Prince George’s County parents and residents are outraged over the grading controversy in the Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS). They, along with the county NAACP chapter, met with Gov. Larry Hogan (R) Dec. 12 to seek his advice and support.
Hogan’s appearance left County Executive Rushern Baker III, who is running for Maryland governor in 2018, questioning whether the governor really cares about the children or is merely playing politics.
For now, though, the county NAACP wants a separate audit of PGPCS’ curriculum and seeks to abolish a law that gives the county executive authority to hire and fire the system’s chief executive officer.
Beyond that, the group has considering filing a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of aggrieved parents, but will first consult with the national NAACP, located in Baltimore, before they make that decision, said Bob Ross, president of the county NAACP chapter. Ross met with Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R) and parents at the same meeting.
Hogan told the NAACP and several parents that he’ll listen to their concerns and stay on top of the situation. At the same time, he urged all parties to address their issues with the Prince George’s County delegation in Annapolis as well as the Board of Education Chairman Segun C. Banks, county schools CEO Kevin Maxwell and Baker.
The meeting came nearly a month after a state audit revealed that for two years, grades for more than 5,000 students in the Prince George’s County Public Schools were changed a few days before graduation.
At a news conference following the meeting, a few parents called for the ouster of Maxwell, with one saying, “The CEO has got to go.”
Hogan acknowledged that some parents have lost confidence in the school leadership and he said, in his view, its officials only recently started taking the audit seriously. But, Hogan would not say where he stands on regime change within the school district.
“We’re going to try to digest all the information the concerns that we heard, but I think that’s an issue that needs to be addressed by the county executive,” Hogan said.
In a statement, Baker’s spokesman Scott Peterson accused Hogan of playing a political game and questioned whether the governor really cares to fix things.
Peterson noted that Maxwell and his team will soon present a response to the audit in the next few weeks after the 60- day response period expires. In the meantime, Maxwell has met with the county’s house and state delegations, the county council, Baker’s administration as well as school administrators, principals and teachers, Peterson said. PGCPS has also started reaching out to parents and is beginning to make the changes the audit recommended, Peterson added.
“We are baffled by the number of times the governor has rehashed the results of the audit and implied that we are not approaching this matter seriously,” Peterson said. “We take our children and their futures very seriously, which is why we are working to correct any deficiencies.”
The school district has included input from high school principals, school counselors, registrars and teachers in the development of their action plan to make improvements to grading and graduation certification, according to PGCPS Public Information Officer John White.
He noted that the school system met with more than 50 people on Dec. 12 to get feedback on the draft plan. PGCPS started making changes to key programs to ensure academic integrity before the start of the school year and have taken additional steps based on the state audit recommendations, he said. It’s preparing to present a comprehensive plan for improvement to its local board of education as well as the state board of education.
“Dr. Maxwell and his leadership team have taken the state audit findings and recommendations very seriously,” White told the AFRO via email.