PGCPS board chair wants to stop board meetings while board is investigated

The new chair of the Prince George's County school board is making serious accusations against other board members and says she wants to shut down board operations until an investigation of the board is complete.

Dr. Juanita Miller, who was appointed by the county executive just weeks ago, already cancelled last Thursday's board meeting.

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Now seven elected members of the board have contacted the state superintendent saying if Miller doesn't reverse course they will petition the state to have her removed.

Miller wrote a four page letter to the chair of the Prince George's County Council, Calvin Hawkins, saying she's "appalled" by actions of some board members.

She cited ethical and financial issues with the board's decision to hire a lobbyist at a cost of $10,000 a month. She also criticized the cost of a decision to reorganize the board office and staff.

"I am requesting an external audit of all Board initiated contracts for the past two years, a review of the reorganization process that was initiated prior to my appointment, and a performance audit of the Board's operations to ensure we are in alignment with our policies and standard operating procedures," Miller wrote.

She said until the audit is complete she "will recommend to the Board that we temporarily suspend any Board actions."

On Wednesday she alerted board members that Thursday's meetings were cancelled because six board members were in agreement with her recommendation and they would not have quorum.

Miller declined an interview with FOX 5 Sunday. In a brief phone call, reporter Lindsay Watts asked Miller if she planned to continue to stop board meetings and Miller said she couldn't comment because an investigation is underway.

It's unclear who is investigating because council Chair Hawkins said in a response letter to Miller that the county council does not have authority to perform an audit and that he forwarded her letter to State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon.

In response to Miller, seven elected board members, including former vice-chair Edward Burroughs, sent their own letter to Salmon countering Miller's claims and saying she violated board policy by cancelling Thursday's meeting.

They note several items on the agenda of the cancelled meeting, including a vote on a proposal that would bring back some of the district's most vulnerable students for in-person learning.

They said they are "gravely concerned by the Board Chair's (and according to her, allegedly six other anonymous, mostly appointed Board members) refusal to show up to work and participate in the regularly scheduled February 11, 2021 Board meeting simply because her (their) opinion on a few agenda items were opposite that of the majority of full voting members of the Board."

They go on to say that if Miller doesn't resume board operations they will be forced to petition the State Board of Education to remove her pursuant to Maryland code.

It's signed by David Murray, Joshua Thomas, Shayla Adams-Stafford, Raaheela Ahmed, Belinda Queen, Kenneth Harris and Burroughs.

This fracture on the hybrid board is one that's been on display in the past between elected and appointed members.

Dannine Johnson, PTSA President at Central High School, says she was planning to watch Thursday's school board meeting when she learned it was called off.

"That's something that's completely and utterly ridiculous," said Johnson. "No one should put up with that. The county executive should have questions. All other school board members should have questions. Parents need to demand answers about why the school board is not doing any work right now."

Angelina Jao, PTSA President at Greenbelt Middle School, said the serious allegations made by Miller could be investigated without shutting down the board.

"If anything needs to be improved or fixed we would be in support of that," said Jao. "We probably should talk pretty closely about how to conduct the board's business perhaps in tandem or in parallel with the audit possibly."

Schools CEO Dr. Monica Goldson declined to comment Sunday. FOX 5 also reached out to County Executive Angela Alsobrooks but did not hear back.