Schools Look to Partner with Faithbased Orgs Following Violence Spike

by: Melanie R. Duncan Special to the AFRO
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In an effort to promote success among schools, students and families, Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) CEO Kevin Maxwell proposed a partnership plan between county schools and faith based organizations.PGCPS VideoScreengrab

The Systemic Strategic Faith-Based Organizations (FBO) Partnership Plan is geared toward troubled youth, the unemployed, young children, homebound elderly guardians, prisoners, and welfare-to-work recipients. On May 3, more than 60 organizations, from various religious backgrounds, attended a meeting at Oxon Hill Branch Library Auditorium to discuss how the school system and faith-based organizations could work together to implement and develop the plan.

“It’s important for PGCPS to partner with faith-based organizations to help educate, nurture and support our students and staff within PGCPS communities,” Maxwell said in a statement. “Faith-based organizations have significant competence and knowledge to contribute.  We look forward to a long and beneficial relationship.”

According to Maxwell, one goal of the plan is to increase customer service support, literacy, and family and community engagement opportunities.

The plan comes in the wake of the High Point High School parking lot shooting in Beltsville, Maryland on May 5. The plan seeks to provide counseling and grief services to students following emergency situations such as the killing of a woman by her estranged husband while she was waiting to pick up her two daughters. “We’ve been looking at the nine districts where the schools are located to put them in contact with someone from that community,” said Collective Empowerment Group Pastor Marcellous Buckner. “That is where they can contact and get clergy at the situation in a timely manner.” The group is composed of pastors who discuss means to gain economic empowerment and financial justice in their business dealings to collectively empower underserved communities.

Buckner said the partnership will also provide a refuge for students who have been placed on suspension. Churches can open their doors and provide a safe space for students to do their homework while also teaching them core values – respect, responsibility and reliability. “We can’t go in there and evangelize and epistolize anyone,” Buckner said. “We can help build character. We want to see a better community, and certainly we want to see our young people make it.”

Prior to the Systemic Strategic Faith-Based Organizations Partnership Plan, some areas schools  had ongoing relationships with the faith-based community through assistance in tutoring, donations of technical and teaching equipment, reading and math programs, outdoor projects – including the building of a pavilion to expand an Environmental Literacy Program – and the  implementation of college and career development programs.

However, officials at some organizations, such as the First Baptist Church of Glenarden,  said the church is planning on strengthening its relationship with county schools. “The next level of the relationship is about going deeper with intentionality,” said Nicole McNeil, principal of Shabach Christian Academy at First Baptist Church of Glenarden. “Our church has adopted 13 of the county’s public schools and will help with providing financial material, school supplies, and training opportunities made available to parents.”

She said a Parent Academy is offered through the church that helps parents understand more about child development. The majority of the church’s 11,000 member congregation, led by Pastor John Jenkins, Sr., is made up of Prince George’s County residents. McNeil said the next phase of the partnership will be to access resources within the church that can help the schools.

“There are things that we can do that will help them to greater achieve their goal,” McNeil said speaking of the school district. “It’s a different way to help children be successful at school.”

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