By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, jwright@afro.com

Key community leaders are urging parents of Prince George’s County students to become active participants in their child’s education.

The Prince George’s County school system will open its doors on Sept.4. Belinda Queen, who is a candidate for the District 6 Board of Education, told the AFRO that parents want to start the year off strong with their children.

Volunteers handed out school supplies at the Stuff-A-Bus event at the Wegmans Woodmore Aug. 11. (Courtesy photo)

“Parents need to get involved with ‘Back to School’ activities because there have been a lot of changes at individual schools,” Queen, who is an alumnus of county schools and has had children in the system, said. “They also need to keep track of what is going on at their child’s schools. People keep track of their bills so they should also keep track of what is going on with their children.”

The Prince George’s County School system is one of the nation’s 25 largest school districts, with more than 130,000 students and 19,000 employees in 208 schools and centers. The majority of the school system’s students are Black and many are from working class and low income backgrounds.

In recent years, the school system has been criticized for grade inflation and questionable graduation rates. There have also been spates of violence and administrative challenges such as the departure of Dr. Kevin Maxwell as CEO and exorbitant pay for high-level employees. Queen said those issues shouldn’t discourage parents from getting involved in the school system.

“I have talked with students who thought they had the credits to graduate but didn’t,” she said. “The parents didn’t keep tabs on their children’s progress and that is what needs to happen. It takes a village to educate children and parents should be involved so our children can be all they can be.”

David Grogan, like Queen, is a lifelong resident of the county. He is a retired U.S. Marshal and was a candidate for sheriff this year.

Grogan told the AFRO parents should “take the lead in their child’s lives” and they will be better students.

“Parents need to pay attention to the behavior of their children because too many of their emotional and mental needs are being ignored,” he said.

Grogan said in some cases, “the blind are leading the blind” in terms of parents being just as immature as their children. Still, he said parents need to provide the emotional guidance when violence takes place at their school.

Dr. James Dula, the former president of the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce and a noted political activist, told the AFRO what parents need to do is to make sure that their children are properly immunized and to get to know their teachers.

“They need to meet the teacher at the beginning of the school year and not when something happens,” Dula, who taught at Crossland High School for five years, said. “Parents also should join the PTA and make sure they attend meetings and give their input on school policies.”

Queen said parental involvement is the key to a child’s success in school and without it, failure takes place.

“Parents need to invest in their children’s education now because if they don’t they will have to take care of their children as adults,” she said.