Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III announced Friday he will reappoint county schools CEO Kevin Maxwell for another four years, marking the first time a superintendent would serve a second consecutive term in almost 25 years.
During the announcement at DuVal High School in Lanham, Baker told the dozens of educators, businesses leaders and student musicians and dancers in attendance that the the decision to bring back Maxwell wasn’t easy.
“If you lose confidence in the teachers and parents, then you can’t do your job,” Baker said after the nearly hourlong press conference. “It wasn’t the academic portion. Graduation rates have gone up. It was whether people felt they were safe in our school system. I wanted to reassure [Maxwell] and his staff got that. I think he is the right person to continue on and make the changes.”
Maxwell, a county native who became superintendent in August 2013, smiled when asked about a few people who may not support him coming back for another four-year term.
“They should join in and get on the bandwagon, as we sometimes say in the Washington area,” he said. “We have a lot of people on board. Some people aren’t. Maybe we will never get 100 percent, but we’re going to keep doing the work.”
The school board still has to negotiate a contract and approve Maxwell’s new agreement, which would take effect July 1.
During his tenure, the school system began providing all-day kindergarten, opened two international high schools and established the Junior Achievement Finance Park in Landover.
Last week, he led a congratulatory bus tour to visit DuVal and seven other county schools that achieved a 90 percent or higher graduation rate.
There’s been some challenges, too, however.
The school system faced heavy criticism last February after a former teacher’s aide and school volunteer at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary in Glenarden was arrested for producing child pornography on school grounds. Several lawsuits were filed against the school board, the principal, a fourth-grade teacher and the city of Glenarden and its mayor.
Maxwell created a task force as part of a systemwide effort to improve student safety and ensure all principals conduct safety assessments.
He faced scrutiny after a federal agency decided in August to not provide more than $6 million to the county’s Head Start program after other reports of child neglect and abuse.
It created a division amongst the school board, with five of the 14 members signing a letter requesting the resignation of board Chairman Segun Eubanks and Vice Chairwoman Carolyn Boston for not providing proper notice of the situation.
Those two incidents caused the county’s NAACP branch in October to push Baker for Maxwell’s resignation.
“We have more important business to handle,” county NAACP President Bob Ross said Friday evening.
One business item stems from the Maryland General Assembly on House Bill 1565, which seeks to decrease the school board from 14 to 10 with nine elected members and one high school member. The current rule instituted in 2013 allows the county executive to appoint the chair, vice chair and one other school board member and the school system’s superintendent, called the chief executive officer in Prince George’s.
The legislation was introduced Friday in the Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, according to a copy of the 22-page document (click here to view).
Gina Bowler of Upper Marlboro drove to DuVal in Lanham to support Maxwell as she said he has done for Overlook Spanish Immersion Elementary in Temple Hills where her two children attend.
“I think Dr. Maxwell has done a great job,” Bowler said. “His passion and commitment are unquestionable. He will bring stability here. If you don’t have enough time to continue your work, then that can be challenging for all.”