Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks is naming a task force to review the Maryland school system’s Board of Education and issue recommendations for revamping a board roiled by controversy, petty squabbles and allegations of misconduct.
“Over the last several decades, our Board of Education has continued to switch between an all-elected board, an all-appointed board and the current hybrid model, along with increasing in size, without achieving the intended outcome of having a Board that functions collectively with the best interests of students, teachers and our entire school system at the forefront of all they do,” Alsobrooks said in a statement Tuesday.
Alsobrooks said the purpose of the task force is to “study best practices regionally and nationally and deliver recommendations to County leadership that will guide us in creating a Board structure that facilitates collaboration and helps us continue to move our school system forward.”
The 14-member task force includes an official with the U.S. Department of Education, representatives from two teacher’s unions, the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce, and the county’s chapter of the NAACP. (The full list of members is below).
The group will have its first meeting Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., and it will be streamed online.
Alsobrooks’ office said all meetings will be virtual and open to the public, and the group is expected to provide a report with recommendations to Alsobrooks by Jan. 14.
Alsobrooks said she formed the task force “working in collaboration with the County’s State House and Senate Delegations and the County Council.”
The Prince George’s County Board of Education is made up of nine elected members, four appointed members and one student member.
While officials in the county have pointed to dysfunction going back years, conflicts on the board — largely between a group of elected members and the appointed board chair Juanita Miller — came to a head earlier this year.
Six board members over the summer sought to remove Miller, who Alsobrooks appointed in January, filing a petition with the Maryland State Board of Education, accusing Miller of “misconduct in office” and “willful neglect of duty.”
Miller, for her part, alleged “serious ethics infractions” against those same board members.
Allegations against those members included that they pushed a union-friendly resolution regarding school construction projects after receiving campaign contributions from a construction workers’ union, and that they hired a lobbyist to advocate for a change to the board’s structure to remove the appointed members.
In a closed-door meeting this summer, an ethics panel made up of five private citizens called for censuring or removing the members over the purported violations.
But the board members vigorously denied them, and The Washington Post reported in August that the ethics reports were riddled with “misleading information and factual errors that undermine some of the allegations.”
In August, Miller, the board chair, was unable to get enough votes from the rest of the board to formally accept the ethics findings, essentially bringing matters to a stalemate.
The Maryland State Board of Education — which Alsobrooks urged to review the ethics reports — said it couldn’t look into them until they were accepted by the board.
The 14 members of the Prince George’s County School Board Transformation Workgroup are:
- Bishop Kevin V. Gresham Sr., senior pastor, Greater St. John Cathedral
- Amity Pope, Citizen Representative
- Nakisha Yates, former PGCPS teacher, current PGCPS parent
- Dr. Donna Christy, president, Prince George’s County Educators Association
- Dr. Sean T. Coleman, associate professor, Bowie State University, Department of Education Studies and Leadership
- Christian Rhodes, chief of staff, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education
- Verjeana McCotter-Jacobs, chief Transformation Officer, National School Boards Association
- David Harrington, president and CEO, Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce
- Melanie Gamble, president, Prince George’s County Association of Realtors
- Pokuaa Owusu-Acheaw, managing director of Legislative Affairs, Maryland State Education Association
- Linda Thornton Thomas, Prince George’s County Branch, NAACP
- Sue Livera, retired educator, Citizen Representative
- Doris Reed, executive director of the Association of Supervisory and Administrative Personnel
- Dr. Rosa Delia Smith, director, Prince George’s Community College at University Town Center