Baker Resists Call to Fire Schools Chief Amid Scandals

Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III speaks to reporters outside the county administration building on Oct. 12 regarding public schools CEO Kevin Maxwell, who is under siege from the NAACP amid several recent scandals. /Photo by William J. Ford
Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III speaks to reporters outside the county administration building on Oct. 12 regarding public schools CEO Kevin Maxwell, who is under siege from the NAACP amid several recent scandals. /Photo by William J. Ford

The Prince George’s County NAACP branch says public schools CEO Kevin Maxwell has violated the civil rights of public school students and should resign immediately.

The organization wants County Executive Rushern L. Baker III to ask for Maxwell’s resignation amid allegations of child abuse and other allegations against teachers and staff came to light this year.

“What is your plan to put the school system back on the right track? We didn’t get a real good answer about that,” said NAACP branch president Bob Ross, who met with Baker and other school officials about three weeks ago. “The health of the children and their safety are affected. Rushern Baker asked for this position to hire a CEO. The citizens have no confidence in Maxwell being the superintendent of the schools.”

Some of the incidents Ross highlighted at an Oct. 12 news conference in Largo were a former teacher’s aide and school volunteer at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary in Glenarden charged in February with producing child pornography and a federal agency stripping the school system of more than $6 million in August after accusations of child abuse and neglect in the Head Start program.

The school system’s most recent scandal came last week, when Doney Olivieri, a 66-year-old foreign language teacher at DuVal High School in Lanham, was charged with second-degree assault and sexual solicitation of a minor for allegedly squeezing the chest of a 16-year-old student and asking the student for a kiss.

At the Largo news conference, Ross called for the state Department of Education to audit the entire county school system and demanded that any possible replacement for Maxwell be more interactive with the community.

Maxwell requested last month for the state education agency to inspect the school’s Head Start program and why it lost $6.4 million. The school board voted to relinquish Head Start on Aug. 25, but a month later announced it would institute a similar program called Early Start, covered by freezing vacant central-office positions and cutting 19 Head Start central-office positions, which would free up $5.5 million. The school system received several thousand dollars in federal grants during negotiations with the Administration for Children and Families.

Baker said he is sticking with Maxwell — for now. He plans to meet with Maxwell and his top administrators once a week “until I am satisfied we are really moving forward fast … so I know what is going on and I can say to people with confidence, ‘Hey he’s done that.'”

Baker, who spoke with reporters outside the county administration building in Upper Marlboro about two hours after the NAACP news conference, praised Maxwell for improving the school system academically. He also said Maxwell has meet with staff and parents throughout the schools and even held a recent telephone town hall on student safety that attracted more than 12,000 people.

To ensure the business community supports the public schools, Baker was scheduled to speak Wednesday, Oct. 19 on the “State of the School System” at the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable in Clinton.

Advanced Placement Rally

Some high school students rallied Thursday, Oct. 13 in front of the school administration building in Upper Marlboro after officials decided to not pay for Advanced Placement exams, which allow students to study high-level courses and possibly earn college credit.

However, the system announced on the same day it will continue to pay for the exams this school year. The statement mentions the county remains the only school system in the region that currently pays for a student’s exam that cost about $90.

“This decision does have financial implications that will require some additional adjustments, but we feel that this is the right thing to do,” officials said. “We will revisit this practice for the 2017-18 school year, allowing students and families adequate time to plan and adjust, if needed.”

Officials said a letter dated Sept. 26 informed students and parents of the decisions, but some students such as M. Julian Goldstein first received notification from his AP coordinators at Charles H. Flowers High School in Springdale.

“There was no sort of respect and transparency. How do you expect someone to be happy about that?” said Goldstein, 17, a senior planning to major in international relations in college. “There was no sort of communication until people started rumbling and grumbling, which just should not have been. It’s just blatantly disrespectful.”

For those students who return back to high school next year, the future remains uncertain.

“I believe that in a public school system you should make every opportunity available for all. That’s the point of public schools,” said Justina Blanco, 15, a 10th-grader at Parkdale High School in Riverdale. “These leaders are supposed to advocate for us [and] work to give us the most opportunities. People were told they got a free education, but you have to pay for a class that is helping you? It’s not right.”

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About William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer 550 Articles
I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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