WASHINGTON — A new leader has officially taken the reins of Prince George’s County Public Schools.
Monica Goldson, a 27-year veteran of the school system and a Potomac High School graduate, was appointed interim CEO of the embattled school system.
“I had no idea that one day, I would lead one of the largest school systems in the country,” Goldson told WTOP.
Goldson has already spent five days on the job as the acting CEO, after the school system and former CEO Kevin Maxwell parted ways during a heated school board meeting earlier this month.
Maxwell had been under fire for several controversies that rocked the county in the past several years, including a teacher’s aide pleading guilty to sexually abusing students, large pay raises for some executive staff members and students graduating without meeting requirements.
“Right now, our focus is not necessarily on the controversy but on what we’ve got to do to open schools in 30 days,” Goldson said.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker praised Goldson Monday as the right person to steady the ship and move the school system forward.
“You get someone whose history is with the school system, who has worked in various capacities, who everyone has confidence in,” Baker said.
When asked about how she will move the school system forward and regain the trust of parents and the community, Goldson said it won’t happen overnight and will take more communication from the school system.
“Owning our mistakes when we make them, apologizing when we’re wrong, but making sure that they understand the decisions that we make every day are to help their students improve,” she said.
Goldson also said quarterly reports will help the system better communicate how and what the school system is doing.
She has already begun a restructuring at the executive level, which will result in the loss of 20 employees and several positions, such as her former deputy superintendent position not being filed. Goldson said the money gained from the reduction will go back into the schools.
After the grading scandal, the school system was criticized for not having schools and the executive office on the same page. Goldson said she plans to use a different approach to communicating expectations to principals, which includes level-based meetings in which elementary, middle and high school principals also hold separate meetings, based on their school level.
“The level of problems that we address at an elementary school may be totally different than what we experience at a high school,” Goldson said.
Some union organizations that represent employees in the school system are also optimistic about Goldson’s selection.
“You need someone that people can have some faith in and trust, and I think Dr. Goldson is the person,” said Doris Reed, executive director of the Association of Supervisory and Administrative School Personnel.
Reed said right now, morale among school system staff is at an all-time low.
Goldson said her plan to address that issue is to bring more open communication into the system and responding quickly to concerns. “I’m going to make sure that people are held accountable, and at the same time, I’m going to make sure that I sing our praises when we’re doing great things.”
Goldson is on a one-year contract, and it will be the job of the incoming county executive to decide on if Goldson or another candidate will be given the position permanently.
As for Goldson, she said her focus right now isn’t on next year but, instead, on the start of the upcoming school year this fall. “Where we are come January or February, I may come back and recircle and figure out what my next steps are. But, right now, it’s focused on our children,” she said.