WASHINGTON - In an interview on Good Day DC, CEO of Prince George's County Schools, Dr. Kevin Maxwell addressed concerns of unauthorized pay raises and reacted to the harsh criticism in a letter from the principal's union to the school board. He also spoke on National Walkout Day for students in the county.
As Maxwell continues to face scrutiny for a state audit that found evidence of grade-fixing to boost graduation rates, FOX 5 reported earlier this month that several Prince George’s County central office employees received large, unauthorized raises, which were initially reported by members of the school board.
Speaking on Good Day DC, Maxwell said there were six people who received pay raises “that were not in compliance with the administrative association's contract and we'll take appropriate steps to resolve that."
He said both he and the Chief of Human Resources have authority for pay raises approval.
There is also one person, he said, who is now being investigated as a result of a Human Resources department audit.
Maxwell said while he was aware of some pay raises for promotions and job changes, the audit began complaints of unauthorized pay raises came in on a hotline.
"It actually shows that the system works. People called in, said there were some things going on,” he said.
On Tuesday, the principal’s union, the Association of Supervisory and Administrative School Personnel (ASASP) wrote a letter to the school board criticizing Maxwell and school administration for the unauthorized pay raises.
NEW: #pgcps principal's union says members betrayed by "outlandish "salary increases" being reported by news media." Letter to school board says they find it hard to believe @PGCPSCEO would participate in scheme "to illegally issue non-negotiated raises to select Union members" pic.twitter.com/323TajHGZA— Lindsay Watts (@LindsayAWatts) March 13, 2018
“The revelations of ‘undeserved/non-contractual payouts’ to selected and favored members of the school system, by Executive staff, has made a total mockery of the Negotiations process!”
The letter went on to say:
"The vitriol of our members is spilling throughout the school district. Our members feel betrayed by the outlandish “salary increases” being reported by the news media. They find it hard to believe that the Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Kevin Maxwell, would participate in such a scheme as to illegally issue non-negotiated raises to select Union members, and to “friendly” supporters of his Administration. This is especially disrespectful as we have tried for years to restore steps to our members. For Dr. Maxwell to support the meager offerings delivered by the Board’s negotiating team, at this last negotiation’s session, and then authorize these unfair distributions, of monetary gains, speaks to his lack of integrity."
However, Maxwell denies these allegations.
"I haven't participated in any illegal scheme to improve salaries for any bargaining unit people so I would say that that's inaccurate statement by the Executive Director of the administrator's association.”
There are reports of more unauthorized pay raises, which Maxwell says he is looking into through the HR audit.
"We continue to look at it because I think it's important to make sure that we do the work right. We certainly, want to make sure we're doing thing appropriately that everybody has done the things they're supposed to do.”
Following the state audit of grade-fixing in Prince George’s County Schools, there were “several changes” made to staff at DuVal High School.
In a letter sent to parents following the changes in January, Maxwell said: "An investigation by the Prince George's County Board of Education Office of Internal Audit and the recent State performance audit of grading and graduation rates corroborate evidence that some DuVal High School staff made inappropriate decisions to impact the grading and graduation certification processes.”
Sources and parents told FOX 5's Lindsay Watts that a principal, a vice principal and three guidance counselors were removed from the school.
One staff said to FOX 5 that they “felt like a scapegoat. I was doing what my higher ups told me to do and I lost my job because of it.”
Maxwell said in response to this: “If you're being asked to do something inappropriate you should refuse to do it, and go up that next chain to the people above them… people should do the right thing. We've been working very hard to make sure that everyone is trained in what the process and procedures are, and we expect them to do the right thing, not what they're told to do if it's wrong.”
Maxwell continues to defend his actions and his staff even as Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has called on County Executive Rushern Baker to fire him.
Maxwell says his focus is on students and applauded the achievements of both students and staff with performances, competitions and scholarships.
Even as students continue to speak out on gun violence following the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, Maxwell says he supports his students and staff on their advocacy efforts, especially with the National Walkout on Wednesday morning.
“The Board of Education and my leadership team absolutely support our students’ right to free expression, and to peaceful assembly, and we have coordinated with our county partners and we will have a number of our folks at schools throughout the morning this morning.”
Maxwell says he met with high school and middle school principals on Monday.
“I think our students have really shown their maturity and their ability to be strong leaders, and they worked with their principals and I think that we'll have very successful morning this morning,” he said.
“Our students and students across this country are tired of being targets, and they want people to do the things that need to be done to make them safe from gun violence.