NO Removal of the Talented and Gifted Center from Accokeek Academy

PGCPS Board of Education Member, Sonya Williams (D9)

Accokeek Academy is currently overcrowded and is at 99% utilization. This means that something immediate needs to be done to alleviate the overcrowding while still allowing all Accokeek residents in area code 20607 to attend Accokeek Academy. Our PGCPS Board of Education member in District 9, Sonya Williams, is currently advocating for the removal of the Talented and Gifted Center as the means of addressing this overcrowding problem. Accokeek Academy has developed into a mecca of academic achievement in South County beating county averages, beating state averages, and even exceeding some national averages in several core curricular areas. This is in large part due to the TAG center which Accokeek Academy has used to create a model of academic achievement that can be emulated throughout the county.

Our educators and greater Accokeek community including students and families, have STRONGLY taken a position against the removal of the TAG center. Currently, this solution would move current Accokeek TAG and out of boundary TAG students over a gradual period to Fort Washington Forest Elementary School (school under threat to close due to severe under enrollment) and Isaac Gourdine Middle School, if they want to remain in a TAG identified school. This solution would greatly impact the school classroom and cultural dynamic over time. With a decrease in TAG population, our classrooms will become increasingly differentiated in terms of ability level resulting in TAG pullouts instead of the traditional TAG instruction currently given. TAG pullouts have been shown consistently to be very ineffective.  Why interfere and dismantle a model that is significantly working?

Our Accokeek family is strongly in SUPPORT of Option B and D on the BOE’s Options for Balancing Enrollment document and AGAINST Option A and C. Ultimately, there are several underutilized schools in the Fort Washington local community that students can be re-routed to. Currently, Fort Washington Forest Elementary School (FWFES) and Potomac Landing Elementary School (PLES) non-TAG students feed into Accokeek Academy. Having these schools feed large numbers of students to Accokeek Academy defeats the purpose of a K-8 school model and negatively impacts all students attending Accokeek Academy. (Accokeek Academy is the only K-8 school in the county that has such feeders; all other K-8 schools operate as “true K-8 schools” with no feeder schools.) It is our opinion that the best immediate solution that also serves the long term problem is to reorganize the boundary to have non-TAG students from FWFES and PLES attend Isaac Gourdine MS (62% utilization) or Oxon Hill MS (74% utilization). If additional enrollment relief is needed, elementary TAG students from FWFES and PLES could be assigned to the TAG Center at Valley View ES (currently underutilized), and the establishment of another middle school TAG Center in South County could be pursued.

Our Accokeek Academy community also strongly supports these solutions:

  1. Option B - creating a new K-8 academy between PLES and FWFES

  2. Allowing all current Accokeek Academy students to be grandfathered in and not be impacted by these overcrowding/boundary changes

  3. Creating another TAG center in another South County School

  4. Building a new school facility in South County

  5. Increase utilization of Valley View ES which is an existing TAG Center by redistricting

Ms. Williams is under the impression that the removal of the TAG center has no negative implications on Accokeek Academy and we wholeheartedly disagree. Our educators’ years of experience, ACTUALLY BEING IN THE CLASSROOM, as well as many of our community members who have lived in this community for many years, have evidence and data to support our claims. We are also using the power of logic and reasoning which demonstrate the obvious solutions - balance enrollment in other local UNDERUTILIZED schools instead of allowing everyone to attend Accokeek Academy and without removing our TAG center which will dismantle our school’s academic culture. Why remove an academic program that is working for the sole purpose of relieving overcrowding when there are other, more logical and reasonable solutions?

Again, our BOE is supporting a position without taking into account other logical and reasonable options that address the needs of students and families. The inability for our BOE to seriously evaluate the solutions that have tremendous data and rationale which support them, is extremely egregious and disheartening at this juncture. We should never dismantle one school in any way, shape, or form to build up others. We should lift them all up to best address the students in their communities. On behalf of the educators and the greater Accokeek family and community, we are asking you to sign this petition and join our call of action to support striking down the BOE option of removing the Talented and Gifted Center from Accokeek Academy.

                                                                                                         All the best,

                                                                                                         Arun Puracken

                                                                                                         7th/ 8th Grade Social Studies Teacher

                                                                                                          Accokeek Academy

Petition by
Arun Puracken
Brandywine, Maryland

To: PGCPS Board of Education Member, Sonya Williams (D9)
From: [Your Name]