WASHINGTON - Two Prince George's County School Board members had strong words for County Executive Rushern Baker after the resignation of CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell, which was announced Tuesday. Edward Burroughs, III and David Murray, who joined FOX 5 Morning live Wednesday morning with their response to the news, want Baker to give the power to select Maxwell's replacement back to the board.
Baker lobbied for and got the power to appoint individuals for key roles in the school system, including the superintendent, board chair and vice board chair. Burroughs said that makes it nearly impossible for the board to do their job, calling it "an absolute destruction of checks and balances." Burroughs said when the board put a motion on the floor at their last budget meeting to give teachers a 4% raise, no one appointed by Baker voted for it.
"Those members are standing in the way of our progress," Burroughs said.
Murray and Burroughs say that power needs to change in state law, and they're hopeful that the next county executive will ask that it be returned to the board. Baker is running for governor of Maryland. Murray added that Baker has refused to meet with the board, but they plan to talk to him about making sure they are involved in making the selection.
As for the news of Maxwell's resignation, Burroughs said he was in disbelief when he first heard. Murray said he is relieved, but wishes it would have happened sooner.
"I'm frustrated that it took so long," Murray said. "We've had at least 12 straight months of scandal after scandal. I wish that this resignation could have come then. I wish the county executive would have acted then, and as a result, a lot of school-based employees unfortunately lost their jobs in the graduation rate scandal for mistakes that I don't think were their idea."
Burroughs said there were additional scandals that were about to surface in the weeks and months ahead, which could have factored into Maxwell's resignation.
"There's been such a desire to not let certain things become public, but they always become public in the end," Burroughs said.
Burroughs and Murray have taken heat for some of the things they have said as they raised concerns about some of the things going on in the school system. They now say they have to get to work quickly to make up for time they have lost dealing with controversy.
Burroughs also said he hopes Maxwell's resignation will be a sign of hope to those who may have been planning to leave the school system as a result of all of the controversy, and that they might decide to stay instead. A proposed 4% raise for teachers and their staff is part of a plan they hope will encourage many of those people to stay.
Maxwell has not announced when his last day will be but will reportedly be stepping down at the end of the school year to ensure a smooth transition as he leaves, according to officials.
The school system has dealt with several scandals during Maxwell’s tenure, which includes a state audit that revealed widespread grade changing that violated district policies along with students graduating without meeting requirements.
A former school aide pleaded guilty after he sexually abused children at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School where he volunteered. In 2016, the federal government pulled a $6.5 million grant to fund the school district's Head Start program following reports of misconduct and abuse that were apparently never addressed by the school system.
Recently, some school board members said central office employees have received unauthorized pay raises. Earlier this week, a hidden camera was found inside an administrative office at a school, which has led to Prince George’s County police to investigate.
In a letter to the district's community, Maxwell wrote the following letter:
"I proudly came back to Prince George’s County Public Schools in 2013 with a singular goal: to prepare our students for success in higher education, the workplace and community. With your support and collaboration, we celebrated many achievements, expanded program offerings and drew many families back to our schools. I remain proud of the great teaching and learning that happens every day in our classrooms. I am excited about the opportunities that await our students when they leave our schools. However, I have decided to focus on my transition from Prince George’s County Public Schools. The numerous distractions that have occurred over the course of this school year are unlike anything I’ve experienced in four decades of working in public education. Without question, they have taken a toll on students, families and staff. It is clear that whoever becomes the next County Executive plans to make a leadership change and I want to ensure a smooth transition for the 2018-2019 academic year. I will work with the Prince George’s County Board of Education on a plan to continue student progress and achievement. My Administration will focus on ending this school year on a strong note. It has been my privilege to lead Prince George’s County Public Schools in service to children and families. I will always wish the PGCPS community every success."
Multiple officials have called on Baker to fire Maxwell in recent months.
Baker released a statement on Tuesday following the news, thanking Maxwell for his service to the county:
“I want to thank Dr. Maxwell, a native Prince Georgian, for his service here as a teacher, administrator and CEO. Under his leadership, we have expanded all day Pre-Kindergarten, provided more language arts and other specialty programs, steadily increased enrollment and won national acclaim for our programs and students.
This announcement allows the focus to return to our students and their families as they celebrate graduation and decide where to go to college or start a career. And it also means that we will have a smooth and orderly transition.”
The Prince George's County teacher's union addressed the news on Twitter, but also adding that Maxwell's resignation may not be the end for issues facing the school system, saying "the issues in the Prince George’s County School system go well beyond Dr. Maxwell."
As educators, we hope this means we are moving in a different direction, but the issues in the Prince George’s County School system go well beyond Dr. Maxwell. There are deep structural problems and an unacceptable lack of accountability that must be addressed.— PGCEA (@PGCEA_PR) May 2, 2018
We still need a fully elected school board and adequate funding for our schools. If the next CEO is only accountable to one person –It will not work. When it comes to selecting new leadership at PGCPS in the days ahead, teachers, parents and students deserve a seat at the table.— PGCEA (@PGCEA_PR) May 2, 2018