202

Prince George’s Co. Board of Education votes to give up Head Start grant

The Prince George's County Board of Education discusses Head Start program funding during a public meeting on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. (Mike Murillo/WTOP)

UPPER MARLBORO, Md.  — The Prince George’s County Board of Education voted to relinquish a federal grant for the county’s Head Start program after a scandal involving two cases of mistreatment of some students in the preschool program.

In a last-ditch effort to save the money for the program, the school system voted Thursday to not appeal the termination of the grant by federal authorities and instead give it up. Board chair Segun Eubanks said the move will allow for the school system to work with the federal government to find an interim operator, other than the school system, to keep the Head Start program running through the current school year.

When the school system was originally notified about the cases of mistreatment, the Administration for Children and Families, which controls the $6.4 million in federal money given to the county to run the program, ordered the school system to take corrective actions.

That didn’t happen, in the eyes of the federal government, and the administration terminated the grant.

“We will continue to investigate the events that occurred and hold accountable the systems and or individuals who failed to protect our children,” said board chair Segun Eubanks during a Thursday night board meeting.

The ACF says it committed to working to keep the Head Start program alive in Prince George’s County.

“ACF takes seriously our responsibility to ensure all Head Start grantees foster a healthy and safe environment for the children and families they serve,” the administration said in a statement.

The cases were brought to light in a federal report sent to the school system earlier this year. One involved a teacher forcing a 3-year-old boy to mop up his own urine after he had an accident during nap time. The teacher is accused of texting the pictures of the student in wet clothes, to the boy’s parents and “LOL” in one of the text messages. The second case, involved a 5-year-old leaving a nursing officer and walking home, alone.

“That’s scary, that you would have to actually worry that you can’t trust a school system to ensure that your child is safe,” parent Helen Ballard said during the meeting.

Several members of the Board of Education claim only the school system’s CEO, board chair and vice chair knew about the report initially. The members say they were notified of the situation after the grant had already been terminated.

“I think it is very clear to me that we need a state or federal investigation on what occurred; it makes no sense to me to have the school district investigate itself,” said board member Edward Burroughs.

Burroughs was among five board members who called on County Executive Rushern Baker to demand the resignation of Eubanks and vice chair Carolyn Boston.

Baker’s spokesman, Scott Peterson, said the county executive has expressed his anger and disappointment over the situation but will not ask the two to step down.

“Clearly we must improve the oversight for this program and he is confident Dr. Maxwell, Dr. Eubanks and Vice Chair Boston will do just that in a quick and aggressive manner,” Peterson said.

The program for children between the ages of 3 and 5 serves more than 900 kids In Prince George’s County.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

© 2016 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.