GREENBELT — Two Eleanor Roosevelt High School alumni have thrown their hats into the ring in hopes of unseating Prince George’s County Board of Education District 2 member Lupi Quinteros-Grady.
Education is a hot topic in this year’s election throughout Prince George’s County and the state, but for those running in the local board elections, education is the only topic. As the June primaries eek closer, the three running for the District 2 board of education seat are well aware that only two names will make it to the November ballot. And only one will ultimately have the honor of representing the vibrant cities of the district including College Park, Greenbelt and New Carrollton.
The District 2 seat is currently held by Quinteros-Grady, who won the seat in 2013. When she took her place at the dais, Quinteros-Grady was one of the first two Latinas on the board. The accomplishment was one of many for a woman who immigrated to the United Sates when she was just 7 years old.
“I came to the United States when I was 7 years old and did not speak English. I still remember my teachers, and to this day I am so grateful to them,” she said. My parents worked very hard to provide for us, so it was difficult for them to have the time and to know how to support us in our academics. They did not know how to navigate the education system or to advocate on our behalf. But we were taught to work hard and respect our teachers.”
While on the board, Quinteros-Grady has worked on policy to increase recess time, helped create a standard high school guide to help high school students through the college application process, formed a partnership between the county school system and Estudios Universitarios to provide academic workshops in Spanish for middle and high school students and has been a strong advocate for community schools.
“My personal experiences help me to understand the students we serve. I see myself in many of our students and know that, with the proper support and guidance, they can excel academically and have a bright future,” she said.
Quinteros-Grady believes her experience on the board and her 21 years of management experience make her the ideal candidate. If re-elected she hopes to expand the teacher pipeline to both recruit and retain highly qualified educators, advocate for increased school construction funds and make the budget process more transparent.
“The educational issues are complex with a district of our size, and we need a board that can be steadfast and focused on resolving the issues at hand with a systematic approach that builds on accountability,” she said.
While Quinteros-Grady believes board experience is key, her two challengers think new ideas and a fresh perspective are needed on the Prince George’s County Board of Education.
Joshua Thomas believes its time to add another educators voice to the board.
“I remember being frustrated in the classroom with the fact that there were decisions being made on a policy level that were affecting my kids and me but I don’t remember getting an opportunity to voice my concerns,” he said. “I want to change that.”
Thomas is a product of Prince George’s County Public Schools, and while he grew up thinking the medical field was his calling, education kept pulling him back. He joined Teach for America thinking he would spend two years gaining work experience before going on to medical school, but along the way, he found his passion for education.
Now, as a former educator and current recruiter for Teach for America, Thomas said he wants to take his passion to the next level. He wants to take his first-hand knowledge of the struggles educators and students face to the board of education.
“I am running simply off of the fact that I was a teacher myself,” he said. “That’s the approach I’m taking to this. I want to be able to represent the needs of teachers and students.”
Thomas believes he can bring a new perspective to the board about what matters most. Endorsed by the local teacher’s union, Thomas’ campaign focuses heavily on including teachers, parents and students in the decision-making process. He is also advocating to reduce school overcrowding, increase teacher retention and wages, and improve wrap-around services for students.
“Having real classroom experience matters,” he said. “Its one thing to be able to make policy decisions from research and from what you think is best, but when you know what that means and what that looks like in the classroom – that makes a big difference.”
For Rob Anthony this race is about feeling a personal responsibility to his community and wanting fix a gap he sees in the Prince George’s County experience.
“This is my community,” Anthony said. “This is my town, those are my schools. So I feel a personal responsibility for them.”
Anthony said a good education system is a missing piece to make Prince George’s all that it can be. With a day job in human resources and passion for activism, he believes he has the right experience and toolset to turn the system around.
If elected to the board, he plans to hone in on the budget and bring the focus back to classroom needs.
“I see we spend a lot of money in our administrator and not enough money in our classrooms. And when I say ‘in our classrooms’ I’m looking at our teacher compensation. I’m looking at the fact that we don’t have nurses in every school and I’m looking at our crumbling infrastructure,” he said.
Transparency and integrity are two other major focuses of Anthony’s campaign. He said he wants to fully prepare students for life beyond high school, put teacher’s back on the right step pay, increase school safety and increase restorative practices in schools.
“Let’s do the basic things right,” he said. “If a parent calls the Sasser Building or a school, someone should pick up the phone. Someone should answer them…Let’s just do the basic things correctly. Fix the leaks, answer the phone, just do the small things better.”
He also wants to bring the work done at the Sasser Administration Building back to the people in District 2 by regularly meeting with the community.
The primary election is on June 26.