UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — Fed up with recent scandals and repeated allegations of student abuse and neglect by employees of Prince George’s County schools, protesters Monday demanded new leadership and changes to how school officials are selected.
Protesters want Maryland’s legislature to repeal a 2013 law that gave the Prince George’s county executive the power to appoint the county school board’s chair, vice chair and the school system’s CEO, among other positions.
The law is commonly referred to as HB 1107.
“We’ve got no accountability here,” said David Cahn, the co-chair of Citizens for an Elected Board. He pointed to the fact that the school board doesn’t control the CEO, Kevin Maxwell, who is appointed by County Executive Rushern Baker. And many members of the board are also appointed by Baker.
Protesters called for the resignations of Baker and Maxwell, as well as school board chair Segun C. Eubanks and vice chair Carolyn M. Boston.
About 20 protesters at the gathering included school board member Edward Burroughs III (District 8), Democratic Central Committee Assistant Secretary Belinda Queen-Howard (District 25), as well as parents and members of the public.
“HB 1107 needs to be repealed,” said the father of a four-year-old special needs student who is part of an ongoing investigation involving allegations of student abuse by a school bus aide. WTOP is not using the father’s name to protect his child’s identity.
“Now (power) is just handed to one person because of this law,” he said. “So, we need to repeal that law and put it the hands of the board so they can do votes and change the system, so it’ll be a better place for kids.”
Protest demands repeal of HB1107 that allows @CountyExecBaker to fill vacant @PGCPS board seats. John McElhenny’s 1st grdr in PGskls #WTOP pic.twitter.com/EcHbYFGw52
— Kristi King (@kingWTOP) September 26, 2016
The recent cases of abuse and neglect should not be confused with how school leaders are chosen in the county, a spokesman for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker told WTOP.
Scott Peterson said in a statement that the 2013 governance changes have helped pave the way for recent successes including historic highs in graduation rates and a top ten statewide ranking in English and language arts scores.
Read Peterson’s entire statement to WTOP below:
“We should always applaud citizens who come together and exercise their right to assemble and express their concerns about an issue that impacts our County.
When HB 1107 was passed in 2013, it was designed to create a governance structure that would better position Prince George’s County Public Schools to be more successful academically and operationally, and ultimately to move us from the bottom to the top in the state’s school system rankings.
Three and a half years later, we have
- Significantly expanded full-day pre-kindergarten (we’ve increased this important first phase of education for our youngest students from 8 programs to 50 pre-kindergarten programs),
- Implemented more rigorous academic standards and programs, and provided more choice for students and parents, throughout all grades,
- Achieved historic highs in graduation rates (close to 80% of our students are graduating) and 9th grade promotion rates (which means that fewer of our students are dropping out),
- Improved test scores significantly (our students ranked in the Top 10 of statewide English and Language Arts scores),
- Increased enrollment in our schools substantially (130,000 students are now attending), and the overall college and career readiness of our children is improving as well.
The recent cases of deplorable behavior by some school employees are extremely disturbing, but we should not confuse these incidents with the governance changes that have paved the way for our success over the last few years. These challenges are a reflection of an organization that is going through a much needed cultural change after an inordinate number of leadership and policy changes that may have blurred our primary focus on the safety of our children. This is a defining moment for our school system and just as we focused like a laser on reforming our academic programs and offerings, we must approach the safety of our children with the same unwavering focus and vigor.
The achievements of PGCPS over the last three years cannot be overlooked. We must keep marching forward and build on our academic successes by creating an attitude and culture in our schools where everyone, from the bus driver to the principal, is focused on sustaining an absolutely safe and nurturing learning environment for all students.”