PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks delivered a scathing statement Monday night, blasting the school board’s elected members amid ongoing turmoil and drama in the district.
"The acrimony, dysfunction, and unprofessionalism that we have all unfortunately witnessed in public school board meetings, and elsewhere, have been a constant over the last several years, predating my administration, as well as our current CEO and Board Chair," Alsobrooks said in the statement.
Alsobrooks sent out the statement less than a week after an ethics panel recommended that six board members be removed following an investigation.
The panel’s decision was made while the same board members are petitioning the state to remove Board Chair Juanita Miller after misconduct claims.
Meanwhile, the school district is grappling with restoring in-person learning for students as the delta variant of the novel coronavirus surges in the D.C. area.
"The gridlock on our school board has served as a distraction at the worst possible time; in the midst of a pandemic. Our students, educators, and parents need and deserve our undivided attention, and right now our children are watching what we do. What they need to see in us right now is civility, accountability, transparency, and progress," Alsobrooks said.
The ethics panel is recommending the resignation or removal of Edward Burroughs, David Murray, Raaheela Ahmed, Joshua Thomas, Kenneth Harris and Shayla Adams-Stafford. The panel recommended sanctions for Belinda Queen.
"It is very disappointing for our County, our school system, our parents, and our children that the Board of Education Ethics Panel has recommended the removal of several school board members for multiple instances of unethical conduct, according to the latest public reports," stated Alsobrooks.
Board members are denying the allegations and have provided information that contradicts some findings.
Several have hired attorneys, and three are now being represented by former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey.
"I think they are riddled with inaccuracies and false on their face," said Ivey of the findings.
The ethics findings say board members violated policy when they hired a board lobbyist and when they decided to reorganize the board office, making staffing changes and prompting a "federal discrimination lawsuit."
Some board members are also accused of a pay-to-play scheme involving a labor union they received campaign contributions from.
Ivey calls the findings politically motivated.
Board member Shayla Adams-Stafford wrote an op-ed about the situation.
County Executive Alsobrooks has stood by Dr. Miller who called for the ethics investigation into the elected board members.
"If these findings are accurate, it is truly heartbreaking to see that trust violated. At a time when we are recovering from the devastation caused by the pandemic, we must be laser-focused on putting our children’s interests first, helping them overcome the obstacles created by COVID-19," Alsobrooks said.
Only the state board of education can remove a school board member.
"I am calling on the leadership of the State Board to immediately review the Ethics Panel report and make a decision based on the findings as soon as possible," Alsobrooks said.
It’s unclear if the findings have been referred to the state board. If and when they are, there would be a 30-day window for people to provide additional information. Then the board could reject the petition for removal or proceed with hearings.
The 30-day window has been reached in the effort to remove Miller.
A spokesperson for the Maryland State Department of Education said Wednesday that the ethics findings have not been referred to the state for review.
If someone petitions the state to remove the board members, there would be a 30 day window for people to provide additional information. Then the board could reject the petition for removal or proceed with hearings.
The 30 day window has been reached in the effort to remove Miller.
"The State Board of Education is in the process of reviewing submitted documents, and the case remains in process," said MSDE spokeswoman Lora Rakowski, via email.