Dozens of Prince George’s County educators filled the board meeting room Thursday in the Sasscer Administration Building in Upper Marlboro to ensure school officials involve the teachers’ union in future discussions on teacher pay, selection of a schools leader and school safety.
Led by Theresa Mitchell Dudley, president of the county’s Educators Association, educators sang before the meeting, “We reclaim our schools! We reclaim our schools today!”
Dudley criticized outgoing schools CEO Kevin Maxwell and central office officials for a decision to fire several guidance counselors after alleged grade inflations.
“We know we are dealing with someone who is not going to look out for us,” Dudley said as she sat in the middle of the boardroom with three other members of the association. “In the words of Frederick Douglass, ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.’”
School board President Segun Eubanks said the board approved in November to ratify teacher contract for two salary increases within a 12-month period.
The union argued that educators remain several steps behind on the pay scale, prompting school board member Edward Burroughs III to request his colleagues discuss an increase of teacher pay by 4 percent.
However, the board voted 7-5 to not deliberate until a budget committee session Tuesday.
One concern from educators is a possible severance package for Maxwell, who plans to step down at the end of the school year with three years left on his four-year $290,000 contract that includes health and other benefits.
The school board may not discuss his contract until after the school year ends June 20.
Burroughs and board members Raaheela Ahmed and David Murray expressed concerns about Maxwell’s leadership after he allegedly authorized pay raises for staff outside his cabinet.
According to Maxwell’s contract, the board doesn’t have to grant him a severance package.
“If the parties mutually agree to terminate this contract prior to the expiration date, they also may agree (but are not required to agree) to a severance payment for the CEO,” the contract states. “The board and CEO agree that to the extent practicable, either party will provide 90 days prior written notice to the other party of the intent to terminate this contract.”
Because the boardroom was standing-room-only, some educators couldn’t come inside and chanted outside while dozens of students received accolades more than $300,000 from the school system and MGM National Harbor.
Alyson Harkins, a special education teacher at High Point High School, blew a vuvuzela horn she uses on special occasions such as “picket lines.”
“The kids in this county are not getting what they need to get a good education,” she said. “The children [at High Point] need a better building. My school isn’t [even] the worst school. I’ve traveled to other schools where kids can’t drink the water and teachers bring in bottled water. Come on. That’s ludicrous.”
In regard to choosing a new CEO, Delegate Darryl Barnes (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro said the teachers’ union should be included in any discussions.
“They should have a seat at the table because they represent a large body of the teachers,” said Barnes, who chairs the county delegation’s education committee. “It would make sense to provide input and insight on the next superintendent.”