Ongoing Prince George’s County school board feud leaves students, staff in limbo

The feud that has dominated the Prince George’s County school board for months is still ongoing – and it’s impacting students and staff trying to get due process.

The attorney for the board resigned six weeks ago halting appeal hearings the board is required by law to hold. The board has not been able to agree on new legal counsel. 

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Students and staff can appeal to the board for a variety of reasons, like when a student feels an error was made on graduation or discipline; or when staff believe they’ve been wrongly fired. 

Dr. Latasha Bacote-Owens is one of the people waiting on an appeal hearing.

"We want to be heard and supported," she said.

Bacote-Owens was part of the school system’s before and after care program cut during the pandemic. She was reassigned to another position, but the union for those employees says their contract was violated.

"Frustrated, irritated, upset-I went through every emotion I can think of,"  Bacote-Owens told FOX 5. "And I’m just trying to understand, what is this delay?"

The union representing employees, ACE-AFSCME Local 2250, said the appeal on behalf of over 100 employees was filed in April.

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"To my knowledge the appeal that we filed is in a black box," said Timothy Traylor, the union’s Executive Director. 

Earlier this month the board voted on getting interim legal counsel in place. The board leadership wanted one firm, but the majority of the board – all elected members – voted for a different lawyer and passed a motion to hire her. 

Board chair Dr. Juanita Miller, however, has refrained from signing the lawyer’s contract.

"That’s why I’m calling on the county executive to intervene to direct her board chair to follow the policies of the board of education," said Board Member Edward Burroughs.

Burroughs said the board is required to promptly hold appeal hearings under state law and he believes the board is in violation. 

"When someone appeals before the Board of Education, it’s generally during one of the lowest points in their life; they’ve been terminated, they’re prevented from graduating. These are very critical issues," Burroughs said.

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The board is now working to hire a permanent attorney, but Burroughs is concerned the same discord will delay the process – leaving employees and students in limbo.

He said the chair has not disclosed the number of appeals received. Burroughs said he’s learned there are appeals from students regarding graduation and advancing to the next grade.

A spokesperson for County Executive Angela Alsobrooks’ office says hiring a board attorney is the board’s decision. He advised FOX 5 to contact the board chair.
Dr. Miller did not respond to repeated requests for information on Wednesday.