The Prince George’s County school board held Monday a third session on ways to improve the school system, particularly a law allowing the county executive to make several key appointments.
Aside from the assertion that the school board, not the county executive, should choose the system’s superintendent, one suggestion called for an outside company to hear personnel grievances and other matters during an appeal process instead of internal officials within the school system.
“That control really destroyed all the checks and balances in the school system,” said school board member Edward Burroughs III (District 8) of Camp Springs. “It never helped the system function.”
The dozens who attended the nearly two-hour meeting at Jericho City of Praise in Landover heard other recommendations by state Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-District 26) of Accokeek, including:
• All 13 school board members should be elected; the 14th member represents a high school student chosen by a county Student Government Association;
• Board votes for the chair and vice chair, not the county executive; and
• Change process that currently allows the superintendent, also known as the CEO, to close schools.
All the recommendations would be written as proposed legislation when the Maryland General Assembly convenes in January, Muse said. A fourth and possibly final meeting takes place Sept. 11 with a draft presented.
“We have to change things,” said Muse, who’s running for county executive and voted four years ago against the law formerly known as HB 1107, which affected only Prince George’s.
The first “stakeholder” forum took place June 8, exactly eight days after Burroughs and two Oxon Hill High School students were prohibited from speak at the school’s May 31 commencement. The next day at another commencement ceremony for Potomac High School, video showed Burroughs being denied access to a back door at the Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro. Although former school board member Beverly Anderson represented the board at the Potomac ceremony, Potomac and Oxon Hill high schools are both located in Burroughs’ district.
Last week, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III announced the reappointment of board chairman Segun Eubanks and selection of Donna Wiseman, a former University of Maryland education dean.
Wiseman will replace Anderson, who resigned June 23 and called the board “dysfunctional” in her resignation letter. Baker can choose three at-large members and appoint the chair and vice chair.
Wiseman, also a former elementary school teacher, described a recent school board meeting she attended as “intense” when a group of teachers and principals spoke out against the grade inflation allegations in the school system.
Burroughs, David Murray, Raheela Ahmed and former student member Juwan Blocker signed a letter and sent it to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in May to examine allegations of possible corruption in the school system. The state board of education continues to investigate the accusations.
Back at Jericho, union leader Doris A. Reed said some principals are scared to present any allegations against the school system.
“It was fear out of Dr. Maxwell. People are so afraid to say anything,” said Reed, executive director of the Association of Supervisory and Administrative School Personnel Local 109. “I’ve been in this job for 26 years through many superintendents. I have never, never seen a culture of fear like this.”
That’s one reason why Gail Bingham, a former teacher in the county schools for 25 years, left the system in February.
“I think of the school system [being run] like the mafia. This is how I see P.G. County,” she said. “I don’t hear anyone talking about how do we get rid of this bad leadership. We have to get rid of those bad leaders, because they’re going to keep doing what they’re doing, regardless of the parent turn out and legislation.”