Lawmakers Vote to Overhaul County Schools

Gale Horton Gay | 4/10/2013, 11:52 a.m.

Say goodbye to the status quo.

Maryland legislators decided to shake things up in Prince George's County Public Schools and on April 6 the House of Delegates voted 81-45 to approve major changes to the management structure of the school system.

The school system's next superintendent will be chosen by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and that individual will go by a different title - chief executive officer (CEO).

"This legislation creates an environment where the new CEO can be successful, and it is imperative that our new school leader has the support of our county leadership," said Baker.

Once signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley and the law goes into effect June 1, a three-member commission - appointed by the governor and the state superintendent of schools - will begin the process to find the new school system leader. After the commission choses three finalists, Baker will select the individual he determines is best for the job.

The county executive will also have the power to appoint three additional school board members and the chair and vice chair of the board. The county council will appoint one board member.

Despite this new authority given to the county executive, Baker advocated for a more drastic overhaul of the top level of the school administration system.

The tug of war over whether the next superintendent would continue to report to the school board or to the county executive that went before the General Assembly has put the brakes on the school board's superintendent search process that began last September. It also has resulted in a loss of confidence by the three finalists who were vying for the county schools top job.

Eric Becoats, superintendent of Durham Public Schools, withdrew on April 2. The school board announced on April 5 both Harrison Peters, chief of Chicago Public Schools, and Alvin L. Crawley, who has been serving as interim superintendent of Prince George's County Public Schools since September 2012 and previously was deputy chief of programming for the District's public schools, also withdrew from consideration.

"Due to the disruption that occurred with this process and the uncertainty of the leadership of the school system in the coming months, we accept and understand why these highly qualified candidates have withdrawn," according to the school board press release.

In Crawley's two-page letter to the board, he said that when he arrived in the county there was "uncertainty in leadership" and now "the search process for superintendent and the envisioned direction for the school system have changed, in mid-stream."

"I was fully prepared to provide the stable long-term leadership required, but with the changing conditions, I can no longer do so," wrote Crawley, who will step down June 30 when his contract ends.

Verjeana Jacobs, chair of the school board, said the board has suspended its superintendent search efforts.

Jacobs called it "disingenuous" for the board not to be involved in the search under the new law.

She said she didn't know if information gathered by the search firm that identified the finalists would be used by the commission or if the candidates would be interested in being considered again.