Ahead of Election Day, The Diamondback spoke to Prince George’s County Board of Education candidates. For candidates running in districts 6 and 9, click here.
Prince George’s County voters will head to the polls on Tuesday with four seats up for grabs in the Board of Education in districts 2, 3, 6 and 9.
Amid dysfunction and controversial plans, the Board of Education will have significant turnover with just one incumbent, Pamela Boozer-Strother, on the general election ballot.
District 2, which includes Hyattsville and Langley Park, will have two candidates on the ballot with Jenni Pompi and Jonathan Briggs after incumbent Joshua Thomas decided against running for re-election.
Incumbent Pamela Boozer-Strother is running unopposed in District 3, encompassing College Park, after Varinia Sandino suspended her campaign.
The Diamondback reached out to Board of Education candidates in Districts 2 and 3 to learn more about each candidate’s platform. Candidates are listed in order by their district.
Former Chicago Public Schools and Kansas City Jonathan Briggs is preparing for his first run for public office in Prince George’s County.
After teaching for six years, Briggs pivoted from his role as a teacher to become involved with educational policy. He said he began to understand that educational inequities were rooted beyond the classroom and hoped to address them through policy.
“I left the classroom because I felt that there were so many inequities facing my students when I was teaching,” he said. “The only way to really address the challenges that we’re facing was through policy shifts.”
In recent years, Briggs has served as a legislative assistant for Congresswoman Marcia Fudge and currently serves as the policy manager for America Forward, a nonpartisan non-profit.
Briggs said he sees parallels between the issues that plagued schools he’s taught at in the past and Prince George’s County schools he hopes to address on the board.
Briggs pointed to newly released data from PGCPS CEO Monica Goldson showing more than 50 percent of PGCPS students performed below expectations in math. He said the pandemic exacerbated the gap between students, particularly those of immigrant families and in the Title I program. To address this, Briggs said he plans on implementing policies to close this gap, including strengthening school infrastructure.
“There is still a backlist of schools that haven’t had specific things addressed, whether it’s heating or cooling, mold, asbestos, or just old facilities that are not up to par for students,” he said.
Another issue Briggs plans to tackle is the lack of accessible mental health resources for students. Briggs said adding more school counselors, social workers, and psychologists is at the forefront of his first-term priorities.
In his final message to voters before election day, Briggs said his teaching experience brings a new perspective to the school board that is necessary to improve the quality of education across the county.
“We need more teachers on the school board,” Briggs said. “We need people who understand what’s happening in schools, understand the needs that parents have from teachers, and really understand the struggle that teachers are going through with students and closing the achievement gap.”
University of Maryland alumni and 25-year Prince George’s County resident Jenni Pompi is a long-time parent advocate in PGCPS and former PTA president at Riverdale Elementary school.
With two kids in the school system, Pompi said she was initially hesitant to run for the school board. However, after discussions with fellow parents in her district, she ultimately decided to run for the open seat.
Pompi vowed to put children at the forefront of her policy decisions, rather than politics, which she believes has been driving board of education decisions in the past.
“We need to let people there who are willing to put their personal politics aside and just be child-first and school-first, and I’m the candidate that can do that,” she said.
At the forefront of Pompi’s policy initiatives is incentivizing teachers to work in Prince George’s County. She said relocation bonuses could help infuse teachers in the school system from across the country.
In addition to adding teacher benefits, Pompi also hopes to close the achievement gap, which has grown over the pandemic. She hopes to install new tutoring for students as well as classes geared toward parents to help them understand how they can help their kids at home.
Another aspect of closing the achievement gap, according to Pompi, is reshaping current metrics regarding school performance. She said comparing schools with other schools regarding metrics such as test scores is often misleading as every school has a different population of students.
“We need to make sure that we’re assessing them, the schools, against their own growth instead of schools against one another,” Pompi said. “Their population may be more English language learners, so the tests are more difficult for them because they’re not designed for people who are not native English speakers.”
Pompi said she hopes District 2 voters empower her to bring the community’s voice to the table.
“District 2 has a real opportunity to bring this elected office back to the community and have a real community advocate in that seat and somebody who is deeply connected and has intimate knowledge of our schools,” Pompi said.
Brentwood resident Pamela Boozer-Strother is seeking a second term on the Prince George’s County Board of Education in District 3.
Prior to being elected in 2018, Boozer-Strother was a PTO officer at Mount Rainier Elementary School and on the board of the Gateway Community Development Corporation.
On the Board of Education, Boozer-Strother serves on the Operations, Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee and the Policies and Procedures Committee in the Maryland Association of Boards of Education.
In her first term, Boozer-Strother helped guide new development plans for schools in her district plans, including Cherokee Lane Elementary School and passed a board policy ensuring inclusion for LGBTQIA+ students in schools.
Boozer-Strother hopes to continue the development of six new schools in Prince George’s County by 2023 and invest more in career readiness resources for students in her second term, according to her website.
Boozer-Strother was unavailable for comment after a request from The Diamondback.