Voters will choose nominees for four school board seats in Prince George’s County on June 26, after a primary season that has been dominated by discussion about how to improve the jurisdiction’s struggling schools. The top two vote-getters for each seat will compete in the general election in November.
Infighting on the board — which since 2013 has been a hybrid model that includes both elected and appointed members — has spilled into the public eye, and embattled schools chief executive Kevin M. Maxwell has said he will leave after the end of the school year. All the major candidates for county executive say they want to return to a fully elected board, but that change would require passage of a new law by the Maryland General Assembly.
Here are the candidates on the primary ballot, including three incumbents:
Rob Anthony, 36, a native Prince Georgian who works in human resources for the federal government, said he is running because schools have been a consistent disappointment and “there’s been too much infighting on the board.” He supports a fully elected school board, fewer dollars spent on administrative positions and an increased focus on students with special needs. Anthony, of New Carrollton, attended county public schools and graduated from Bowie State University with a degree in communications.
Lupi Grady, 44, was elected to the District 2 seat in 2014 and is seeking a second term. The incoming chief executive of the Latin American Youth Center said she wants to continue progress made during her first term — including providing more after-school opportunities for students. Grady, of College Park, has two children in public schools. She graduated from Goucher College with a degree in English and got her master’s degree in curriculum instruction in bilingual and special education. She said she is “not sure” whether the current hybrid structure is a problem but thinks the system needs more stability.
Joshua Thomas, 24, is a former Teach for America teacher who now manages recruitment at historically black colleges and universities for the organization. Thomas, who grew up in Glendale and graduated from Eleanor Roosevelt High School, said he would like to address overcrowding and teacher recruitment and retainment. Thomas graduated from Howard University, where he studied biology. He supports a fully elected school board but thinks the most important thing is that board members “act with fidelity to residents.”
Juwan Blocker, 20, a student at Bowie State University who served on the Prince George’s school board as a student representative, wants to address issues with school maintenance and overcrowding and redistribute funds so teachers are paid more and administrators make less. “We are top-heavy now,” said Blocker, a sophomore from Hyattsville studying history and government. Blocker led a 2016 coalition that opposed the school system’s decision to stop covering fees for Advanced Placement tests because of budget constraints. He supports a return to a fully elected school board and says the hybrid board “has been a breeding ground for nepotism and cronyism.”
Pamela Boozer-Strother, 49, a small-business owner and community activist, would focus on ending school construction delays and adding arts integration at every school. The mother of a second-grader at Mount Rainier Elementary School, Boozer-Strother raises money for educational and technology associations. She graduated from Alfred University and American University’s Kogod School of Business.
Irene Holtzman, 42, a former D.C. teacher who now works as an advocate, said the challenges in Prince George’s schools remind her of those she saw at the beginning of her career two decades ago. Holtzman, of Brentwood, said she wants to improve teacher pay, increase communication with parents and boost transparency. Holtzman graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in psychology. She said that the hybrid school board structure is not “working well for children” and that she is “open to any solution to make it better.”
Catherine Bennett Nwosu, 28, a former preschool teacher who manages an after-school program at D.C. charter schools, said she wants to improve academic quality in the classroom and address overcrowding. She grew up in Beltsville and has a son in first grade at a county public school. She supports a return to an elected school board and increased transparency from the next schools chief. Bennett Nwosu graduated from Ashford University with a degree in education.
Carolyn Maria Boston, 69, is running for a third term. She was elected to the school board in 2010 and tapped to be vice chair in 2013. Boston, a former parent liaison for the school system who lives in Capitol Heights, said Prince George’s is “moving in the right direction to be a model for the nation on how to educate a diverse student body.” She wants to focus on addressing overcrowding, increasing parent engagement and improving SAT preparation, and she said the hybrid board is best for the county because it “has a mix of professionals that bring a wealth of knowledge.”
Caleb Camara, 18, a rising junior studying political science and psychology at the online University of Maryland University College, said District 6 has suffered from a “lack of advocacy.” Camara, of Lanham, graduated from Parkdale High School. He wants to see more technology in the classroom and better teacher pay, and to decrease the number of teachers who leave for other jurisdictions. Camara said that the board should be fully elected and that the hybrid structure has caused division.
Pat Fletcher, 67, of Landover, served on the school board from 2006 until 2010. She is running again because she thinks schools in poorer communities inside the Beltway are not receiving the resources they need. Fletcher, who is retired from a career in forensic psychology with the D.C. government, never received a college degree and is now studying the culinary arts at Prince George’s Community College. She supports a return to a fully elected school board because “the allegiance of appointed members is to the people who appoint them.”
Belinda Queen, 55, a native Prince Georgian who retired after 28 years in communications with Verizon, said the county has forgotten the importance of “investing in every child.” Queen, who grew up in Landover, has three children and nine stepchildren and has been a foster parent or guardian to 11 children. She graduated from Strayer University with a degree in accounting and supports a return to an entirely elected school board that is “accountable” to the citizens.
Ava Richardson, 61, a longtime community activist who served on the Capitol Heights City Council, wants safer schools and to ensure that “underprivileged students have a fair chance” at graduating on time. Richardson, who studied psychiatry at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, supports the hybrid board.
David Shelton, 44, a native Prince Georgian and dean of a school in Baltimore County for students with disciplinary issues, says he wants to see “more therapy and less suspension” and better food for students. Shelton used to teach in Prince George’s and supports a fully elected board. Shelton studied English at the University of Maryland at Eastern Shore and received a master’s degree in administration and supervision from Trinity Washington University.
Anthony Triplin, 33, a Navy veteran and financial manager in the federal government, said he believes he can bring better financial oversight to the school board. Triplin wants more emphasis on community schools and to educate taxpayers about what their money is being used for in the school system. He supports a fully elected board. Triplin studied political science at Norfolk State University and received an MBA at the American Military University.
Matt Green, 43, a retired Army officer living in Upper Marlboro, said he would bring a calm demeanor and problem-solving attitude to the board: “It’s easy to tear things down . . . but I am a problem-solver.” Green, who is also a Realtor and volunteer football coach, has four children, ages 4 to 13. The oldest three attend county public schools. He said he thinks that parents need to be more involved and that the board should return to a fully elected model, “the only way constituents can be fairly represented.”
Don Massey, 49, a teacher in the District, wants less “infighting” on the board and higher-quality education for students. Massey, of Upper Marlboro, has two children who graduated from Prince George’s public schools and did well there. He would like a fully elected board but said his priority is finding an “effective model.” Massey studied economics and African American studies at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and received his master’s degree in education from Oral Roberts University.
Arun Puracken, 28, a native Prince Georgian and middle school teacher at the public Accokeek Academy, said his time in the classroom opened his eyes to inequity in the school system and “negligence” by the board. Puracken, of Brandywine, wants to reduce overcrowding, improve teacher pay and promote policies that benefit students. He graduated from the University of Maryland at Baltimore County with a degree in political science. He favors a fully elected board and said that “we have a culture of nepotism in Prince George’s.”
Sonya Williams, 49, is running for a second term on the board to continue her work addressing aging infrastructure, among other things. Williams, a civil engineer, was appointed to an open seat in 2014 and was elected to a full four-year term later that year. Williams, of Clinton, graduated from the University of Maryland and received a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Georgetown University. She blamed problems in the schools on a lack of stable leadership and said it “does not matter how you get on the board.” What matters, she said, is “what you bring to it in terms of skills and resources and your ability to do work.”