UPPER MARLBORO, Md. - Protesters are calling for top school officials in Prince George’s County to lose their jobs after the school district has been plagued with abuse scandals and troubles with its Head Start program.
The protesters gathered in front of the county’s administration building in Upper Marlboro and are seeking the removal of Prince George’s County Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Dr. Kevin Maxwell from his position saying the problems have just gotten to be too much.
In many school districts across the country, the school board, elected by voters, would have the power to fire Maxwell. But that is not the case in Prince George’s County and that is what is prompting Monday’s protest.
These people want to change the system that allows only Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker to hire and fire the CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools. Baker is also able to appoint some of the members of the school board. Protesters were carrying signs asking for the repeal of HB1107, a state law passed three years ago that gave the county executive such power.
The demonstrators spoke out about how they felt information about child abuse is being covered up and kept away from parents – mentioning mistreatment in the county's Head Start program and a recent allegation of a bus aide molesting special needs pre-school students.
“Especially children with special needs to be subjected to this day after day after day, and then the only thing you can think about is hiding it until we can clean it up,” said protester Tonya Wingfield. “No, you need to suffer the same consequences that anybody else that breaks the law would have to suffer, and that goes all the way up to the county executive. If he knew, the same with him – disbar him and remove him from office.”
“We are tired of the stale baked goods, we are tired of Mr. Maxwell, who is not fulfilling what he needs to do in Prince George’s County as head of the school system,” said protester Jacques Chebalier.
Scott Peterson, the deputy manager of communications for Rushern Baker, said in a statement about the protest rally:
“We should always applaud citizens who come together and exercise their right to assemble and express their concerns about an issue that impacts our County.
"When HB1107 was passed in 2013, it was designed to create a governance structure that would better position Prince George’s County Public Schools to be more successful academically and operationally, and ultimately to move us from the bottom to the top in the state’s school system rankings.
“Three and a half years later, we have
• Significantly expanded full-day pre-kindergarten (we’ve increased this important first phase of education for our youngest students from 8 programs to 50 pre-kindergarten programs),
• Implemented more rigorous academic standards and programs, and provided more choice for students and parents, throughout all grades,
• Achieved historic highs in graduation rates (close to 80% of our students are graduating) and 9th grade promotion rates (which means that fewer of our students are dropping out),
• Improved test scores significantly (our students ranked in the Top 10 of statewide English and Language Arts scores),
• Increased enrollment in our schools substantially (130,000 students are now attending), and the overall college and career readiness of our children is improving as well.
“The recent cases of deplorable behavior by some school employees are extremely disturbing, but we should not confuse these incidents with the governance changes that have paved the way for our success over the last few years. These challenges are a reflection of an organization that is going through a much needed cultural change after an inordinate number of leadership and policy changes that may have blurred our primary focus on the safety of our children. This is a defining moment for our school system and just as we focused like a laser on reforming our academic programs and offerings, we must approach the safety of our children with the same unwavering focus and vigor.
“The achievements of PGCPS over the last three years cannot be overlooked. We must keep marching forward and build on our academic successes by creating an attitude and culture in our schools where everyone, from the bus driver to the principal, is focused on sustaining an absolutely safe and nurturing learning environment for all students.”
On the heels of this protest, parents and community members met with school officials Monday evening to discuss student safety and transparency by the school district.