Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

School Board Makeup Could Change in Prince George’s

Computer glitches caused Prince George’s County state lawmakers to postpone a public hearing Thursday night.

Although a new date hasn’t been rescheduled to review proposed legislation that directly affects the jurisdiction, two bills could receive some discussion on changing the school board to a fully elected body.

It would eliminate the four appointed members whose terms expire by 2022 and 2023. In addition, refer to the chief executive officer of the school system to the better-known title as “superintendent.”

But there’s a slight twist to each bill.

One proposed by Del. Ron Watson (D-District 23B) of Upper Marlboro would make each board member at large in order to serve the entire county. Del. Julian Ivey (D-District 47A) of Cheverly seeks to keep each member representing nine districts.

Watson could not be reached for comment Friday.

“It’s about giving power back to the people and allowing them to elect their school board,” Ivey said Friday. “I just think that it’s important when we talk about making their schools better, we allow for the public to actually take part in that.”

Prince George’s school board has been an all-elected body before, but it became a mix of elected and appointed members after state lawmakers approved a bill in 2013 led by former County Executive Rushern L. Baker III.

Baker said while in office that the current structure allows for the county government to become more involved in the school system which includes the superintendent to appoint school board chair, the county executive to appoint three members and the county council chose one person.

The 14-member board also includes a high school student, but that person can’t vote on certain items such as capital and operating budgets, school closings and personnel matters.

County Executive Angela Alsobrooks appointed these three board members: board chair Alvin Thornton, D. Paul Monteiro Jr. and Sandra Shephard. The county council appointed board member Curtis Valentine.

The hybrid structure sought to select certain members with various skill sets and experience such as Thornton, who’s named about a commission he led in 2002 to create a funding formula for the Maryland constitutional requirement every child receive a quality education.

Three other counties incorporate hybrid school board structures: Baltimore, Caroline and Harford counties.

The mayor of Baltimore City appoints members to the school board.

The remaining 19 school systems in the state all encompass elected boards.

In the meantime, some Prince George’s residents have expressed outrage against Watson’s bill that would allow at-large representatives to target only certain voters and not those who reside in their community.

“Here we go again with the political games and politicians trying to strong-arm [residents] so they can keep power over our decisions,” school board Belinda Queen wrote in an email Monday. “Pay attention to your elected leader who would even think of supporting or backing something like this.”

Janna Parker, an education advocate of Temple Hills, said the proposed bill takes away full voter representation.

“Certain areas of Prince George’s County vote more than others,” she said. “If you have an at-large seat, you might be predisposed to move for a certain district. This is a blatant attempt to silence the voices of the voters.”

To read a list of the other proposed bills, go to https://princegeorgeshousedelegation.com/legislation.

William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

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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