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Upper Marlboro Charter School to Close After One Year

Possibility Prep Stem Academy is the county's first and only all boys public charter school.

This past Friday, the staff and students at Possibility Prep Stem Academy in Upper Marlboro were greeted with a letter stating that Prince George's County's first and only all boys public charter school will close its doors after only one school year. 

After reading several messages about why the school was closing, it was stated that our Board of Governors did not meet several mandates dictated by the county school board. These mandates included but were not limited to creating academic and behavior intervention programs, fixing building violations and increasing student enrollment.

Being a teacher at the academy has given me a unique perspective on the entire situation. All stakeholders have some fault in the school's closing, but in the end, it is the students who endure the biggest burden.

Both the county school board and the charter board did not develop an effective relationship to ensure the students were given a world class education. I also believe the charter board underestimated the amount of resources needed to effectively operate a school. In addition, the county board did not allocate enough resources for the charter to be successful. It was always understood amongst the staff that the relationship between both boards were extremely volatile which caused a breakdown of communication.

On the school level, educators were not given adequate training by Edison Learning, a for profit educational management corporation. Teachers were not properly trained on how to effectively build a school culture and instruct a population of African-American students. Many instructors came into the building with their same makeshift educational approach, which was not effective. In turn, there were many behavior issues due to the lack of classroom management, which led to decreased enrollment.

There was a critical need of special education services due to a high population of special needs students, but the county only furnished the school with a two-member special education department. Not only was this inadequate but it was also against the law.

A security guard was only furnished half way through the school year and there has never been a counseling department or full-time nurse. There are no security cameras or school-wide intercom system. There was also a major leadership change in the middle of the year and six staff members were transferred due to budget cuts and a lack of enrollment. How does anyone expect this school to be successful?

In the end, it is the students who lose. Leadership bickered, teachers were ill-prepared for the circumstances at hand and the adults focused more on the issues than the education of young men. Even in the midst of all the chaos, I was able to witness the resilience of my youth. They showed up everyday hoping for a change, looking for education, thirsty for a mentor or a positive culture.

If/when the school closes, we would have failed our young men yet again. Adults’ inability to properly plan and work out our differences has caused the youth to fail once more.

Twink May 17, 2011 at 03:08 PM
Wow! Such sad news.
Victorious Hall May 17, 2011 at 03:24 PM
Very much so Twink! Its a tough pill to swallow!
Yaritza May 17, 2011 at 03:33 PM
This breaks my heart...I just felt my heart dip reading this. It's unfortunate when our children's best interest should be the most important factor. Even then adults can't agree.
dorsi tompkins May 17, 2011 at 03:42 PM
Oddly enough, this school just crossed my mind yesterday. I was shocked to find this article today and moreso to find that the school is closing. Its very, very unfortunate to see what could have been an amazing educational experience for these young men at this critical age fall under the weight of what appears to be simple miscommunication. I hope the parents of these students will seek and find appropriate school placements that will meet the unique needs of their children.
Marina Gervacio May 17, 2011 at 04:36 PM
As the school's STEM teacher, I witness my students' excitements in doing their STEM projects... I'm going to really miss not only teaching STEM but also these kids who really love hands-on activities that they can apply in their life :-(... Can anybody still do something to save the school?
Linsey Bailey May 17, 2011 at 06:26 PM
When you make a deal with the devil he eventually wants more than he had to give up. No one seems to understand that only private schools and colleges should be in education for profit. Edison Learning hates AFRICAN AMERICAN students. A declaration of hate that is supported by action.
Rising Spivey May 17, 2011 at 10:55 PM
As you said, it is the children who suffer when adults can't get it together. I wish you the best Vic. Perhaps this change will be a blessing for you :-) Let me know if you need anything. I'm always down to protest! lol (but u know im serious)
Felicia Reed May 18, 2011 at 03:18 PM
This appears to be a result of poor planning, executing and a committment to educational excellence. I am VERY upset as a parent for receiving a phone call last week saying my son had been accepted and then reading about the closing this week in the news. I realize the school had challenges but we were going to support and push just to get my son exposed to the STEM realm. The county HAS YET to call me and offer alternatives or explanation. As a community activist, I know we can do better. We can't just jump out there and say we are going to do and then drop a ball especially with the education of our students. I wish the county would adopt some quality management practices such as 5WHY or PDCA as a foundation for running the school system. I'm so disappointed in this LATEST issue.
Debbie Pearson May 18, 2011 at 08:52 PM
I am a Possibility Parent. I remembering actually shedding tears of joy when hearing of my son's acceptance to this school. So much promise and support for my young scholar entering the very years when we "lose" our little boys. When they announced loss of the music program, I was concerned, but decided to research funds. With no language and no sports, I worried, but figured with time and support, things would happen. I remember the day we came to paint our new school. I thought, with this many children and their parents directly supporting this school, there was no way we'd lose. I never imagined I'd see all that wonderful connectivity fall apart the way I did those first months. Finally, my son asked to transfer because he "couldn't learn". Just before we made that leap, enrollment dropped and the classes were manageable and he actually asked to stay. My son has had some wonderful teachers who challenged him and helped to learn in the midst of all the upset in PPA. I applaud them all for their efforts. For staying there to support our boys with all that was available to them and most importantly, with what wasn't. There is potential and "possiblity" abound for an all boys STEM school in Prince George's County. I know it can work when properly facilitated. I've seen these boys work and succeed through some of the worst. I'm hoping that SOMEONE will take what was started here and nurture it properly elsewhere.
L. S. Brooks May 18, 2011 at 09:16 PM
Really got my attention. Because of my interest in starting a public charter school in Prince Georges, I have some questions that may help me learn from the unfortunate closing of the school: --How many young men were enrolled? What was the expected enrollment? --Did the decreased enrollment (and the associated decrease in available funds) contribute to the security guard arriving late, and not having a counselor or school nurse? --When did the relationship between the 2 boards start to go downhill, at the very start, or later? --Did Edison Learning even offer the type of training and preparation the teachers needed? --How would you describe the level of parental involvement? I could go on & on with questions, but that's enough to start Thanks in advance!
Victorious Hall May 18, 2011 at 10:25 PM
Felica I agree 100 percent. Spivey, hopefully the school will pan out if not I will continue to serve. Debbie, that is a compelling story. We have some powerful and resilent scholars in our building. They are beyond exceptional! Brooks, 450 was the beginning amount and that was about the target. The lack of positions was due to lack of budgetary planning I believe. Edison did provide some training but the proper people were not involved. Parental involvement was the best I have ever witnessed in PG County. I'm unsure about your other question
DzMommy May 19, 2011 at 01:59 AM
Brother Victorious, I appreciate everything you have done to inspire our sons. As a parent of one of your scholars and one that considered removing him from PPSA I agree with your writing. It saddens me that the school has to close despite its struggles. I agree that the Board of Govenors and Edison Learning were not able to devise a better plan of action to improve the learning environment and safety for our scholars. I have nothing negative to say about the staff at PPSA, it was a blessing for you and your team members to embrace my son's path. My hats go off to you all because you kept your head up and continued to spread the desire to learn to our sons.
Debbie Pearson May 19, 2011 at 05:22 PM
Brooks, I can tell you that I learned from a member of the 100 Black Men that part of the budgeting issue came from the budget shortfall that was created by hindering Edison's input. I was told that in their efforts to remain a true "not for profit" organization or at least appear to totally have the children's interest at heart, they limited the funding and input of Edison. That, with the county's budget drop, made for difficult situations.
MNielsen May 19, 2011 at 06:59 PM
Brother Victorious, I am so sorry to hear that PPA will be closing it's doors. Although we are now longer at PPA we still believed in the mission statement and wished all the best. My son LOVED your class, your teaching style, and your energy. He is now an avid reader and very much in touch with his Afro-Carib heritage and culture. To you, all blessings and good life! PEACE The Nielsen Family
Victorious Hall May 20, 2011 at 01:50 PM
Peace! Thank you for such a strong compliment! I am happy he is developing a into a positive and intelligent young man! That is the whole reason why I do this work! Please send him my blessings! Peace!
R-Section May 29, 2011 at 06:29 PM
On what do you base your comments? Did Edison Learning hire the teachers, or make decisions on school faculty size, or supply this charter school with different education materials that were not up-to-date when compared to schools with a different student demographic? I think we would all like to know what this corporation did that was specifically harmful to African-Americans.
AT Summerville November 09, 2011 at 07:29 PM
Brooks, I am looking at investing in a charter school in PG county also. I would like to connect with you. I think PPA's concept has alot of potential. Are you open to that?
Ethan Sizer December 02, 2011 at 03:09 AM
I really think that PPA should've never been closed. The school balanced education with fun which created a more positive learning environment for students and a brotherhood amongs the students and faculty. I strongly agree that the "leaders" didn't care about our voices or our futures. I miss my teachers, Bro. Victorious & Mr. Seneque and my friends. Hopefully someone who cares will start a similar school, maybe not in time for me to graduate but at least be available for my little brothers.

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