UPPER MARLBORO — The tenure of current Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell is coming to an end.
Maxwell announced his intent to “transition out” of his role as CEO of PGCPS in an exclusive interview with NBC 4 last week, noting that he would stay through the end of the school year.
“I have decided to focus on my transition from Prince George’s County Public Schools,” Maxwell said. “The numerous distractions that have occurred over the course of this school year are unlike anything I’ve experienced in four decades of working in public education. Without question, they have taken a toll on students, families and staff.”
The announcement comes after several months of increased pressure on both the CEO and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, III to increase transparency and accountability in the school system after a series of growing scandals.
In addition, Baker, who is running a campaign bid for governor, had made education one of his top priorities as county executive and as the June primaries inch closer, his decisions on education have become a hot topic of political debate. That debate has called for several changes to the school system including changing the bill that allowed the county executive to chose the leader of PGCPS and some demanding for Maxwell’s resignation.
“The governor believes a leadership change in Prince George’s County Schools is long overdue, a view he shares with parents, teachers, school board members, the Prince George’s County NAACP, and local officials,” Amelia Chase, Gov. Larry Hogan’s communications director, said in a statement. “Now it’s time for the county to put a leader in place who will restore citizens’ broken trust in the administration of the school system.”
But for a five-year chapter that ended marred by scandal, Maxwell’s time as leader of PGCPS began with hope.
A graduate of Prince George’s County Public Schools himself, Maxwell came back to the county as a hailed and decorated leader of Anne Arundel County – a finalist for superintendent of the year.
His career in education largely began in Prince George’s County. He studied at the University of Maryland and taught at several middle and high schools throughout PGCPS before taking a job with Montgomery County Schools and later moving on to Anne Arundel, though never moving away from his neighborhood in Bowie.
“I proudly came back to Prince George’s County Public Schools in 2013 with a singular goal: to prepare our students for success in higher education, the workplace and community,” he said. “With your support and collaboration, we celebrated many achievements, expanded program offerings and drew many families back to our schools. I remain proud of the great teaching and learning that happens every day in our classrooms. I am excited about the opportunities that await our students when they leave our schools.”
Over Maxwell’s time at PGCPS the school system celebrated many achievements including an expansion of art’s integration, a growing number of EGATE dedicated schools, an increase in language immersion programs, a growing list of green-certified schools and the opening of two International High Schools. At the same time, PGCPS has expanded its all-day prekindergarten program, doubled its dual enrollment opportunities, opened new middle college courses and seen its enrollment expand by thousands of students.
“We have made significant academic progress. Those successes can be found in the stories of our students who continue to excel inside and outside of our classrooms as well as our dedicated teachers and staff,” several members of the board of education wrote in an open letter to county residents. “Under Dr. Maxwell's leadership, we have expanded pre-Kindergarten classes, language immersion programs and dual enrollment opportunities. Also, the number of scholarship monies received by our graduating seniors increased from $91 million to $151.5 million.”
However, Maxwell’s time at PGCPS was also one blanketed with controversy. As the first appointed leader under the new HB 1107 law, his leadership was immediately met with skepticism, though the series of scandals that began in 2015 were more than fuel to the fire.
When news broke that a former teacher’s aide had been sexually abusing and videotaping students at an elementary school and in his community, parents began to question the safety of their children at school. The community immediately wanted to know how such a crime could occur and why they were not notified sooner.
The outrage led PGCPS down a series of reactionary paths as the school board scrambled to change reporting and safety policies. However the quick changes and further emphasis on reporting misconduct led to a wave of educators being put on administrative leave. The school system was rocked further by the loss of a federal Head Start grant due to, among other things, issues of child abuse.
In addition, the school system was investigated for grade tampering in regards to graduation rates. Though school administration said the investigation found no evidence of a district-wide issue, the report did show that some students had graduated without meeting requirements.
Since then, school administration has also faced a number of questions regarding raises in central office while teachers are still several “steps” behind on their salaries.
“Maxwell's resignation is not enough. We must send a strong message to future school leaders and, of equal importance, ensure that justice is done. That is why I called on the State’s Attorney to open a formal investigation into Kevin Maxwell and the scandals that he allowed to plague our school system. I am reiterating that demand today. No more cover-ups, no more brushing controversy under the carpet,” State Sen. C. Anthony Muse said.
As the end of the school year nears, the terms of Maxwell’s departure are still unclear, but Baker, Maxwell and the school board believe this announcement will allow the focus to return to the students.
“This announcement allows the focus to return to our students and their families as they celebrate graduation and decide where to go to college or start a career,” Baker said.
However, Theresa Dudley, president of the local teachers’ union, said there is still much Prince George’s County needs to address when it comes to schools.
The teachers’ union, parents and students, she said, should also have a say in selecting the next CEO.