Prince George’s voters decide among school board candidates

Nearly 20 candidates, including four incumbents, are running for five seats on the Prince George’s County Board of Education.

Voters will head to the polls Tuesday, and then the two top vote-getters in each nonpartisan district race will face off in November.

The incoming members, who will compose a majority on the board, will address issues that include declining enrollment, poverty and low test scores. They will oversee a $1.6 million budget for a system of 124,000 students and help implement a new plan designed by School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. that gives principals authority in how money is spent at their schools.

The candidates include two teenagers and several well-known names, including people who have run unsuccessfully for local offices.

District 1: Two candidates are vying for the seat being vacated by Rosalind Johnson, who is retiring.

●Zabrina Epps, 40, of Laurel, an academic adviser and adjunct communications instructor at a community college in Baltimore County, wants to give “more deference to teachers.” She said too many students enter college ill-prepared.

●David Murray, 20, of Bowie, a University of Maryland Baltimore County student, said the schools are “lagging behind our peers.” He wants the system to offer incentives to attract and keep the best teachers and administrators.

District 4: Patricia Eubanks, who has served 15 months on the board, faces three challengers.

●Eubanks, 50, of Capitol Heights, who lists school board member as her occupation, wants to form alliances between the faith community and local government because “the school system can’t do it all.” She said the current board has addressed many challenges facing the system, including equity and transparency.

●Dennis Smith, 57, of Glenarden, an adjunct professor at Prince George’s County Community College and an administrator for the Center for Minority Business Development, wants to address “dismal test scores” and the achievement gap.

●Sandy J. Vaughns, 44, of Palmer Park, a citizen service specialist for the county who ran for the board two years ago, wants a system that is more transparent, friendlier to the unions and more community-based.

●Micah Watson, 36, of Cheverly is a foreign affairs officer at the State Department. Watson, who has a child in the system, said the current board member has been ineffective. “We need . . . someone to help parents navigate their children’s education,” he said.

District 5: In a closely watched race, three newcomers are challenging Prince George’s school board Chairman Jeana Jacobs.

●Raaheela Ahmed, 18, of Bowie, a student at the University of Maryland at College Park and chief executive of an online platform, said not enough graduates are prepared. She would seek more internships and special programs.

●Deidre N. Jackson, 42, a legal assistant from Upper Marlboro, did not return a call and an e-mail seeking comment.

●Jacobs, 44, an attorney from Bowie who has served six years on the board, said her candidacy brings needed stability. “Continuity is important,” she said.

●Sherine Taylor, 35, a human resources specialist from Upper Marlboro, said she would push for a more “user-friendly budget report” so parents know how money is spent. She also wants a pay increase for teachers.

District 7: Three candidates are pitted against incumbent Henry P. Armwood.

●Armwood, 61, a retiree and a former parent liaison, was elected to the board 15 months ago. He wants to change the perception of the schools.

●Carletta Fellows, 42, of Upper Marlboro, an educational programmer for a foundation for foster children, is concerned about the system’s academic and financial needs and wants to streamline the budget and make it more transparent.

●Lykisha Perkins could not be reached for comment

●John E. Richardson, 47, a Prince George’s substitute teacher from Forestville, wants to improve staff morale and “keep our highly qualified teachers.”

District 8: Three people are seeking to replace incumbent Edward Burroughs III.

●O.J. Bego, 35, of Camp Springs is a pastor. He would devise a plan for student success to show businesses that Prince George’s is “serious about education.”

●Burroughs, 19, of Camp Springs, a University of Maryland Baltimore County student who pushed for a new auditorium at Crossland High School, wants to continue to improve facilities and programs.

●Andre Nottingha m, 44, an education consultant and Fort Washington resident, said the system needs to coordinate better with the nonprofit community, prioritize the budget and make sure it has top-notch teachers and principals.

●Erika Walcott, 44, a community activist from Oxon Hill, said she wants teachers to be valued more and for the system to own up to its faults. “When you own it, you are apt to do something about it,” she said.

For more information about each candidate, visit Maryland Schools Insider at www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/maryland-schools-insider.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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