LARGO – Among the growing list of conflicts arising in the Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) system, one more organization has added its name to the list of those calling for the chief executive officer (CEO) to step down.
Last week the Prince George’s County chapter of the NAACP held a public press conference to ask Kevin Maxwell to step down from his position as CEO of PGCPS. Bob Ross, president of the local NAACP, said the group has considered making a public opinion since August, but said the tipping point was the most recent allegations of abuse.
“The NAACP mandates in our charter that we protect the health and welfare of our children, and then on education, we bear a responsibility,” he said. “We met with Dr. Maxwell and Rushern Baker (III) in a private meeting looking for how we are going to ‘right the ship’… and the answer wasn’t clear.”
Ross said there is the air of a “vote of no confidence” when it comes to how the county executive and the CEO of PGCPS are handling the current scandals within the school system and the fallout of them.
“We’ve received a lot of phone calls from parents, community organizations and the community in general, pro and con, on what is being done. We have 27 students who have been assaulted and it raises eyebrows,” Ross said.
It has been wave after wave of breaking news and school system reaction over the past several months in PGCPS, and Maxwell and his school administration have continuously taken heat in the wake of the scandals.
But despite previous calls for Maxwell and the Prince George’s County Board of Education Chair and Vice Chair, Segun Eubanks and Carolyn Boston, to step down, Baker has stood by Maxwell.
Baker held the same stance last week, holding a press conference of his own just hours after Ross and the NAACP.
“If I felt like Dr. Maxwell couldn’t get the job done, believe me, he would be gone tomorrow, but I’ve talked to him. I’ve talked to his staff. They get it, they’ve got a plan in action and now I’ve got to make sure they operate that plan.”
Baker said he had a “heart-to-heart” with Maxwell a few months ago and has held weekly meetings with the CEO to gauge progress on student safety within the school system.
Since the incidents in February involving Deonte Carraway and the subsequent reports of abuse, the school system formed a task force focused on student safety that guided PGCPS on how to change and enhance school policies and procedures to ensure student safety.
The county board of education passed some of those improvements and changes in an emergency session in August, but controversy continued when the public learned PGCPS lost a federal grant for the county Head Start program after PGCPS failed to fully address abuse issues in the program.
Both Baker and Maxwell have been quick to point out that, despite the scandals, there are areas of the school system that are growing and rapidly improving. Maxwell has cited increased test scores, growing specialty programs, an increase in arts integration, growing partnerships with community organizations and the addition of two International Schools as all good signs for the school system.
But Ross said it’s time for a change in the school system, especially since more cases are coming before the school system.
“Grades are going up, test scores are going up, but operations are a problem. So if you’re trying to ‘right the ship,’ you have to right it all,” he said. “And more incidents keep happening.”
Maxwell said, however, that he believes the increased amount of reports are signs that the new policies are working – that people are finally reporting.
“I want to say that when we began really, really pushing and demanding on the reporting and retraining on reporting, what we got was exactly (that) – I don’t think anybody should really be surprised that we got more reporting,” Maxwell told the county council in September.
Despite Maxwell’s outlook on the increase in reporting, Ross thinks the reports are a sign that things have not changed in the school system and are a sign it is time for Maxwell to go.
“It’s time to go. Now, was he directly responsible (for these incidents)? No, no one says he is directly responsible, but it’s the culture that you really have to change and (someone) has to come in here with a big stick and get rid of this nepotism, ” Ross said.
However, Baker said now is not the time to replace the CEO.
“If we changed superintendents tomorrow, what do you think is going to happen? That person comes in, they have to come up with a new plan and all these things,” Baker said.
CEO turnover is frequent in the business world, Ross said, and he doesn’t believe the school system is so fragile that it couldn’t handle a leadership transition.
“It’s like a corporation,” Ross said. “Trust me, if you don’t deliver, you go.”