Saturday, March 08, 2014 2:29 AM
Published on: Wednesday, April 10, 2013
By Alexis A. Goring
The Maryland General Assembly passed an education reform bill Saturday that will allow County Executive Rushern Baker to select the next chief administrator of the county’s school district.
The legislation is slated to go into effect June 1, and Baker plans to hire a chief executive officer — rather than a superintendent of schools — to take helm of Prince George’s County Public Schools.
“Last month, I unveiled a proposal that was grounded in ending the status quo and accelerating the improvement of our public school system,” Baker said in a press release Saturday. “While my original proposal was amended, I support this legislation and thank the members of the Prince George’s County House and Senate delegations for their hard work and diligence as they worked on this pivotal issue.”
Baker said identifying a qualified CEO to “provide the roadmap for building a top-notch school system” is his next task.
“This legislation creates an environment where the new CEO can be successful, and it is imperative that our new school leader has the support of our county leadership,” Baker added. “I look forward to working collaboratively with the Board of Education, County Council, House and Senate delegations, along with administrators, faculty, staff, parents and students as we focus on improving our school system.”
When Baker first presented his plan for an integrated school government, opponents saw it as a “takeover” of the school system. But, according to the county executive’s office, that was never the case and “takeover” was never used in the passed legislation.
According to the legislation, the county executive will also select the chair and vice chair of the Board of Education. The legislation also authorizes the county executive to appoint three members to the Board of Education and County Council to make one appointment to the Board of Education.
As of Saturday, all three candidates for superintendent withdrew from the search process. Dr. Alvin L. Crawley, PGCPS interim superintendent, and Harrison Peters announced their withdrawal Friday. News of Dr. Eric J. Becoats’ withdrawal broke on April 2.
The Sentinel spoke with Board of Education Chair Verjeana Jacobs last Thursday about Becoats’ withdrawal from the search process. Jacobs said she could not speak for Becoats, but did say his withdrawal “speaks volumes to what’s going on in our county, the level of instability and lack of collaboration in some respects.”
Jacobs said she hopes that everyone will focus on what matters most, the reason for creating and delivering quality education — the children.
“We’ll maintain that at the end of the day, this conversation should be about children,” she said. “We still haven’t heard that conversation. We still have not heard what’s the plan for progress. We have one, we’ve been implementing that plan going on seven years, and it’s showing the kind of gains that we are very proud of.”
The Sentinel could not reach the former superintendent candidates for comment.
However, a Board of Education press release stated, “All three candidates were considered for the position under the current PGCPS governance structure. However, due to the disruption that occurred with this process and the uncertainty of the leadership of the school system in the coming months, we accept and understand why these highly qualified candidates have withdrawn. We sincerely appreciate the participation of the Prince George’s County community throughout our search for a new superintendent and the constructive feedback we received. We regret that your voice was not heard.”
According to Baker’s office, the legislation authorizes the governor to appoint a three member search committee for the school system’s CEO to identify three finalists. The county executive will select the new CEO from the finalists referred to him by the selection committee.
In the coming weeks, Baker will work with the Board of Education and the County Council to implement this new structure. There also will be opportunities for the public to learn more about the new school governance structure.
Until June 1, the current structure remains at status quo with the current Board of Education and Crawley serving as interim superintendent. Crawley is under contract until June 1.