A 2013 bill in the Maryland General Assembly backed by Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker created an environment where the School CEO was basically only accountable to the County Exec. So when it came to big decisions, public input wouldn’t really matter much as long as they had unflinching support from the other side of Upper Marlboro. It's time to reverse that process and make the board all-elected again.
/By Rob Anthony/ In the legislative session of 2018 the General Assembly will have an opportunity to make sure that the democratic process is re-applied to our school board in Prince George’s County. In 2013 County Executive Rushern Baker was dead set on rooting out corruption in our school system. As a part of that effort he wrote a bill and got it through the State Legislature (HB-1107)
That bill would be signed by then-Governor Martin O’Malley, which would turn our school board into a hybrid-style body in which some of the school board members were elected and others were appointed by the County Executive. The power to select the CEO of Schools (“Superintendent”) and the appointment of the Chairman of the School board would also be at the discretion of the County Executive.
This created an environment where the School CEO was basically only accountable to the County Exec. So when it came to big decisions, public input wouldn’t really matter much as long as they had unflinching support from the other side of Upper Marlboro.
There are 4 elected millennials on our board currently that are trying their best to fight the good fight but they generally are outnumbered on virtually every vote.
The School CEO shouldn’t have the power to unilaterally close a school without community input or approval from the board. That’s exactly what happened when Forestville Military academy was closed, much to the chagrin of many parents who had students there who ended up being relocated, mostly to Suitland HS.
I believe that it was well meaning for Rushern Baker to try to clean up the school board, and to take initiative in terms of turning things around.
But here’s what has happened since that 2013 takeover.
- There was gross sexual misconduct found in the school system, with the headline case being school aide Deonte Carraway who at Sylvania Woods Elementary school in Glenarden violated dozens of children by having kids send him inappropriate photos. Lots of children and parents complained about him before any action was ever taken. Cases of abuse have been occurring since at least 2007, and the county unfortunately hadn’t made adjustments to stop this from happening.
- Abuse of children occurred at Head Start Program centers throughout the county where one child was punished by being made to mop up his own urine and a photo of the child mopping was sent to his parent with the caption “he worked that mop tho”. This type of abuse led to the loss of 6.5 million dollars in Head Start federal funding.
- During the spring of 2017 Board member Edward Burroughs and other board members got phone calls and emails from teachers and school officials about widespread grade fixing. Students who hadn’t completed the requirements for graduation were pushed through and allowed to graduate.
In 2018 it’s time to take back the school board and to elect progressive candidates to the school board who will be good stewards of the public’s tax dollar and be immune to influence from other branches of the County Government. School boards are designed to governed by the people! So it’s time we make that happen this legislative session. Support State Senator Anthony Muse’s bill to restore the school board to being an all elected body.
Rob Anthony is an alumnus of Prince George’s County Public Schools (Eleanor Roosevelt/Robert Goddard Middle/Magnolia Elementary school) and a Prince George’s resident since 1981
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