PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. - The Prince George's County NAACP is asking County Executive Rushern Baker to not renew the contract of Prince George's County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell.
The request comes as the Maryland State Board of Education voted on Tuesday to open an investigation on allegations of grade fixing and fraud in Prince George's County Public Schools.
In the letter, Prince George's County NAACP president Robert E. Ross wrote:
Dear Mr. Baker:
REF: Opposition to the renewal of Dr. Kevin Maxwell's contract
It is with great concern that we write this letter requesting that you halt Dr. Kevin Maxwell's contract renewal. Dr. Maxwell just signed a very lucrative four-year contract with a compensation package of over $450,000 per year. One of the major basis for Dr. Maxwell's contract renewal and annual automatic raise is that there be a significant boost in graduation rates. Now that the current investigation has called into question Dr. Maxwell's creditability and leadership in this regard, the Prince George's County NAACP believes he should be given the title of "Interim Chief Executive Officer" beginning July 1, 2017 and until the conclusion of the investigation. If no wrongdoing is found, Dr. Maxwell may once again be given the title, "Chief Executive Officer" and his four-year contract remain intact and be reinstated. However, if the investigation shows criminal behavior, we believe it is in the best interest of the taxpayers not to have to buy him out of his contract. Such a commitment and responsibility could potentially cost the taxpayers in excess of $1 million.
In further support of our request, hundreds of Prince George's County school employees were placed on administrative leave solely based on the suspicion of wrongdoing. In every case, Dr. Maxwell removed these teachers from their buildings out of an abundance of caution and fear the employees would interfere with the investigation. We believe Dr. Maxwell should be held to the same standard imposed on these employees. There are legitimate concerns that Dr. Maxwell may interfere or attempt to limit the scope of the investigation as he did in the first Maryland State Department of Education investigation. School system employees must be able to fully cooperate in the investigation without reservation. This is of the utmost importance.
Dr. Maxwell does not enjoy the good faith and confidence of the community generally and that of parents and students specifically. This is an unfortunate situation which does not to be exacerbated by the continued tolerance of Dr. Maxwell's unbridled conduct.
We stand ready to discuss this matter and to assist you in your decision making in any way possible. It is most important you act on this matter prior to July 1, 2017, the effective day of Dr. Maxwell's contract.
Maxwell was the first schools chief in Prince George's County to be appointed by the county executive rather than hired by the school board. He was reappointed to a second term in March, becoming the first schools chief to receive a second term in more than 25 years.
His new contract would take effect on Saturday, which is why the NAACP said they believe there was some urgency for the matter. Maxwell's contract would be for five years ending in June of 2021.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Baker said:
I applaud Dr. Maxwell and the majority of the Board for asking the State Board of Education to conduct another investigation into the allegations of grade changing. Clearly they understand that these allegations are overshadowing the tremendous improvements our schools have made over the last 4 years. We have expanded all day Pre-K, provided more language arts and specialty programs, enrollment has steadily increased, 2 of our 29 high schools have made U.S. News and World Report's Top High School list for two years straight, philanthropic support in our schools has increased and just this year, our graduates received $151,000,000 in college scholarships and our student's college readiness for community college is now 3% less than the state average among first year community college entrants. Thanks to the hard work of our teachers, principals, parents and students we have made significant progress.
At the heart of the NAACP's letter is their concern about these allegations and resolving whether they are true. Now that the MSDE will be investigating this matter, I am confident Dr. Maxwell and his staff will fully cooperate with the investigators as they look into this matter and resolve this matter once and for all.
An investigation by FOX 5 found some teachers and staff members reported being under tremendous pressure to increase the high school graduation rate within the school system.
Four Prince George's County school board members sent a letter to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan claiming "widespread systemic corruption" in the school district. Gov. Hogan would later call for a thorough, exhaustive investigation.
The state board of education, which oversees the Maryland State Department of Education, said it will hire an outside organization to the conduct the investigation.
In an interview with FOX 5 on Wednesday morning, Maxwell maintained there is no corruption taking place inside Prince George's County Public Schools.
"Absolutely not. These accusations that there is systemic corruption at the highest levels of this school system are completely and utterly false," Maxwell said.