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An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

First People - The Legends. Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves. November 16, 2004. [accessed April 7, 2012].

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Prince George's County public school system

               The Prince George's County public school system traces its roots back to the aftermath of the Civil War and the 1864 Maryland Constitution. Under the first school board president and first superintendent, Dr. John Bayne of Salubria, OxonHill, Maryland, and local control was established in order to meet the specific needs and preferences of the population. The governance of the education system was separated from general governance of the County with a focus on lay oversight concentrating on policy making. Day to day operations relied on a professional superintendent for management.

               The public responsibility to educate its young in order to ensure their ability to participate fully in the workforce of tomorrow is a constant challenge for Prince George's County, Maryland. Unlike in Washington, D.C., where the Mayor has direct authority over the city’s school system, or in, say, Philadelphia, where the Mayor appoints two members to a five-member school system authority, in Prince George’s County, the executive has no control over the county’s schools beyond allocating funds.

                In essence, the management is patterned on corporate boards of directors with a chief executive officer.[1]  The democratic representation of all citizens through at-large elections, however, is missing. The election by specific district reinforces the parochial interference that is an on-going characterization of the school system.

               According to the Maryland state department of education, 41 percent of Prince George’s County’s schools have been identified as schools in need of improvement.[2] There is an obvious need for change in how the school system is administered at the highest level - the school board. And yet we have had a series of school boards so it would follow that it is not the specific personalities as much as the system of the independent school board itself that may be at the root of the challenges and problems. A well-worn cliché tells us that repeatedly doing the same thing while expecting different results is the very definition of insanity.    

               Perhaps it is time to have a public conversation about holding a county executive and his team responsible and moving the school system into the county executive's office. This idea comes with significant risk, of course, especially in light of recent illegal activities and pay for play antics of past years, however, given the school systems budget comes from the County Council and the County Executive, it seems a natural consideration to hold them accountable directly instead of injecting yet another layer of self interest into the mix. Let's see if we can stop going the same thing over and over again, and stop being constantly surprised that we get the same results over and over again.

[1] Deborah Land. 2002. Local School Boards Under Review: Their Role and Effectiveness
in Relation to Students’ Academic Achievement. Johns Hopkins [accessed July 29, 2012]
[2] George Barnette. 2012. Maryland No. 1 in School Rankings although Baltimore and Prince George’s lag. [accessed July 29, 2012]

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