Prince George’s County Public Schools. (File Photo)

Editor’s Note: The following are viewpoints from “Concerned Citizens of Prince George’s County.” These opinions do not reflect the views of the Sentinel staff. 

Why does it feel as though we, long-standing parents, homeowners, supporters and members of the Prince George’s County community, have not been given the opportunity to be a part of CEO selection process for Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), which will ultimately reshape the academic learning environment in to move a way that ripens, or limits the scope of achievement for our children?

In recent years, PGCPS has stood in the light of local and national media sources who have reported of grade inflation, the tax mishandling of our $2 billion budget and the politicization of our beloved school system. Quite simply, many of the students who wake up in the morning and travel to schools in Prince George’s County have not been meeting legal course requirements to matriculate through our system, and graduate with fidelity. Additionally, money to fund their success has been drawn away from them as a result of corporate greed. Through analysis and audit, the decisions of our school leadership have proven to be ethically, and morally, reckless to the future of our intelligent, motivated and talented young people.

And, to make matters more challenging, suspicion of internal bias in the hiring of our CEO has left many members of this beautiful community to wonder if this trend of academic dishonesty will continue. Prince George’s County is full of innovative and dynamic children who deserve the best education we can give to them, but how can we achieve this when the system is so clearly entrenched in a political complex that sacrifices their well-being in exchange for money, privilege and power?

This letter serves to address and repudiate PGCPS’ seemingly rushed nationwide search for a CEO, the selection of a CEO whose record shows a limited capacity to evoke structural change to the climate and culture of PGCPS and a lack of transparency around the CEO selection process and public selection committee hearings and proceedings for appointing a CEO.

Why was the national search for a new CEO started on February 1, 2019 and not after the person who was chosen to be the interim CEO assumed that role? Changing leadership is a long and arduous process; however, by the very logic of the Academic Revitalization and Management Effectiveness Act, wouldn’t it have seemed appropriate to engage this process with the community as soon as possible?

The national search began on May 13, 2019, just a couple of weeks before the end of the most current academic school year. Many community members agree that between the beginning of the year and the date of the search, we possessed an incredibly substantial amount of time to wait for the search to begin, but in the same breath, such a short time to conclude the selection of an appointee before the end of the first thirty days of June. It’s understandable that these matters needed to be handled such that the incoming CEO would have time to navigate the system.

However, we are not buying it.

Five months, as opposed to less than one month, to select a CEO for our school system has not only been visibly disrespectful to our community, but also being denied the opportunity to really touch the selection process. With such a small window of time, the process has felt dismissive of our community members who did not have proper access to address their concerns publicly. The platform to give feedback online was poorly constructed, and (for example) did not give equity to the elderly and those with a possible inhibiting condition that would not permit them to have their voices be heard in that survey/forum. PGCPS did not give the process the proper timing that it deserves, which has created a collective, visceral feeling within the Prince George’s County community that results were pre-planned.

And speculatively, how did the allocation $40,000 dollars of the general budget strengthen this “national” search if the new CEO, hypothetically, had already been chosen?

The person who was appointed to be the CEO of PGCPS is plainly unfavorable among many people to serve in this capacity. Unfortunately, this person has spent the entirety of their career bouncing upward through the system most likely acquiring counterproductive habits from counterproductive leaders. This person did not have a decent model of executive and administrative excellence for which they could patter and co-create a well-trained and unique style of leadership. It is important to the selection process that this person’s achievements not be so quickly removed from the conversation, but the question that we could insert after that acknowledgement is “Does hiring this person, who directly worked with someone who oversaw the corruption of our education system and and complicit in soaking up severance funds without completing their tour of duty, hold the possibility of continuing the status quo?”

As a community, we simply cannot afford to spend another four years under the direction of someone who has collected tricks from their former superior who mired our education system into a negligent puddle of politicized chaos. This person may very well prove to be an excellent candidate, but the process for vetting other excellent candidates at the national level was not fair. Instead, it was biased and deserves more attention than it was given. More corruption of PGCPS’ central office? We think so.

The only public hearing that was marketed as an opportunity to give feedback publicly, occurred on May 13, 2019 at Charles H. Flowers High School between the times of 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Just two hours for us to decide the future of the school system! The event was not very well publicized, and in fact, did not even appear on PGCPS’ live calendar.

Many stakeholders of this great community would have loved to have been a part of this process. But, why was the opportunity to engage with the process so limited to one meeting and one survey online? It would seem appropriate that at least three public hearings (if not several more) would have been sufficient to give the community an opportunity to voice their agreements and concerns.

But, let’s organize this. One meeting, one rather limited online survey/forum and the use of over $40,000 of PGCPS’ general fund to conclude a national search for a new CEO, in less than one month?

Just be real, the hearing was unnecessary pomp and circumstance, and purely to check a box. We’re not fooled, and we have felt disenfranchised by these actions.

Stakeholders, parents, families, community members, former administrators, principals and teachers deserve better. Our children deserve better. And, this cannot happen again. When you intentionally exclude masses of people from a process of electing leaders that represent our community, we all feel it. And, it has become evident that this type of behavior has only been deemed acceptable due in part to the political climate of the United States, where major decisions are concluded behind closed doors and through social media, and of all, do not involve the people.

This is not us. Of course, PGCPS is not the only school system that has been entrenched in this type of engagement around common educational standards, but our wish is to return to a time of ethical fairness in our leadership selection process with clear moral certitude and that the candidate selected, best represents the collective vision for our children. We reject your perception of us. We see through your politics. And, we will protect the future of educational achievement in this county.

This is unfinished. If a meaningful and quality education is fostered within PGCPS, we need a structural change to the roots of our system. The root of our school system has been switched from the State Board of Education to the authority of the County Executive, and this policy decision must be uprooted for fairness and balance in our school leadership hiring process. The law must be changed to reflect a communal process of deciding the governance of our system. Our system.

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