In a departure from past dealings with the public, Prince George’s County Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Maxwell defended his record of achievement in a meeting with the Prince George’s County Delegation of the Maryland General Assembly on July 20 at Prince George’s Community College.

Prince George’s County Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Maxwell.

Maxwell met with elected officials after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) asked the Maryland Board of Education to investigate allegations of grade tampering and the school board, after Yvonne Anderson, a board member handpicked by County Executive Rushern T. Baker III, resigned her position calling the board “dysfunctional” while citing a lack of a “coherent educational plan” and “thoughtful budget” in her resignation letter. Anderson, appointed to the board in 2013, is highly respected throughout the state for her commitment to education in the county.

Anderson resigned after four board members called for a state investigation into allegations of grade fixing and other fraud to boost the graduation rate. In response, nine other board members condemned their colleagues calling the claims “appalling.” Anderson was the only board member who did not publicly take a side.

“In my mind, sometimes it takes the storm before the calm,” Anderson said in a farewell speech at her final board meeting in June. “And once we get that calm, we can start moving in the direction that all students are given a quality education.”

“I appointed her to the Board of Education because she possessed the expertise we needed to change the trajectory of our school system,” Baker said in a statement. “Since her appointment in 2013, Dr. Anderson has been a strong voice for all students and she consistently fought to ensure that the needs of low income students were met. In addition, she has been an advocate for programs and services that would help to improve the performance of our students so that they are college and career ready. During her tenure, graduation rates have improved, fewer young people are dropping out of school after 9th grade, dual enrollment and world language offerings have increased, and full day pre-kindergarten has expanded throughout the county. Dr. Anderson cares deeply about our children and her passion for educational excellence is matched by few.”

The Maryland State Board of Education is waiting to award a contract to a third-party vendor to investigate the claims of grade tampering. Meanwhile, Maxwell is standing by his record of achievement, which includes county students’ grades improving across the board. He said the student graduation rate is now 81.4 percent, over 80 percent for the first time this decade, but is behind the national average of 83.2 percent. He also said county high school students garnered more than $151 million in scholarships and the number of students needing remedial academic assistance at Prince George’s Community College declined by more than 20 percent.

“We are headed in the right direction,” Maxwell told the delegation. “The future of Prince George’s County is brighter because our children are better prepared for college, employment, and a global marketplace.” He said the attacks on him are politically motivated.

Maryland State Del. Darryl Barnes (D-25) said he has concerns, but is optimistic that changes are forthcoming. Barnes said the county delegation is alarmed by allegations that grades had been inflated or falsified to boost graduation rates, as well as issues surrounding the loss of Head Start funding, contaminated drinking water and a growing number of sexual abuse cases. Barnes heard from teachers in the school system who said grades were changed arbitrarily and many times without their input. He also said Maxwell’s response had left him and other members of the county delegation “somewhat disappointed.”

Maxwell vehemently denied the charges and welcomed a third-party investigation. “We have worked diligently to raise standards and expectations for our students while implementing multiple supports to keep them on the road to a diploma,” he told the delegation. “For this reason, I welcome the scrutiny. I want to know we are doing the right thing and I want every member of our community to have confidence in each of our schools. We want to know that we are doing things right.”

Several community leaders, including State Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-26) and Prince George’s County NAACP President Bob Ross implored Baker to terminate Maxwell’s contract.

Maxwell said he is going to stay the course in improving county schools. He cited the opening of the new Fairmount Heights High School in Capitol Heights, Md. and the renovation of Glenarden Woods Elementary School in Glenarden, Md.  “It is painful to hear the allegations of a systemic and unethical attempt to raise graduation rates. I’m here to tell you they are false. These allegations greatly undermine the work of teachers, support staff, administrators, and the caring employees who support children in all of our schools. “