Prince George's County Public Schools chief of staff steps down

- The fallout continues for Prince George’s County Public Schools as its chief of staff has been relieved of his duties one day after an email he wrote regarding ongoing issues in the school system was leaked.

Prince George’s County Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Dr. Kevin Maxwell said in a statement:

“Today I have asked my colleague and friend George Margolies to step down as my Chief of Staff. I thank him for nearly 40 years of service in public education.”

The leaked email is dated back in April and was sent from Margolies to several higher-up members of the school board. In it, Margolies wrote that school board’s vice chair Carolyn Boston wanted to discuss in front of the entire board the viability of the county's continued grant from the federal government for their Head Start program. Maxwell and other school officials have said in the past they were not aware of their federal grant was in jeopardy until this beginning of this school year.

However, Margolies goes on to imply in this email that a deal was made where the information on this issue would be filed somewhere other than the board's agenda items, and wrote, "This will not be a discussion item. Dr. Eubanks will simply make reference that they are posted there for the Board members’ reading pleasure."

FOX 5 spoke with Margolies Wednesday afternoon just hours after leaving his position and asked him whether Dr. Maxwell was aware of the problems within the county's Head Start program.

“I don’t have to speak for Dr. Maxwell," he said. "I believe everything Dr. Maxwell says – when he learned about them and when he didn’t learn about them.”

Margolies said although his leaked email was not part of a cover-up and the email is one of many that continued a discussion that had started back in December of 2014 – well before the allegations.

“It had nothing to do with the issue of corporal punishment for Head Start students,” said Margolies. “Ms. Boston was pressing hard that we have a discussion at the board meeting on Head Start. I was suggesting that if we have discussion on Head Start at board meetings on a regular basis, why not have a discussion on Gifted and Talented students, special education students, ELL (English-language learners) students? And that there is another way to transmit information about Head Start.”

Margolies shrugged his shoulders when asked if an email with a contentious tone was enough to seal his fate with the county. He believes he was made the scapegoat by certain board members for a series of scandals surrounding the school district.

“Obviously, everything has not gone right, and obviously there have been employees who have been terminated, employees recommended for personnel actions,” he said. “We recognize things have not gone all right and investigations are continuing to go on.”

Margolies said he was headed for retirement in just a few months, but the leaked email has now expedited his exit. He said the decision was not his and Dr. Maxwell asked him to step down.

FOX 5 spoke to school board member Edward Burroughs and he said this email shows the board's intent was to bury this information where the other board members and the public couldn't find it. He also believes Margolies did not make this decision on his own.

“It is clear as day that Dr. Maxwell knew exactly what was going on,” Burroughs said. “Do you honestly expect for me to believe that your chief of staff, your director of politics, the board chair, the board vice chair and the deputy superintendent knew about this deal and you didn't? It's unbelievable. It doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

“And if you want me to believe it, that means everyone around you is not communicating with you, which is another issue. So either you should be held accountable for knowing and doing nothing or you should be held accountable for not knowing. Either way, the CEO's behavior is unacceptable.”

Burrows told FOX 5 he plans to confront the superintendent about this email at Thursday afternoon's scheduled board meeting.

Margolies was appointed chief of staff back in Dec. 2013 and served “as the district’s primary liaison to the Board of Education" and oversaw "General Counsel and the Office of Communications among other responsibilities," according to Prince George's County Public Schools' website.

His departure comes two days after FOX 5 learned 124 Prince George’s County Public Schools employees are on leave for abuse, neglect or misconduct allegations.

In addition, the school district has been under fire for its handling of the Head Start program. A Department of Health and Human Services report found incidents of teachers in the program humiliating children in the classroom, use corporal punishment as a method of discipline and a child was even found unattended. This led to the termination of a $6.5 million federal grant that funded the Head Start program.

The troubled school system also dealt with a child abuse and child pornography case earlier this year involving a volunteer school aide. Deonte Carraway was indicted on 270 charges after authorities say he sexually abused students at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School.

“My leaving the school system has nothing to do with those controversies,” said Margolies. “I wasn’t involved in any of these things dealing with the incidents involving the youngsters, one of which preceded the email that is in controversy involving myself.”

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