O'Malley visits Prince George's County schools as new school yea - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

O'Malley visits Prince George's County schools as new school year begins

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It was back to school Monday for local public school students in Prince George's, Frederick (Md.) and Fauquier counties.

In Prince George's County, there is a new "sheriff" in town walking the hallways.

Dr. Kevin Maxwell goes by the title: Chief Executive Officer -- he was selected by County Executive Rushern Baker III.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley was quick to point out that Education Week magazine has ranked Maryland public schools number one in the nation for the past five years.

But that has meant little to those responsible for educating children in Prince George's County. Officials said changes were needed from the top down.

"This is a magic moment for Prince George's County," says Dr. Maxwell. "It's a magic moment for the state of Maryland. I look forward to being a big part of that."

So does Governor O'Malley who visited with third graders at Barnaby Manor Elementary School in Oxon Hill on the first day of school.

"We love you, we need you and we're counting on you, OK?" O’Malley told a group of students.

O'Malley says improving the quality of public education starts in the home and in your neighborhood.

"I think in any county, in any town, in any city, the mission's the same: make your place of this state safer, make it a better place for kids to grow up. And then everything else works," O'Malley told reporters in a hallway at Barnaby Manor.

It is one of eight Prince George's County elementary schools now offering all-day Pre-K. It is part of the county's new Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative.

"They get the hands-on stuff that they need in order to be successful in elementary school or school period. Or in life," says Natasha Hardy, whose son Andre spent his first day in Pre-K at Barnaby Manor.

County Executive Baker has a message for parents: "I want them to get that we have a sense of urgency -- that we're serious about this. But we're not willing to wait. And we're going to make all the changes necessary to get their children the best education and improve their children's lives and their lives at the same time."

That Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative -- or TNI -- launched by the county this year started as a policing effort targeting six high-crime neighborhoods.

It now includes before and after school programs for children in those areas and a concerted effort to reduce absentee rates.

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