Candidate Survey: Catherine Bennett Nwosu for Prince George’s County Board of Education
Catherine Bennett Nwosu
Bachelor’s Degree in TESOL
Trending: Red Maryland Radio: The Final Episode
Education – Director of Extended Learning
I have been a teacher in the past. I have spent my career working in schools. Currently I manage after school programming across three elementary campuses in Washington, DC.
I have zero political experience.
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Why are you running for office?
I am a graduate of PGCPS. Teachers that I have had encouraged me to pursue higher education. As a first generation college graduate, I have dedicated my career toward bridging the educational divide. I have seen the disparities and the educational gaps up close in PGCPS as a student and now as a parent. We have a lot of work to do to improve educational outcomes for all of our students. I am running because I am ready to get to work on implementing solutions that will move the school system forward.
Who do you consider your political role model, and why?
Barack Obama, he is someone that united people. He was able to carry himself in a respectable way and lead with a solutions oriented approach. With him it was never about the politics, it was about the people. I truly believe if more people in politics thought and lead that way, we would get a lot more done.
What is your favorite book about politics and policy, and why?
The Weekly Coaching Conversation by Brian Souza. While it is not about politics, it is about leading, managing, and collaborating as a team. I believe both inside and outside of politics, you are only as strong as the people you have on your team. This book is all about setting goals, collaborating, and celebrating each other’s strengths. It highlights the importance of managing through relationships and strengths-based team assessments. Everyone plays a crucial part!
What is your favorite book about education, and why?
Teach like a Champion by Doug Lemov. This is truly a book made by and for teachers. I love this book because it puts names to strategies and techniques that highly effective teachers use. I often reference a lot of his classroom management skills when coaching new or aspiring teachers. I believe this is a must read for any educational leader in a school. A non teacher book
What will be your top priority on the Board of Education?
My first priority would be to bring Board of Education work into the community. I believe as a future elected Board member I have an obligation to spend time in schools interacting with leaders, teachers, students and parents. I want to be active and involved so that I bring the community voice to Board work.
What is the biggest issue facing your county schools?
There are a lot of issues facing Prince George’s County Public Schools. It’s hard to point to one area as the biggest area but I believe these three areas are interconnected and if we tackle these I believe we will begin to reform our schools.
1. Governance: Currently the power of the elected school board members are diluted by the County Executive’s ability to appoint additional board members and select the chair, vice chair, and superintendent needs to be repealed.
2. Accountability/Communication: Parents’ feedback about schools often fall on deaf ears at the school and central office level. This leaves little room for improvement to happen and little options for families to express concerns through appropriate channels. The result has been parents often turn to the media to express concerns in order for progress to be made; thus continuing the negative public opinion of our schools and overshadowing progress that may happen.
3. School Performance: Consistently we lag behind other districts in the state. We know that test scores are only a snapshot of what happens in schools, we should take a long look at other areas that gives a better idea of how the school is operating and what the culture of the school is. Some of those areas could be retention, school tone, building needs, parent feedback, student discipline, and extra curricular programming. We need to look where we could partner and seek out those partnerships. We have to take a hard look at each school to determine areas of strength and areas for growth and match funding with the needs.
What are the three biggest issues facing Maryland schools?
1. Funding: We need to ensure that we are adding to the education budget not supplanting it with money from casinos. We need to ensure we are adding to the education budget not off setting it.
2. Capital Improvement Needs: Across the state, our building improvement needs are high. We need to follow the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission to tackle the growing maintenance and building needs that we have across Maryland.
3. Political Involvement: We need to depoliticize school decisions on a state level. Children should always be put first and foremost in conversations and policies around schools. There should also be a variety in voices across the state around education policies on a state level.
Have you read your county schools curriculum? If so, which parts do you like and which parts do you dislike?
As a parent I have read elementary curriculum. I like that the curriculum is common core aligned. However, I do wish teachers had more instructional coaching to support in differentiation for students so that the scope and sequence to better meet students where they are academically. I believe many teachers have trouble with pacing when children are at various academic levels on the elementary level.
What is your position on school spending?
I believe we are under funded from both the state and local level. I also believe our county school budget needs to be clearer for the general public to digest and should include existing initiatives, outcomes from these programs, and new initiatives indicating specific schools that new programs will be allocated to. In addition, I believe that the county council should work to fully fund school budget requests resulting in less budget reconciliation.
Please identify the three areas which you believe should be prioritized when it comes to school funding
School Maintenance, Teacher Pay, Teacher Training
What is your position on teacher tenure?
I believe that teachers are core to our ability to execute our mission of academic excellence. I believe that all teachers should reflect and refine their practice to ensure that all students have their academic needs met. I believe teachers should be afforded professional development to hone and develop their craft regardless of their tenure. The vast majority of teachers are effective and lead their classroom with students at the core. At the same time there are a few that are ineffective and do not work to meet student needs. Those teachers should be given more coaching and clear feedback and if things do not improve should not be retained. I believe that students should always be first and foremost.
What is your position on standardized testing?
While important to get a base line of how a school is doing, it doesn’t show the full picture. I believe that standardized testing only gives a snapshot of how a school, teacher, or student is performing. I would love to have more data points to get a fuller picture of how schools are performing. This could be feedback from students, teachers, parents, and leaders. Not only that but students that have the highest academic and linguistic needs – English Language Learners- loose valuable instructional time to standardized testing because they have even more testing. I worry that we may be over testing our most vulnerable at risk populations. I would be interested in capturing academic data in a more authentic way through formative assessments.
What is your position on classroom size?
Classes must be low especially on the elementary level so that all students can have their needs met.
Do you believe the Board of Education should having taxation authority?
No. However, I think they should be collaborated with and brought into conversations about taxation with local government officials.