The two school board races in Prince George’s County bring together political newcomers, incumbents with long experience and educators who have worked in county classrooms.
Some candidates on the April 26 primary ballot are focused on budget issues. Others want to reduce class sizes, pay teachers more or boost parent engagement.
For each seat in the nonpartisan race, the top two vote-getters will move on to the general-election contest. Here’s a look at who is in the running:
Raaheela Ahmed, 22, who does financial consulting for federal agencies and lives in Bowie, is making her second try for a school board seat, having previously run in 2012.
Since that first attempt, Ahmed, a graduate of Eleanor Roosevelt High School, has earned two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Maryland.
She said her biggest campaign issues are transparency and accountability, community engagement and school safety — topics that she heard a lot about during her previous campaign, as she knocked on doors in her district.
“I’m a finance person, and I feel there is a need for further financial transparency, especially given the history of Prince George’s County politics and fraud,” Ahmed said, recalling the corruption scandal involving former county executive Jack Johnson (D).
Ahmed said that if elected, she would push for a more interactive budget website and evaluations of county programs to determine what is most effective. She said she has heard a lot from parents about making schools safe and would advocate for more cameras and security officers, as well as an environment that is “conducive to learning.”
Incumbent Jeana Jacobs, 48, has represented District 5 on the board for nearly a decade and is seeking a fourth term. Jacobs, a lawyer, consultant and mediator from Mitchellville, was board president from late 2007 until mid-2013 and chairs the policy, legal and legislative committee.
Jacobs earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland at College Park, and a law degree from the David A. Clarke School of Law. She has worked as a corrections officer and a school system hearing officer — positions that she says spurred a passion for helping at-risk students.
Her son attends county public schools.
Jacobs considers early childhood education a priority. “I absolutely believe we have to do a better job of making early childhood options available to as many parents as we can, regardless of their income levels,” she said. Another focus is empowering parents to be advocates, she said, noting that many must fight to get special education services for their children. “I want to make sure they have the tools they need.”
She is a past president of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education and chair of the National School Boards Association’s Council of Urban Boards of Education.
Robert Johnson, 45, the campus director of ITT Technical Institute in Springfield, Va., is a political newcomer from Bowie. An educator for 20 years, he worked as a special education teacher at Northwestern High School in Prince George’s, and as a principal and assistant principal in D.C. Public Schools.
Johnson says his priorities are to reduce class sizes and to fairly compensate teachers and staff members, making salaries competitive with those of surrounding districts. “They are underpaid and overworked — and underappreciated,” he said of school employees.
Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree at the State University of New York at Albany and a master’s degree from Bowie State University.
If elected, Johnson said, he would press county officials to steer more funding to the school system.
“If you measure up Prince George’s County with the rest of the state, our performance is near the bottom in student outcomes, and we’re better than that,” he said. “I think it’s time for a change.”
Cheryl Landis, 61, a 27-year school system employee from Upper Marlboro, is making her first run for public office. She spent 17 years in the offices of the school board — as an executive administrative officer. More recently, she is working to develop school partnerships with the business community, nonprofit organizations and community groups. She is a high school graduate.
If elected, Landis says, her priorities will include working with schools in her district to ensure each has a fully engaged PTA. Although she plans to retire Nov. 1 from her school system job, she hopes to focus as a board member on partnerships between District 5 schools and businesses and nonprofit groups, she says.
“Through that work, I feel confident that the academic achievement of our students will increase,” she said. She is the mother of a county school system graduate.
Landis — who has been endorsed by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) — said she would press for greater collaboration between the board and the district’s administration. “There is certainly more than enough room to be more collaborative in support of our kids,” she said.
Incumbent Edward Burroughs III, 23, a director of business development from Temple Hills, started on the board as a student member, serving in 2008 and 2009 as he attended Crossland High School.
Following his 2010 graduation, he was elected to two more terms. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland at Baltimore County.
Burroughs says his priorities include “fairness and equity” in budget issues. He says he made an impassioned push to add math and reading specialists for the 25 lowest-performing schools this year, but fell one board vote short of passage and drew opposition from schools chief Kevin Maxwell.
“What frustrated me the most is that whenever the superintendent wants to add an executive, there is money,” Burroughs said. “But when I visit classrooms, class sizes are getting larger and teachers are purchasing materials out of their own pockets.”
Burroughs says he considers himself “someone who has a track record of holding the superintendent accountable and putting students first.” His other top issue: special education. He organized listening sessions on the issue in 2014, he says. “Some progress has been made, but we’re far from where we need to be.”
Carlton C. Carter, 47, a school-turnaround consultant from Fort Washington, worked 20 years as a teacher, administrator and principal in Fairfax, Charles and Prince George’s counties.
He resigned as principal of Ernest E. Just Middle School in Mitchellville in 2012 for reasons he did not detail.
“With the leadership at that time, we just agreed to disagree about how to get things done,” he said.
Carter said his top issue is to “support the classroom teacher and principal, and make sure they have all the resources and intellectual support they need to be successful.” He wants more rigor in classroom instruction, to enable more students to pass the state’s standardized tests.
His other top issue is helping schools in his district establish PTA organizations — which many of them lack. He said he hopes to create a task force on that issue and another on how to improve instruction and promote higher-order thinking.
Carter earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland at Eastern Shore, a master’s degree at Bowie State and a doctorate at the online Northcentral University.
Stephanie Hinton, 51, a fifth-grade teacher from Temple Hills, is a first-time candidate who says she’s seeking election as a way to advocate for students. Class sizes are one concern, she said, noting that she has had large classes in some years and knows the drawbacks.
“It can be a challenge,” she says. “I think it’s a hardship on both students and teachers.”
Hinton has worked in education for 20 years, including seven in Prince George’s, several in Catholic schools and as the owner of a tutoring service. In her 20s, she served in the Army as a military police officer. She graduated from University of Maryland at College Park.
She says she wants to work hard to retain high-quality teachers — paying them similarly to those in neighboring school systems. Other important issues, she says, are getting a parent resource center in the southern county, providing more books and supplies to classrooms, and creating an anonymous tip line for educators.
“They are on the front line,” she says, “and I think it would be beneficial to the county as a whole to get their input.”