The Maryland Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to hire an investigator to determine whether grades were improperly fixed in Prince George’s County Public Schools.
Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell said in a letter to state Superintendent Karen Salmon he welcomes the inquiry after officials conducted one earlier this year following similar allegations.
“I categorically deny any accusation of a systemic effort, ordered by me or others acting on my behalf, to promote students in order to inflate graduation rates,” Maxwell wrote. “Despite no presented evidence of widespread systemic corruption at the highest levels of our organization, the undersigned Board Members and I request that you conduct an additional inquiry into this work, in the interest of transparency and accountability, to bring closure to this matter.”
Nine other school board members signed Maxwell’s letter.
Andrew Smarick, president of the state board of education, told WTTG-TV (Channel 5) after the vote in Baltimore that a specific timeline on the Prince George’s investigation hasn’t been determined.
“We just have allegations at this point,” he said. “We don’t have any evidence yet. We are taking it very seriously. We want to talk to as many people as necessary to get to the bottom of it as quickly as we can.”
Four school board members — Raheela Ahmed (District 5), Edward Burroughs III (District 8), David Murray (District 1) and student member Juwan Blocker, whose term expires Saturday — signed and sent a letter last month to Gov. Larry Hogan to examine corruption in the school system.
Hogan sent a letter to Smarick Sunday to request the state board investigate the matter.
County Councilman Mel Franklin, whose children attend the public schools, said in a statement Monday that “grade inflation, or fraud, in any form is wrong for our children.”
“If it has occurred, even in isolated situations, it should be rooted out completely with the offending people held responsible,” he said in the statement. “However, we should avoid rushes to judgment and the usual political finger-pointing about this issue without a fair and complete evaluation of the evidence.”
Meanwhile, state Sen. C. Anthony Muse, who is running for county executive, plans to introduce legislation in the Maryland General Assembly in January for the school board chair and vice chair to be appointed by their colleagues instead of the county executive.
“We have to put education back into the hands of people and not one or two persons,” he told several hundred supporters Monday in Oxon Hill as he declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. “I don’t care what the problem is. We have to get this done.”