Troubled PGCPS gets ready for big changes

Reporters ask Prince George\'s County Executive Rushern Baker questions at a Tuesday, May 28 meeting. (Courtesy of Michael J. Yourishin/Prince George\'s County)

BOWIE, Md.- Big changes are coming to Prince George’s County Public Schools.

On Saturday, June 1, a new Maryland law takes effect allowing County Executive Rushern Baker of Prince George’s County to appoint a new superintendent of schools for the troubled school system.

A search committee will recommend three finalists.

More than 100 people packed a community meeting about the plan Tuesday night at South Bowie Branch Library.

Baker told the crowd he wanted the new law to take effect before he ran for re-election.

“One of the things that politicians are good at…is they wait until they’re re-elected and then they do all the things they didn’t want to do during the first term before you had a chance to get rid of them,” said Baker.

“So if I’m wrong, come next year in June, you have the ability to send me home. And that’s the way it should be.”

The new law also creates a hybrid school board. The current elected school board’s nine members will remain, but four more will be added.

Three will be appointed by Baker and a fourth appointed by the county council.

More than 160 people have applied for the positions and many of the applicants attended Tuesday’s forum.

“If you’re applying for the school board and you think, ‘Well hey, I’m going to call up the County Executive and ask him what he thinks,’ then I’m going to be trying to find a way to get somebody else. It is your expertise to move this school system,” said Baker.

“You’re going to have an impact on this school system far past my term as county executive. And I’m going to be here, so I want you to make the best decision possible because I can’t afford to move,” Baker continued with a laugh.

A woman who stood up to speak to Baker about a serious concern unintentionally caused more laughs.

“Right now I’m afraid to have a child in the school system, so…I would like to have a baby and hope you can help me with that,” she said.

An opposition group called the Citizens for an Elected Board has launched a petition drive to try to stop the law from taking effect.

To make it happen, 8,000 signatures need to be collected by Friday night, but there’s no word how many have been gathered so far.

In total, the group needs 25,000 signatures to have the issue placed on the ballot as a referendum next year.

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