Prince George’s Schools Criticized at Forum

From left: Maryland state Rep. Tony Knotts, state Sen. C. Anthony Muse and Prince George’s County School Board member David Murray speak during opening statements for a public forum about the county schools system at Southern Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Temple Hills on June 8. (Lateef Mangum/The Washington Informer)
From left: Maryland state Rep. Tony Knotts, state Sen. C. Anthony Muse and Prince George’s County School Board member David Murray speak during opening statements for a public forum about the county schools system at Southern Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Temple Hills on June 8. (Lateef Mangum/The Washington Informer)

Several messages resonated during a forum last week in Temple Hills on the Prince George’s County Public Schools system.

Among them were calls for the resignation of schools system chief Kevin Maxwell, as well as a restructuring of the school board.

“I was told that’s it’s difficult to get many of our officials to listen — I want to know if that is true,” said state Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-District 26), who led the discussion. “We will go back and [work on] proposed changes and we will work toward those changes. We want to have a record just in case we move to other levels of getting things done and making things happen.”

Those at the stakeholder meeting at Southern Friendship Missionary Baptist Church had other concerns.

Robert Mathieu of Temple Hills talked about lack of school safety, especially for his teenage daughter who has experienced altercations at her high school.

Even a few school former employees such as Jennifer Hooker, a speech pathologist who’s been with the school system for 30 years and set for retirement Tuesday, June 13, said current workers fear retaliation for speaking out against administrators.

Others in attendance also showed support to school board member Edward Burroughs III (District 8) regarding disputes over high school graduations at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro.

According to a letter dated June 5 from Burroughs and four colleagues — Juwan Blocker (student member), David Murray (District 1), Raaheela Ahmed (District 5) and Beverly Anderson (at-large) — he was prohibited by Deputy Superintendent Monique Davis from giving his allotted time to two Oxon Hill High School seniors to speak in his place during the May 31 graduation ceremonies.

The next day at Potomac High’s commencement, Burroughs was denied access to a backdoor entrance designated for platform guests to take the stage at the arena.

Burroughs recorded a video posted on YouTube (http://bit.ly/2r33Fi2) that shows him being told by police he can enter through the main entrance with the public, but if he attempted to use the backstage entrance, he’d be arrested for trespassing.

When Burroughs asked who wouldn’t allow him to enter, a police officer replied, “school security.”

His colleagues, according to the letter, demand the two Oxon Hill seniors and Burroughs receive a public apology.

Burroughs addressed the more than 100 people in attendance at the church Thursday, June 8.

“People wonder why myself, David Murray are so vocal. Why do we say these things so openly? Why can’t you work out things behind the scenes?” he said. “You can work out things behind the scenes if you are dealing with people in good faith behind the scenes.”

In regard to the graduations, the school system released a statement last week briefly explaining that speakers are notified in advance and changes to a program cannot be made the day of a ceremony.

“Security staff allows no one — including board members, school system staff or family members — on stage or backstage during a graduation ceremony unless their name is on the authorized list,” the statement read. “At no time did Dr. Maxwell instruct anyone to arrest Mr. Burroughs.”

Meanwhile, public outcry is growing against the county executive being allowed to appoint members to the school board, including the chair and vice chair.

State legislation to restructure the board was approved in the House, but didn’t make it out the Senate this year.

When lawmakers reconvene in Annapolis in January, Muse said he will write a law to require all school board members to be elected, not appointed.

“If you have someone who’s making the appointments and they are not consulting you, then you end up having the problems that we have,” he said. “You can’t even hold them accountable.”

Another discussion will take place Monday, June 19 at City of Praise Family Ministries in Landover.

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About William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer 290 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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