Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on April 9 signed a bill that dramatically enhances Prince George’s County Rushern L. Baker’s powers over the county’s troubled school system.
The Academic Revitalization and Management Effectiveness Act bill which changes the process for selecting public school leadership in Prince George’s County.
The bill, submitted by Baker, was debated by the Senate and House members and overwhelming approved by both chambers despite opposition from education stakeholders. The Senate voted 39-7 for the bill on April 4 and the House voted 79-47 on April 6. The bill is eligible for review by the General Assembly in 2018.
The law, effective June 1, 2013, allows the governor to appoint a three member committee to identify three candidates for schools chief executive officer (CEO) and the county executive will choose the finalist. The county executive will also oversee appointments for the Board of Education (BOE) chair and vice chair in addition to appointing three BOE members. The county council will also appoint a BOE member bringing the school board to a total of 13 voting members with one nonvoting student member.
By April 5 all three superintendent candidates had dropped out of the running for superintendent due to the transition in the system but Baker is prepared to immediately begin a new search.
“Now our task is to identify the CEO who will provide the roadmap for building a top-notch school system that provides our children with a great education,” Baker said in a statement. “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 also said in the statement that he looks “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.”
According to Baker’s Education Policy Advisor Christian Roads, the county executive will meet with agencies and educational organizations immediately with an announcement on more in-depth public engagement soon to follow.
Under the new law budget, curriculum and policy responsibilities will remain with the soon-to-be expanded BOE.
Last week, School Board President Verjeana Jacobs told the AFRO that if the bill passes the board will “look at how to be inclusive” in moving forward with the restructuring of the leadership selection process.
Persons appointed to the newly created board seats are required to have expertise in the education, business and management, respectively. The fourth will be a parent with a child in the school system.
The addition of four members is a significant increase to the BOE but Baker’s administration views these appointees with a more expanded role.
“It’s large but it’s not the largest in the country,” said Roads. “We see the four [additional members] being more like at-large members representing the county’s interest.”
Some parents are pleased that the coming changes carry accountability for schools performance to the highest level of the state.
“Now it goes all the way up to the governor and the state board of education. Everybody now has a voice in the process from the county council, senators and delegates,” said Tonya Lawson, President of the Oxon Hill High School Parent Teacher Student Association.
But Lawson reverts back to the initial challenge with public schools progress.