Three Prince George’s County school board members who called out excessive pay raises for some school personnel are crying foul, alleging that it happened again.
The board members — Edward Burroughs III, Raaheela Ahmed and David Murray — sent a 1½-page letter Thursday, April 26 to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III questioning schools CEO Kevin Maxwell’s authorization of salary increases between 9 percent and 14 percent for employees in the central office.
Although state law permitted Maxwell to hire and set salaries for the 18 employees in his office, the board members say Maxwell wrongly gave additional salary increases for employees outside his Cabinet.
The board members also released information in March about previous raises of up to 10 percent that Maxwell authorized.
“It appears there are now three separate departments receiving unauthorized salary increases,” the letter stated. “This is a reckless disregard for taxpayer dollars in Prince George’s County. It is decimating the morale of hardworking employees in the school district.”
Maxwell announced Tuesday, May 1 that he will step down at the end of the current school year.
The members, who call themselves the “Accountability and Solutions Caucus” in the letter, called for Baker to increase salaries for educators and support staff by 4 percent in his fiscal 2019 budget proposal “due to greater job responsibilities, improved pay parity and/or increased cost of living.”
Some employees recently orchestrated a “sick-out” amid the pay-raise revelations and plan to leave the schools system in the fall, according to the letter.
A spokesman for Baker declined to comment, but the outgoing county executive defended the schools system during his final economic address on April 18, pointing out that student enrollment has increased from 125,000 in 2012 to more than 132,000 today.
Baker, who’s running for Maryland governor, also touted how the county operates the only arts integration office in the region and how high school students can receive college credit through a program at the community college.
Schools spokesman John White declined to comment about the letter. He said last month an internal audit on the matters raised by the board members are ongoing.
The pay-raise controversy caused the teachers’ union to not only protest the raises, but also demand the school board revert to an all-elected group instead of its current hybrid makeup of appointed and elected members.
Ben Jealous, former NAACP president and one of Baker’s opponents in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, slammed Baker for keeping Maxwell aboard.
“This is now a question of Mr. Baker’s leadership,” Jealous said Thursday, April 26. “From the grading scandal and the pay-raising scandal, you just have to question, why does Baker allow this guy to keep his job? It raises questions about Mr. Baker’s judgment and leadership.”
State Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D), who is running to succeed Baker, posted a video online calling for Prince George’s State’s Attorney and fellow county executive candidate Angela Alsobrooks to investigate Maxwell.
“If Maxwell isn’t investigated, we should expect more of the same thing, maybe worse,” Muse said.
State’s attorney spokesman John Erzen said the office received a letter last week from Muse outlining his concerns about excessive pay raises and the grade-fixing issues plaguing the schools system. Erzen said the state’s attorney’s office emailed a letter to Muse the same day and concluded the situation appears to be “more administrative versus criminal.”
“If [Muse] would like to discuss it the future, then we would be happy to do that,” Erzen said Monday, April 30.
Baker has defended the schools system’s progress during Maxwell’s tenure, particularly the increase in student enrollment and various programs instituted since Maxwell took the reins in August 2013.