With a New County Executive, What Comes Next for PGCPS?

100_3401by T. Carter Ross

Nine Democrats and one Republican are running for Prince George’s County Executive, and no matter who is elected, one of their first tasks will be exercising their responsibility for overseeing the county’s public school system. Regardless of public statements in favor or in opposition to HB 1107, because it and the hybrid school board it authorized remain the rule of the land, the next County Executive will continue to exercise great authority over PGCPS and will have the ability to shape school systems’ leadership through their appointments.

Over the next four years, the County Executive will most likely have the opportunity to name a new CEO for Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), appoint three people to the Board of Education, and name the Board of Education’s Chair and Vice Chair. However, the new County Executive cannot simply clear house; there are limits on these appointment powers.

Selecting the next PGCPS CEO

The process for selecting the CEO was set out in HB 1107 and codified as §4–201.1 in the Education Article of the Code of Maryland. This subsection, §4–201.1, applies only to Prince George’s County, but it is based on and largely parallels §4–201 (which governs all other county public school systems in Maryland) and §4–301 (which governs the public school system in Baltimore City).

The County Executive does not have an unrestricted right to name the PGCPS CEO. Under §4–201.1(c)(1), a three-person committee consisting of two residents of Prince George’s County appointed by the governor and chaired by a member of the Maryland State Board of Education appointed by the Maryland State Superintendent of Schools must recommend three candidates for the CEO position. It is from this list of three candidates that the County Executive choses the CEO.

After a CEO is selected, the Chair of the Board of Education is charged with negotiating a contract for the CEO’s term. The selection and contract must then be approved by the Maryland State Superintendent of Schools. If a contract is reached and the appointment approved, the CEO is in place for a four-year term, beginning on July 1.

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Prince George’s Schools Leaders Must Be Accountable to Voters, Not Politicians

Image 2-20-16 at 4.28 PMThe following is written testimony presented to the Prince George’s County Delegation of the Maryland General ASsembly. Lori Morrow is a current member of the PGCPS Board of Education Parent and Community Advisory Council mentioned on Page 17 of the House Bill 1107 (HB 1107) Final Report. All opinions expressed in this testimony are the author’s own.

by Lori Morrow

I submit this testimony in support of bill PG 509-18, to restore the Board of Education’s authority to select its own chair and vice chair and appoint the CEO. In addition, I support the repeal of HB1107 and the return to an elected school board in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) via bill PG 511-18.

I have reviewed the House Bill 1107 Final Report, and do not discount the many programs and initiatives that have been implemented in PGCPS these past few years. Unfortunately the positives have been significantly overshadowed by the challenges: the loss of the Head Start grant; the Judge Sylvania Woods incident; the subsequent administrative leave debacle; and the graduation rate audits. The report does not provide adequate support to show that the current governance structure has had a positive impact on PGCPS. Instead I have heard the exact opposite from many parents and community members. There is an overwhelming sense that the system is failing in terms of transparency and accountability because PGCPS leadership is responsible to county politicians instead of residents.

Regardless of original intention, the current structure and concentration of power in the office of the county executive serves as a political distraction that prevents our system from moving forward. Board members who were appointed or elected with the support of the county executive are viewed as beholden to the county government and not fully trusted. Board members elected without the support of the county executive are labeled as rebels or dissidents, and marginalized in the operations of the school board. In either case, the power of the individual county residents has been diluted.

The June 2017 resignation letter submitted by Dr. Beverly Anderson, an appointed member of the Board of Education, reflected many of my own observations: “We have a dysfunctional board possibly because too many of the members are compromised or have conflicts of interest; an angry student body because we have not figured out how to incorporate some of their good ideas into our practices; unhappy parents because we do not solve in an efficient manner classroom or administrative problems impacting their children; and an apathetic teaching force. This scenario must change!”

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Eubanks Reappointed to Board of Education, Anderson Resigns

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

Prince George’s County Board of Education Chair Segun Eubanks has been appointed to a second four-year term on the board. In a June 8 phone conversation, a staff member in County Executive Rushern Baker’s office confirmed that Baker reappointed Eubanks on June 1 of this year.

Eubanks was first appointed on June 1, 2013, the same day that the controversial House Bill 1107 took effect. The legislation changed the structure of the board, adding four at-large appointed members to the previously all-elected board and giving the superintendent (renamed under the bill as “Chief Executive Officer”) and county executive more control over the school system. Under HB 1107, the county executive also selects the chair of the board of education, who serves a two-year term as chair. Eubanks was selected by Baker to serve as chair of the board in June of 2013.

Beverly Anderson, whose recent resignation from the board has made the news, was also appointed by Baker to a four-year term in June of 2013. Anderson’s appointment was announced on June 17, along with the appointments of Daniel Kaufman and Curtis Valentine. Under the provisions of HB 1107, Valentine was appointed by the county council, and Kaufman was appointed by the county executive. Both were appointed to two-year terms initially, with the stipulation that future appointments to those seats would be four-year terms. Valentine was appointed in June 2015 to a second term, which will last four years. Kaufman’s seat is now held by Mary Roche.

The board of education also has nine elected members, each elected from their own board of education district, and one student member.

On June 13, four days before her term ended, Anderson sent a resignation letter to County Executive Baker, criticizing the school system for its “lack of a coherent educational plant” and calling the board “dysfunctional.” The letter was obtained by NBC 4 through a public information request, and the full text is below. It is not clear whether Baker had planned to appoint Anderson to a second term. Baker is responsible for appointing someone to fill the vacancy left by Anderson.

 

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How the PGCPS Governance System has Changed Under HB 1107: A Before and After Comparison

Image 2-20-16 at 4.28 PMby Genevieve Demos Kelley

The governance system of Prince George’s County Public Schools was restructured in 2013 under House Bill 1107. Many people know that HB 1107 changed the structure of the Board of Education from an all-elected board to a hybrid of elected and appointed members. But there are several other features of the bill that have significantly changed the way the school system is governed.

Here’s a before-and-after table highlighting some of the changes made under HB 1107:

Before HB 1107 Under HB 1107 (Effective June 1, 2013)
Members of the school board are elected. Board is a combination of members who are elected and appointed. (Section 3-114)
Nine elected school board members, each of whom resides in a different school district; one student member of the board. Nine elected board members, one student member, and four appointed board members (three appointed by the County Executive and one appointed by the County Council). (Section 3-114)
Board needs a simple majority to pass a motion. The school board requires a two-thirds vote to take an action that is contrary to an action of the CEO. (Section 4-403)
Board members elect a chair and vice chair of the school board once a year, from among the members of the school board. The County Executive selects the chair and vice chair of the school board for a two-year term. The vice chair is appointed from among the elected members of the board. (Section 3-1004)
If a seat on the Board becomes vacant more than 180 days before the end of the term, it is filled at a special election.  If a seat held by an elected member of the Board becomes vacant, the County Executive fills the vacancy by appointment. (Section 3-1002)
The head of the school system is known as the Superintendent of schools. The superintendent is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the school system. (Section 4-101)
The school board has authority to consolidate schools. The CEO has the authority to consolidate schools. (Section 4-120)
The school board selects and appoints the superintendent of the school system.  The County Executive selects the CEO of the school system from a list of three candidates provided by a search committee. The school board then appoints the CEO after agreement on contract terms negotiated by the chair of the county board.  (Section 4-201.1)
The county superintendent is responsible for the administration of his office. The CEO is responsible for the administration of his office, including hiring and setting the salaries of the executive staff. (Section 4-204)
 The county school board shall employ individuals in the positions that the county board considers necessary for the operation of the public schools in the county. The CEO of the school system shall hire and set the salaries of a Chief Operating Officer, a Chief Financial Officer, a Chief Academic officer, a Chief of Staff, a Board Liaison, and any other necessary executive staff in the office of the CEO. (Section 6-201)

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Prince George’s Schools Advocate on Kojo Nnamdi Show

Tommi Makila coordinates the Alliance for Nonpartisan School Board Elections. He is the parent of a student in the Prince George’s County Public Schools system.

by Tommi Makila

A long-time school advocate, David Cahn, will be a guest on WAMU’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show on Wednesday, July 13 at noon. You can listen to the show on WAMU’s frequency of 88.5 MHz, or online. The show is typically divided into two half-hour segments; at this time it is unknown which segment David will be on.

The show’s website assigns this title to the segment: “Is Partisan Politics Poisoning Prince George’s School Board?” David Cahn will address the school board restructuring that happened under House Bill 1107. He is a long-time proponent of a fully elected school board, serving as co-chair of the advocacy group Citizens for an Elected Board. (You can connect with the group through its Facebook page.)

David was invited to be on the Kojo Nnamdi Show after the Washington Post published an opinion piece regarding school board elections that he and I co-authored.

HB 1107 has been getting a lot of attention in the school advocate circles as of late, so please consider calling in to the show to discuss the issue. WAMU’s call-in number is 1-800-433-8850.

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HB 1107: Putting Last Night’s Five-Hour Board Meeting into Context

by Lori Morrow

Last night, I attended the PGCPS Board of Education Meeting to hear the members vote on the CEO’s Proposed Operating Budget. The five-hour meeting provided an interesting glimpse into our local county politics. (Click to watch Part 1 and Part 2 of the video of the meeting.) Nearly two hours of the meeting were spent listening to students, parents and community members discuss the impact of recommended school closures and consolidations in southern Prince George’s County. Having faced a similar situation in my Tulip Grove Elementary School neighborhood years ago, I empathize with those families and understand how frustrating the uncertainty can be. As yet, no final decisions on school closures have been made.

A comment I heard multiple times was that the Board Members are elected by us.  However, since House Bill 1107 passed in the 2013 Maryland legislative session, that is not entirely true. HB 1107 changed the structure of the Board of Education and made changes to the position of chief executive officer, formerly known as superintendent of schools. The impact of those changes was evident last night.

Nine of our Board of Education members are elected, and four are appointed by the County Executive.  Moreover, the Board needs a 2/3 majority to override a decision of the CEO, other than a personnel decision. HB1107 also transferred many powers directly to the CEO, appointed by the County Executive.  Under the new law, the PGCPS Board of Education is charged with only two responsibilities: 1. Raise the level of academic achievement of the students in the Prince George’s County Public School System; and 2. Raise the level of engagement of parents, students, and community as a whole. Other responsibilities, including school closures, belong solely to the Chief Executive Officer. It is an important distinction, as the voter’s influence in choosing the CEO comes from our election of the County Executive rather than the Board of Education.

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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.

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