Thursday, December 12, 2013 5:52 PM
Published on: Thursday, May 16, 2013
By Tauren Dyson
On Tuesday, Prince George’s NAACP president Bob Ross and other civic leaders held a press conference to discuss the organization’s support for HR 1107, a bill that was signed into law last April, at the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro.
The bill allows County Executive Rushern Baker to appoint a new superintendent and three school board members, while the County Council will appoint a fourth member. It also gives wider authority to the superintendent, such as decisions regarding school boundary shifts, consolidation, and the overall operation of the school system. Baker will also have the power to choose the board’s chair and co-chair.
The NAACP initially opposed the bill earlier this year but flipped its position after a May 7 meeting with Baker.
“We went down to Annapolis with a team of people fighting it (HB 1107) tooth and nail,” Ross said.
Ross said he soon decided that pushing back against the bill would only delay the process to the detriment of students in the county. So the NAACP relented in its opposition and threw support behind the bill.
“You have to make a decision, ‘Who are you fighting for?’ We’re fighting for the students of Prince George’s County,” Ross said. “It’s not about the adults.”
Still, some county residents disagree and think voters should have a say in all the board members chosen.
“I think the whole Prince George’s delegation to come out of committee disrespected the citizens of Prince George’s County,” said Brian Morris, 18-year Prince George’s resident. “That’s one of the complaints that black people have forever.”
Morris said he voted for Baker but felt shut out of this process. The bill is slated to go into effect on June 1 but still could face more obstacles.
Two civic organizations, Prince Georgians for an Informed Citizenry and Citizens for an Elected Board, have launched a petition to halt the bill. A total of 24,000 county residents’ signatures are required by June 30 to push the bill into a referendum.
Meanwhile, 8,000 signatures by May 31 would forestall the measure from becoming law.
But if HB 1107 does become law, some county residents welcome the change to the old way of school board governance. Denise Joseph said a change in the school system could have a more positive effect on Prince George’s economic development.
“A lot of people who want to come to the area choose not to live in Prince George’s because of the school system,” Joseph said. “A lot of businesses don’t actually come here because of the school system.”
Joseph’s idea is that a shake up in the status quo of the school board would translate to a sharper student body.
Currently, Prince George’s County’s public schools are near the bottom of the state in standardized testing, and many believe unstable leadership wont bode well to changing those results.
“For 13 years, I’ve personally been watching the tumult back and forth with the Prince George’s County school board, from an elected board, to an appointed school board, back to an elected school board,” Ross said. “Now we’re at the crossroad once again.”
Posted By: Denise M. Joseph On: 5/16/2013
Title: Great Article
Mr. Dyson, great article. You captured the essence of the press conference and painted an objective picture. Will you continue to follow this bill and the state of education?