimore Metropolis college students had been performing worse. On the similar time, the system is experiencing will increase in violence amongst college students in faculties and amongst younger folks within the county.

With simply 5 months till the brand new faculty yr, a nationwide search is deliberate for the system’s subsequent chief. Expectations will probably be excessive for the brand new CEO as county leaders search for enhancements in pupil efficiency at a time when different faculty programs are rebounding academically. The brand new chief may also have to navigate working with the county’s faculty board, a relationship that has been marred by years of disputes. Goldson cited these disagreements in her retirement announcement, saying the conflicts blocked progress for the college system. Some within the county have disputed her characterization, saying Goldson has performed a task in these divisions.

Prince George’s faculties CEO broadcasts retirement, citing conflicts

Maryland state Sen. Alonzo T. Washington (D-Prince George’s) stated {that a} new CEO will give the college system an opportunity to “begin anew” however that the brand new chief must rapidly study the college system and dive into rolling out the initiatives within the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future — a landmark invoice that directs billions of {dollars} into public training.

“I hope that our subsequent superintendent is a consensus builder — somebody who will work on each side of the problem and ensure that we will lead our college system in a method that’s going to in the end enhance pupil achievement,” Washington stated.

Excessive hopes and a pandemic

County Govt Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) tapped Goldson for the everlasting submit after she had served one yr as interim faculties chief, starting in July 2018. She was heralded as “a daughter of Prince George’s County.” A graduate of county faculties, she began her profession within the district as a math trainer 32 years in the past and moved up the ranks. Her two sons are additionally graduates of county faculties.

Goldson served as deputy superintendent underneath former CEO Kevin Maxwell, who stepped down amid controversies over massive pay raises to aides, a misplaced federal grant and inflated commencement charges. She additionally labored within the district throughout years of strife between faculty board members and college system leaders.

Doris Reed, the longtime government director of the district’s faculty administrator’s union, stated Goldson cared deeply for her workers, in all probability, she stated, as a result of she was once of their ranks. Academics and employees had been leaving in droves, and after Maxwell, Goldson inherited a system that was attempting to fix its picture.

Early on, she introduced a $46 million wage restoration plan for workers who had been with the college system for over 10 years. It was supposed to compensate for a freeze on worker salaries from 2009 to 2012, throughout an financial recession. It was an motion that “no superintendent that I can recall had ever performed,” stated Reed, who led the union for 31 years.

“I needed to shift the main target from the problems that had change into flash factors for media and a distraction from the entire work that our workers had performed and redirect consideration to the each day work of educating and studying, and prioritizing college students,” Goldson, 54, stated in a latest interview with The Washington Publish.

Eight months into her tenure, faculty buildings closed due to the rising pandemic, and courses shifted to on-line educating and studying.

Prince George’s County turned a coronavirus scorching spot, reporting extra instances than every other Maryland jurisdiction at one level. The varsity system stayed with online-only studying longer than every other system within the state, and when it reopened, additionally saved a masks mandate longer than others.

In a district the place college students had been already academically behind their friends statewide, on-line courses created much more challenges.

Prince George’s faculty buildings started reopening to college students in April 2021, however most didn’t return till the beginning of the subsequent faculty yr in August. Then, coronavirus instances spiked in December of that yr. Goldson delayed in-person instruction for one more two weeks after the winter break, citing the rise in covid-19 infections. State officers criticized that call, and Gov. Larry Hogan (R) referred to as it “a horrible mistake.”

Alvaro Ceron-Ruiz, 17, the scholar member of the county’s board of training, stated Goldson made the correct selection. Different jurisdictions within the area had been saying they had been closing particular person campuses as a result of rising covid instances, however Goldson’s determination, he stated, prevented a surge of infections in county faculties.

“Not being afraid to make robust calls is one thing that Dr. Goldson did nicely when it got here to shifting the college system by way of the pandemic,” Ceron-Ruiz stated.

However faculty board member David Murray (District 1) disagreed. The choice to maintain faculties closed that lengthy ought to have been a public dialogue hosted by the college board, he stated. “To only say nobody might go [to school in person] for that lengthy of a time period, I feel clearly prompted extra issues than it solved,” Murray stated.

Goldson acknowledged that the selections had been “unpopular for some folks,” however she stands by them. She additionally stands by her controversial transfer to consolidate the district’s various faculties regardless of pleas from employees and alumni to maintain the campuses open for the at-risk college students the faculties enrolled.

In different areas, she was counseled by most county residents for her work in operating the system whereas faculties had been closed and for communication with dad and mom all through her tenure. Her administration superior a first-of-its-kind plan that constructed six faculties utilizing a public-private mannequin. Prekindergarten went from a part-time to a full-day program for some college students.

“You’re speaking about someone who the vast majority of her tenure has been the pandemic and managing a scenario that nobody in our lifetime had skilled,” stated Donna Christy, president of the Prince George’s County Educators’ Affiliation, the academics union. “She was actually working with no playbook.”

‘Nonetheless in the identical boat’

Goldson’s file on educational progress is more durable to measure. Throughout the nation, take a look at scores fell to ranges not seen in a long time after courses moved on-line.

Prince George’s has adopted the nationwide pattern; its most up-to-date evaluation knowledge from the 2021-22 faculty yr confirmed many college students testing under grade stage in math and studying. Although outcomes confirmed some slight enhancements over the earlier yr, fewer than 25 % had been “assembly expectations” in studying and language arts throughout grade ranges. Math scores had been decrease, with fewer than 10 % of scholars assembly expectations. Prince George’s college students additionally examined under most different districts on latest state assessments.

Most Prince George’s college students scoring under grade stage on district exams

“[W]hen take a look at scores got here out, they had been abysmal,” stated Janna Parker, a guardian of two highschool college students. Parker famous there have been college students who’ve excelled within the faculty’s educational packages and acquired hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in scholarships underneath Goldson’s tenure, “however we even have a big subset of scholars that aren’t acting at capability.”

Even the county’s youngest college students are behind.

At the start of the present faculty yr, Prince George’s reported that 31 % of kindergartners “demonstrated readiness” on a statewide evaluation, the bottom of any jurisdiction within the state. The evaluation exams kindergartners on their motor abilities, social foundations, arithmetic and literacy in the course of the first two months of a college yr. The ranking was a slight enhance from the 28 % of the earlier yr, however nonetheless under the statewide common of 42 % readiness.

“For the educational achievement, I feel that’s all the time going to be a tough one due to the pandemic disruption,” stated faculty board member Pamela Boozer-Strother (District 3), including that comparisons are tough as a result of counties different in how they dealt with pandemic studying.

Goldson stated that her administration made math a precedence this faculty yr and that there have been some enhancements, particularly in the summertime program. College students who participated on the elementary stage had a 56 % enhance in arithmetic progress and 39 % progress in English language arts. Center faculty college students enrolled in this system had a 36 % enhance in arithmetic progress and a 28 % enhance in studying language arts. Eighty-three % of highschool college students handed the arithmetic course they took, and 80 % handed their studying language arts course.

“Had we not had the yr and a half of the pandemic, I feel we’d see much more educational progress,” Goldson stated.

Washington, the state senator, stated that Goldson put in “the laborious work and dedication that’s wanted” as chief of the state’s second-largest faculty system however that wholesale enchancment is required.

“I feel we’re nonetheless in the identical boat,” Washington stated, pointing to check scores and an ongoing truancy downside in faculties. “We now have moved incrementally, and that’s all the time been the case underneath most superintendents.”

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