Thursday, December 12, 2013 2:23 PM
Published on: Wednesday, June 05, 2013
By Tauren Dyson
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker pushed forward with plans to change the governing structure of the county’s public school system.
As HB 1107 took effect Saturday, Baker appointed Dr. Segun Eubanks as the new Prince George’s County Board of Education chair.
Baker also held a forum at South Bowie Public Library last Tuesday night to layout specific plans for the power shift and what prompted the need for this change within the Prince George’s County Board of Education.
“This is not the Rushern Baker school system,” Baker said. “The people of Prince George’s County gave me the right … to appoint the best people that give the judgments for Prince George’s County.”
Baker told the more than 100 attendees that the two main goals of realigning the school board are to raise the level of student performance throughout the system and “to raise the level of engagement of the parents, students and community as a whole.”
Many in attendance at the forum voiced various concerns about the change, including teacher retention and public safety within school corridors.
“I really have concerns about the direction the county schools are moving,” said Mark Weinberg, of Glenn Dale. “They have an impact on real estate values and general perceptions people have of the county.”
The HB 1107 bill, which was passed by the Maryland legislature earlier this year, went into effect Saturday. Prior to June 1, the school board consisted of nine board members elected by county residents. Under the new law, the number of members will be expanded to 13, with the county executive selecting three new appointees, along with the board’s chair and vice chair, and Prince George’s County Council selecting one member.
The three appointees will be chosen from a pool of 160 candidates who submitted applications to the county executive’s office. The new law also gives the county executive power to select a new head of the school system, who will now be known as the Chief Executive Officer rather than a superintendent.
Many county residents said Baker made key changes to the bill for which he didn’t solicit public input. Some said the bill signaled a takeover of the school system that undermined the authority of the democratically elected board.
“At the end of the day, if we are not doing the job correctly, you won’t have to go very far to know who’s responsible,” Baker said.
Janis Hagey co-chairs Citizens for an Elected Board, a protest group that launched a petition to delay the bill’s June 1 arrival and put the measure to a referendum. In the past few weeks, her organization fanned throughout Prince George’s County to gather the 8,000 signatures needed by May 31 to halt the measure. Earlier last Tuesday, she visited Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro to garner support from parents attending the Surrattsville High School graduation.
“They are surprised by some of the elements of this law,” Hagey said. “Their thoughts are, ‘This is too much power in one person’s hands.’”
Sylvia Robinson-Tibbs attended last Tuesday’s night meeting and welcomes the change. Currently a teacher at Charles H. Flowers High School, she is due to leave Prince George’s County Public Schools after working in the system for 10 years. Growing frustration with the ineptitude of the school administration and their mishandling of her teaching certification have forced her to leave the system for a high-paying federal government job.
“I absolutely love teaching, and I would love to stay, but not under the same conditions,” Robinson-Tibbs said. She did, however, leave the door open to staying on the job after hearing Baker speak.
“I actually am really impressed with him,” she said. “I did not think I would be when I came.”