A Dozen Years of Changes in PGCPS Governance Structure

by Amy Alford

Over the last dozen years, the PGCPS Board of Education has been structured in several different ways. Each time, the change occurred as the result of an act of the Maryland General Assembly.

The governance of PGCPS is unusual compared to school districts across the country. Nationwide, 90% of school districts are termed “Independent School Districts” which means that the elected school board has taxing authority. In Prince George’s County (and in Maryland in general), the school board depends on the county government to partially fund its budget (other money comes from the state and federal government). ([12])

In 2003, the elected board of education was replaced by a board appointed by the county executive (Wayne Curry at the time), and the governor. At the same time, the superintendent position was renamed the CEO, forcing Iris Metts, the superintendent at the time, to reapply for her job. ([1], [2]) She was rehired, but did not seek a new contract in 2003. The dissolution of the school board was in part caused by an attempt by the board to fire Metts. After Metts left, the appointed board hired Andre Hornsby, who resigned in 2005 during a federal investigation that ended with his conviction. ([3]). Howard Burnett served as acting CEO until John Deasy was hired in 2006.

In 2006, an elected board was restored. 46 candidates ran for 9 seats in a complex election system. There were 5 district seats and 4 at large seats. Each district selected 2 candidates in the primary, and 8 at large candidates were selected. Then, the entire county voted for candidates for every seat. Even the district candidates were voted on county-wide. ([4]) In 2008, Deasy left to take a job with the Gates Foundation. ([3]) William Hite was selected first as interim superintendent and then permanently. ([5]) In 2012, Hite left to become superintendent of the Philadelphia School District. ([6]) Alvin Crawley served as interim superintendent. ([7]).

The elected school board made the news in 2012 when the Washington Post noticed that only 25% of board members had college degrees. This was highly unusual for such a large school system. ([8])

In 2013, at the request of County Executive Rushern Baker, the school board was again restructured through an act of the general assembly, House Bill 1107, despite opposition from some board members. ([9]) Crawley agreed to continue as interim superintendent. The changes gave the county executive new influence over the school system in multiple ways. The new structure stipulates 9 members elected from districts, 4 members appointed by the county executive (including the chair of the board), and a student member. At the same time, responsibility for hiring a new superintendent moved to the county executive: A search committee nominates three candidates and the county executive chooses one. The school board also lost the authority to overrule the CEO/superintendent’s day-to-day decision-making without a 2/3 supermajority. ([9], [10]).

Shortly after the restructuring, Baker appointed Kevin Maxwell, then the superintendent of Anne Arundel County, as the new CEO — the eighth leader of the school system in 14 years.([11]) He works with a board whose collective educational achievement has dramatically increased since the 2012 Washington Post report. Now the majority of board members have graduate degrees, and several have doctorates.([13])

For information on how to contact County Exective Baker, state legislators, board of education members, and CEO Maxwell, visit our Advocate page.

References

[1] http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2002-05-31/news/0205310114_1_metts-board-members-new-board

[2] http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2002/04/17/31pgcounty.h21.html [3] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/29/AR2008092903354.html

[4] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/25/AR2006072501344_pf.html [5] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/20/AR2009092002190.html

[6] http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/William-Hite-Selected-as-New-Philly-School-Superintendent–160904925.html [7] http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/prince-georges-county-chief-academic-officer-resigns-after-four-years-on-the-job/2014/02/07/c8c795d4-8de2-11e3-95dd-36ff657a4dae_story.html

[8] http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/few-college-graduates-on-prince-georges-school-board/2012/11/04/4d2ddcba-23a0-11e2-ba29-238a6ac36a08_story.html

[9] http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/prince-georges-county-school-reform-law-takes-effect/2013/06/02/02df78e0-c971-11e2-9f1a-1a7cdee20287_story.html

[10] http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/36loc/pg/html/functions/pgeducation.html [11] http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/laurel/ph-ll-maxwell-superintendent-0704-20130704-story.html

[12] http://dls.state.md.us/data/polanasubare/polanasubare_intmatnpubadm/polanasubare_intmatnpubadm_annrep/2015-Overview-of-Maryland-Local-Governments.pdf

[13] http://www1.pgcps.org/board/

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