Some Prince George’s County officials, educators and residents have reached a boiling point with the school system structure, which they say doesn’t provide any accountability.
The recent revelation that several high-ranking officials allegedly received pay raises spurred three school board members to call out County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, demanding that he investigate what happened. The members said in a letter the approved raises either came from schools CEO Kevin Maxwell or one of his top subordinates.
“He should have been gone,” state Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-District 26) said of Maxwell. “The leadership of the county wants him to stay.”
Muse proposed legislation in Annapolis to reorganize the school board, specifically to allow members to select the chair and vice chair, received some changes by the county’s delegation.
In a show of compromise, members of the House Ways and Means Committee approved an amended version that would allow the county executive to appoint the school board chair. Members would select the vice chair among those who are elected.
Also, a three-fifths vote, or eight of the 14 members, would allow them “to take an action that is contrary to an action of the chief executive officer,” according to the legislation. A high school student serves on the board, but is chosen by a regional Student Government Association and doesn’t vote on the budget, school closings or personnel matters
The revamped bill could receive approval this week in the House.
Other school board proposals such as changing the current hybrid structure to an all-elected board and allow members to select the superintendent — called the CEO in Prince George’s — remain in limbo. Presently, the county executive appoints three members and County Council another.
“It does nothing but leave it in the hands of the same people to do the same thing: that is control,” said Muse, a candidate for county executive in the June 26 primary. “For some reason, they don’t like the people to have the final say. I’m standing by my bill.”
Delegate Jay Walker (D-District 26), who chairs the county’s House delegation, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, Baker released a statement Friday, March 9 in response to criticism from the teacher’s union.
Since Baker was elected in 2010, he said the county’s fiscal year budgets have increased education funding from $599 million to $794 million in the proposed fiscal 2019 budget.
According to a news release in November from the school system, the union agreed with school board approval for a two-year contract that provided salary increases for eligible employees in January and again in November 2018.
Baker, who’s among nine Democrats running for governor, said it marked the largest pay increase in more than a decade.
“I realize that our teachers still lag behind some school districts in Maryland and in the region, which is why I have been outspoken in my attempts to raise more revenue and funds for our school system,” he said. “Our teachers and students deserve compensation that is on par with neighboring jurisdictions and my efforts were to ensure that teachers and students had the best learning environment possible.”
The teacher’s union held a press conference Thursday in front of the school administration in Upper Marlboro that mainly focused on a similar request from Muse: restructure the school board.
“We should have the ability to elect our own leadership and determine who we want to lead us,” said union President Theresa Mitchell Dudley. “We need the proper checks and balances in place to ensure that there is more accountability at every level of the school board.”