Prince George's County teachers upset over unauthorized raises in human resources department

Prince George's County teachers spoke out Thursday about large, unauthorized raises for staff in the school district's human resources department.

"It's completely unacceptable that some in the central office got the raises under the cover of darkness," said Yvonne Baicich, a teacher and vice president of the Prince George's County Educators' Association.

On Monday, school board members Edward Burroughs, David Murray and Raaheela Ahmed sent a letter to County Executive Rushern Baker alerting him that several central office employees received raises that were not approved by the school board.

The letter says the raises could have only happened "under the direction of a member of Dr. Maxwell's executive cabinet or Dr. Maxwell himself," and cited that some pay increases ranged from two to three steps, or 10 to 12 percent, and violated collective bargaining agreements.

FOX 5 has independently verified the raises occurred and that Dr. Maxwell, school board chair Segun Eubanks, the vice chair of the board, the assistant superintendent and others learned of the findings in mid-February. The investigation was prompted by tips to the district's compliance hotline.

"Enough is enough!" said parent Phyllis Wright, who joined teachers and union leaders for a press conference.

Wright pointed to the central office saying, "We need to get them out of here and pay our teachers so our kids can have a productive education. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired."

Teachers say it is especially insulting considering their previous pay freeze and hard-fought efforts to get wage increases.

"Outrageous things are going on in PGCPS," said Ahmed.

Ahmed, Murray and Burroughs wrote in their letter that "this unauthorized pay increase issue could be more pervasive throughout central office."

A spokesperson for Prince George's County Public Schools confirmed that the school district is investigating. He says even though an internal audit into the human resources raises was finished last month, the investigatory process isn't over yet.

When asked about the raises, Baker said it must be "political season in Prince George's County."
He said the issue is being dealt with appropriately and he still has faith in Prince George's County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell.

"Just because you hit a turbulence doesn't mean it's time to throw the pilot off the plane," Baker said.

Educators say what is happening is just another reason that the structure of the school system needs to revert back to having a superintendent who answers to an all-elected school board instead of a county executive who chooses the CEO and part of the board.

When asked about teachers lack of faith in the current structure, Baker said, "What I would say to that is Prince George's County has been having issues for the last 30 years. We knew it would be difficult to turn it around. We have made progress over the last five years."

He said he feels there is currently appropriate accountability within the school system.