Discussions on whether Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell will receive a severance package may take place after the school year ends June 20.
Maxwell, who announced May 1 he will “transition” from the position next month, still has three years left on his four-year, $290,000 contract, in addition to health and other benefits.
School board President Segun Eubanks said the school system’s current focus is on student testing and preparation for graduation ceremonies and getting the budget approved.
“Right now, the focus should be on the students,” he said after a school board meeting Thursday, May 10. “When we have an employee under contract, we go through our negotiated process and don’t want to distract from the work we have to do now. We’ll deal with that at the end of the school year.”
Board member Raaheela Ahmed said discussions on Maxwell must take place now.
“I think once the resignation intent has been announced, we need to start the work,” she said. “It’s our responsibility to do that as a board.”
According to Maxwell’s contract, the board doesn’t have to grant him a severance package.
“If the parties mutually agree to terminate this contract prior to the expiration date, they also may agree (but are not required to agree) to a severance payment for the CEO,” the contract states. “The board and CEO agree that to the extent practicable, either party will provide 90 days prior written notice to the other party of the intent to terminate this contract.”
Ahmed is among three board members who’ve opposed Maxwell. They wrote at least two letters to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III this year questioning Maxwell’s alleged improper authorization of salary increases for central office staff.
Although state law allows Maxwell to hire and set salaries, Ahmed and board members Edward Burroughs III and David Murray have said certain salaries were designated for employees outside his office.
In the past two years in the county schools, a former school employee was convicted of child molestation, the school board voted to relinquish control of the Head Start program after a federal agency pulled $6 million in funds amid abuse claims, and the state Department of Education audit found that staffers had changed grades for some high school seniors who were ineligible to graduate.
There are some significant accomplishments also under Maxwell’s tenure, such as student enrollment increasing since 2012 from 125,000 to more than 132,000; the opening of new schools such as Fairmount Heights High School; the establishment of the Junior Achievement Finance Park in Landover, and the only designated arts integration office in the D.C. region.
Maxwell also became the first county schools chief to be reappointed in about 25 years.
Baker said in a recent interview that Maxwell has been “the best superintendent we’ve seen in almost 40 years.”
“The question is whether in fact the school system is making progress,” said Baker, who’s seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. “The answer to that is quite obviously, ‘Yes.’ At no point in Dr. Maxwell’s tenure did teachers, parents and principals come to me in bulk and say, ‘He has to go.'”
Still, the top three candidates running for county executive wanted Maxwell to resign.
Although state lawmakers sought to revamp some of the school board structure this year, it didn’t happen. State law allows the county executive to appoint not only the superintendent, but also the chair and vice chair of the school board.
Theresa Mitchell Dudley, president of the county’s Educators’ Association, said Maxwell doesn’t deserve a severance package while educators remain several steps behind on the pay scale.
“We do not believe Dr. Maxwell should be provided a golden parachute in the form of an expensive severance payment beyond what is specified in the contract,” she said. “We strongly urge [the school board] to honor our request that when it comes to selecting new leadership at PGCPS in the days ahead, teachers, parents and students be given a seat at the table.”