Prince George's County

Prince George’s Residents Irked by Leadership Amid Head Start Troubles

Rosalind Johnson gets angry whenever she talks about the allegations that teachers and staff abused and neglected children in the Prince George’s County Public Schools Head Start program.

Johnson, a former school board member, told the school board Thursday night that top school officials such as CEO Kevin Maxwell should resign immediately. She even criticized county Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who can appoint people to the board.

“I have such anger and antipathy for the leadership because they didn’t do enough to protect our children,” said Johnson, a Greenbelt resident who served on the board from 2006 to 2012. “This is just horrible what is happening. The children don’t deserve this.”

Baker said Friday he understands the anger, but he still has confidence in Maxwell and school board Chairman Segun Eubanks, who Baker appointed in 2013.

“People have the right to be upset,” he said. “As I have said to people, I’m embarrassed and angry. The first reaction is to make sure we have a quality program where people can put their children into that is safe and is not disruptive. Then to do a debriefing as to what happened and … make sure it not only doesn’t happen in Head Start, but doesn’t happen anywhere in our schools.”

Children in Head Start, slated for those ages 3 to 5, began the school year on Aug. 29, weeks after the school system received a letter it would lose more than $6 million in federal funding toward the program.

The Administration for Children and Families, a division of the federal department of Health and Human Services, investigated three incidents in the county that included a child forced to mop his own urine.

Community Development Institute of Denver, which provide services for the federal Office of Head Start, will act as the county’s temporary provider this school year.

The school system, which currently has about 930 children enrolled in Head Start at 35 schools, will need to seek other funding resources to continue the program in 2017-18.

Maxwell announced last week the school system fired six Head Start employees accused of the abuse.

“I have asked Dr. Maxwell and his administration to provide a full review and written debriefing of the events listed in the Administration for Children and Families report as part of a broader discussion of Head Start in Prince George’s County,” said school board Chairman Segun Eubanks. “I will also invite representatives from the Administration for Children and Families to address the board of education at an upcoming public meeting. We believe it would be helpful for the board and public to hear not only how they arrived at their conclusions, but their recommendations for avoiding future occurrences.”

David L. Cahn of Upper Marlboro still demanded Maxwell and other high-ranking school officials be held accountable.

“I don’t doubt you care about these kids, but it has to be followed up with action,” he said. “You failed to follow up with action. It’s time for you to say goodbye.”

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I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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