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Political Notes for Prince George's Co. from Gazette

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Maryland School Assessments next week

Elementary and middle school children will take the Maryland School Assessments in reading and mathematics starting Tuesday and going the rest of the week.

Students will have two days of reading testing and two days of math testing.

Schools have been busy the past months with study groups, after-school activities and extra study help to get students ready to take the tests.

The tests help decide whether the school system as a whole is making progress in increasing academic achievement.

For the past four years the school system has not met its annual achievement goals as specified by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. As a result, the Prince George’s schools have been placed on the state’s ‘‘needs improvement” watch list.

Students have also been taking mock MSAs to get ready for the tests.

Truancy bill withdrawn

Del. Doyle Niemann (D-Dist.47) of Mount Rainier has withdrawn a truancy enforcement bill that would have, as a last resort, allowed court-ordered electronic tracking of students who repeatedly cut class.

Niemann said he withdrew his measure so that another bill, HB 1325, which could create a pilot truancy court in Prince George’s County, would have a better chance of passing.

A task force authorized by Chief Administrative Judge William Missouri is already looking into establishing a truancy court in Prince George’s.

Niemann’s bill drew fire from the media and community groups for even mentioning the possibility of electronic monitoring for students.

The county council also voted last month to oppose the bill because the bill would have treated children as hardened criminals, according to County Councilman Tony Knotts (D-Dist.8) of Temple Hills.

Niemann contended that the opposition to his bill was overblown because the electronic monitoring would not have included incarceration or detention and had many other intermediate steps available to the court to get the child back in school short of the monitoring option.

‘‘It was never a central part of the bill,” Niemann said.

Several bills are still up for votes in the legislature with stiffer penalties for truancy as well as more resources for counseling to prevent students from skipping class.

The school system is also trying to combat truancy by sending employees door-to-door to ask parents and guardians why their students have missed class.

Prince George’s County schools have the second highest habitual truancy rate in the state of 4.39 percent, behind only Baltimore City schools’ nearly 11 percent.

Council jumps into death penalty debate

The County Council is attempting to put its stamp on the statewide death penalty debate, submitting a county bill Tuesday that would formalize its opposition to capital punishment in Maryland.

Councilman David Harrington (D-Dist. 5) of Cheverly introduced the measure, backed by Councilman Samuel Dean (D-Dist. 6) of Mitchellville, Councilwoman Marilynn Bland (D-Dist. 9) of Clinton, Councilman Eric Olson (D-Dist. 3) of College Park and Councilwoman Camille Exum (D-Dist. 7) of Seat Pleasant.

The bill cites the 2003 University of Maryland study that found there were racial disparities in the application of the state’s death penalty.

Tuesday’s measure was referred to committee.

Williams makes debut after Largo High School brawl

Creg Williams, head of the newly formed High School Consortium, made his first major public appearance last week at an emergency meeting after a major blowup at Largo High School.

About 50 law enforcement officers were called in to end a disturbance at the school.

Williams will be the head of the county high schools in a special administrative region that will oversee their progress and support their needs. The consortium is specifically designed to focus on student improvement in high schools.

Williams is the former St. Louis Public Schools superintendent.

Audit bill passes delegation

A bill requiring that Prince George’s County officials be audited annually for use of their county-issued credit cards passed through the county’s House delegation Friday.

Del. Victor Ramirez (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly introduced the bill after reports that certain officials abused their credit cards privileges. He said the delegation was waiting to see if the County Council would propose an accountability plan of its own before voting on the bill. But no bill was ever received.

‘‘If there’s nothing in place to do checks and balances, it’s gonna happen again,” Ramirez said of the possibility for credit card abuse.

The bill now goes before the House Environmental Matters Committee.

Franchot and Deasy meet in Suitland

State Comptroller Peter Franchot joined county Schools Superintendent John Deasy on Monday to tour Suitland Elementary School, one of the county’s newest learning facilities and part of its ‘‘Green Schools” initiative.

Franchot is one of three members of the state Board of Public Works, which includes Governor Martin O’Malley and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, that controls school building and other construction funds allocated to the counties.

Franchot has been a proponent of environmental issues, particularly with energy conservation and efficiency and has named Green Schools as a way to be more environmentally conscious and reduce energy costs.

Suitland Elementary, in Suitland, was completed in August 2005 and incorporates windows and skylights to let in more natural sunshine to light the building.

It also uses solar panels to provide electricity and special ventilation systems to produce better air quality for students and staff there.

Students and staff there also engage in recycling of waste produced at the school as well as help tend a garden at the school using rainwater collected in special barrels to reduce water consumption costs.

Franchot called Suitland Elementary a ‘‘great neighborhood school.”

New Democratic group forming in south county

Local Democratic organizations are inviting south county residents to attend a historic meeting March 29 where they will ask volunteers to join a new ‘‘District 27A Precinct Organization.”

The organization will consist of precinct chairs and other leaders for each of the district’s 20 precincts. District 27A covers Accokeek, Clinton, Brandywine, Fort Washington, Upper Marlboro and other communities in the southern part of the county.

The group would advocate on crime and education issues, register voters and encourage accountability among elected officials.

Residents interested in joining the group should RSVP by March 26 to Mel Franklin, at mel.democrat@gmail.com, or 301-325-4642.

The meeting will be held March 29, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., at Surrattsville High School, at 6101 Garden Drive in Clinton. The event is free.

How to start a civic association ...

The police department’s District III Citizens Advisory Council will conduct a free session March 17 to train residents on how to start a civic association.

The training session will instruct residents on how to apply for 501(c)(3) status, and on how to partner with the police department.

The sessions will run from 9:30 a.m. to noon. On-site registration begins at 8:30 a.m., at Cora L. Rice Elementary School, located at 950 Nalley Road in Landover.

See other stories on the Newsvine, such as a letter to the Washington Post about the Largo High "crisis" by a group called People for Change in Prince George's County.
Tags: crime, education, politics, safety
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