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If you live in Maryland, this is a must read. Don't think it's only going to affect people in Prince George's County:

With its financial woes, low test scores, frequent leadership turnover and underperforming schools, Prince George's County's school system is failing its approximately 125,000 students, and its elected school board appears highly dysfunctional. Under these dire circumstances, it's not surprising that County Executive Rushern L. Baker III wants to intervene.

But what Mr. Baker seeks — direct control over the district's day-to-day operations and authority over its next superintendent — would be unprecedented in Maryland. The carefully constructed wall between public K-12 education and electoral politics would be torn down with potentially troubling, precedent-setting consequences for the state's other school systems.

Please pass this article on to anyone you know who is interested in Maryland schools.

The House and Senate Delegations will
hold a three-hour public hearing on the legislation on Monday April
1st from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Annapolis in the Joint Hearing room of
the Department of Legislative Services Building. For details go to the county delegation website:

Originally posted to JamieG from Md on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 07:52 PM PDT.

Also republished by Maryland Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  thank you thank you !! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JamieG from Md, night cat, Lujane

    thanks for posting this!!

    PLEASE donate to a global children's PEACE project: Chalk 4 Peace

    by RumsfeldResign on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 08:09:52 PM PDT

  •  I am so sorry to hear this. I grew up in PG county (4+ / 0-)

    and went to all of my schooling there - elementary through high school. While I can't say they were the greatest schools ever, on the whole the education I received there has served me well throughout my life.

    Thanks for posting this. I will help spread the word via twitter and Facebook.

    End of Winter SALE at my Handmade Gallery on Zibbet - 25%off winter scarves, afghans, holiday items!

    by jan4insight on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 08:16:26 PM PDT

  •  I teach in Montgomery County (6+ / 0-)

    having started my teaching career in PG County in 1976 where I taught for 6 years.  I don't understand how they end up with such poor leadership in that school system.  What do you think the reason is?  Are the voters just not adequately informed?  Either way, I don't want to see this happen in MD.

    “It is the job of the artist to think outside the boundaries of permissible thought and dare say things that no one else will say."—Howard Zinn

    by musiclady on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 08:29:40 PM PDT

  •  If the residents of PG County aren't happy (4+ / 0-)

    with the schools, the solution would be to defeat the incumbent members of the school board in the next election, not to have the County Executive "take over"

  •  Does that also influence PGCC ? /nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JamieG from Md, Lujane
  •  One would think he'd want to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JamieG from Md

    steer clear of such a huge school system and pay attention to the rest of the county. Borrow somebody from another county to help with changes.

  •  Also a product of the Prince Georges County school (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JamieG from Md


    Dysfunctional?  Definitely.  But this op-ed is absolutely correct, letting the County Executive take this over is a HUGE mistake (especially considering our long history of corrupt County Executives).

    I live in California now and out here the school districts are much smaller, often there are more than one in a town the size of Greenbelt.  Smaller districts would allow for greater community involvement and solutions that are more tailored to the needs of a specific area.  

    •  Community involvement might or might (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JamieG from Md, Lujane

      not solve the problem, because in some larger sense, the public schools in a place represent the community and if the public schools are not what the community wants, then the community would have to look at itself more deeply to see what change they want to make within themselves to produce better schools.  Meanwhile, passing this kind of law won't just apply to PGPS, but to all MD counties and would invite conservative political forces in to disrupt some very fine school districts in order to promote the right-wing education agenda.  We shouldn't sacrifice all districts to "save" PGCPS even when PGCPS has the power to save itself if that is what the wider community really wants to do.  Also, it's questionable that PGCPS even needs to be saved.  They've had a lot of different superintendents, but that's because some of them were sponsored already by right-wing foundations, e.g. Deasy, whose a Broad man who was pulled from PGCPS probably for political reasons, and is now supe in LA county where he is promoting a right-wing agenda for Rheeform.  I think he came to PGCPS and found that the political climate wasn't conducive to what he and his backers want to achieve so he pulled out.  

      The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

      by helfenburg on Fri Mar 29, 2013 at 04:40:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  About this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JamieG from Md, Lujane
    Don't think it's only going to affect people in Prince George's County:
    Don't neighboring counties (Howard, Montgomery?) have much better public school systems?

    How do they manage that - i.e., is their much meddling on the part of the county executive or is the school board(s) quite independent?  

    •  Prince George's schools (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy, night cat, Lujane

      used to be on par with the other counties. Then the residents of the county voted to limit taxes because they didn't want their tax dollars going to the schools.

      Thus began a downward spiral. People who cared a lot about their kids' education tended to move out of Prince George's to nearby counties. These people were also those in PG with higher incomes. Having these people leave the county hurt the county and the schools, not just financially, but by taking away some of the highest achieving students and the parents who were most involved with the schools.

      Shop Liberally this holiday season at Kos Katalog

      by JamieG from Md on Fri Mar 29, 2013 at 07:09:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the information (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JamieG from Md, Lujane

        it's interesting what you say about people with kids moving out of PG county.

        That is consistent with some quick back of the envelope calculations that I just did comparing the population (324K) and public school enrollment (51,117) of Howard County (I used them because of their - at least on the internet - reputation for excellent public schools) with PG county and using the same ratio, PG county should have public school enrollment of 151,458.

        But like you said, it only has 125K - so I was wondering what happened to the missing 25-26K kids.  But in the meantime you had already answered that, so thanks again.

        •  Missing kids? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I never thought of looking at that aspect. Maybe more of the PG students are in private schools. I saw a lot of families move their kids to private schools from the elementary school I worked at.

          Another thing to consider when comparing counties: it makes more sense to compare Prince George's to Montgomery. Howard County is considered a Baltimore suburb, PG and Montgomery are Washington DC suburbs. This makes a difference in property values, e.g., explains why houses in Laurel might cost as much or more as homes in Columbia.

          Shop Liberally this holiday season at Kos Katalog

          by JamieG from Md on Fri Mar 29, 2013 at 07:45:34 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Are you talking about me again? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JamieG from Md

        You could be - this is exactly what we did.  My husband and I both went through the PG County school system and I taught in it for a couple years before taking a job with NASA.  There was a noticeable decline in the school system from when I graduated in 1972 to when I stopped teaching in 1980 and the decline continued.  By the time our oldest child was in kindergarten in 1988 even the schools he would have attended in the area around the University of Maryland were not so great.  We moved to Howard County where our three children got excellent educations, both in the academic areas and the arts.  They definitely had opportunities that would not have been available to them in Prince Georges County (my son went with his high school's jazz band to play at the North Sea and Montreaux jazz festivals, for example).

        We are fortunate that we could afford to move, but I'm sorry it was necessary and wish all Maryland children could have the opportunities mine had in school.  

  •  I thought I'd post this letter from Paul Pinsky (0+ / 0-)

    explaining why he supports the county executive:

    Dear Friends,
    Many issues are being addressed in the waning days of the legislative session but one has been dominating the news and conversations in our county: the school board and efforts to change it. This edition is dedicated to that controversy.

    If you are interested and would like to attend, there will be a public hearing in Annapolis this Monday evening at 5:00 p.m. in the Joint Hearing Room in the Legislative Services Building. Both the House and Senate delegations will be in attendance.

    Also, if you have not returned your scholarship application, they are due Thursday, April 4th. The application is available at

    Why Changes in our School System Are Needed
    Given the debate around efforts to improve our schools, I wanted to let some of the rhetoric settle before sharing my thoughts with you.  I welcome your response and, hopefully, this will stimulate further dialogue on improving our schools.

    Besides serving in my seventh term in the Maryland General Assembly, I have now spent over 37 years in the field of education. During that time, I have taught high school social studies, led teachers and been included in superintendent interview teams for the Board of Education. Additionally, I have worked with many state and local superintendents as well as school policy-makers, nationally.

    Our school system is very uneven: some schools work well and some, sadly, struggle with school leadership, student achievement and parental engagement and are dismal. We have many strong educators who work hard but face difficult circumstances including adequate resources, management obstacles, new and multiple instructional reforms, etc. Some of these problems are national in scope and some are purely local. We also have a high number of students coming from poverty; we have ground to make up and challenges to meet.

    The shortage of people entering the education profession in our country has been well documented. The U.S. is not Finland, Singapore or South Korea, countries frequently lauded for their success and where the profession is respected and teacher salaries are much greater. The shortage issue is even greater in our county, given many contributing factors, including superintendent instability. When your applicant pool for school system jobs is small, you, out of necessity, become less selective; this is felt throughout the system, from principals to teachers to upper-level management.

    We have seen our last two superintendents leave our schools, to a significant degree, because of their relationship with the Board of Education.

    When the County Executive brought together a group of experts in education to provide advice to him, over a year and a half ago, some members of the Board of Education (BoE) expressed the view that he was 'undercutting -- and actually attacking -- the board.' The county executive's effort to be more informed was seen as threatening and, sadly, not embraced.

    What followed seemed to be a 'circle the wagons' mentality with anyone who even offered advice, including the county executive, seen as attacking the board's domain.

    Our elected Board of Education is made up of dedicated civic activists. They are not, and will generally acknowledge, experts in education policy; that is not a requirement. They work to represent the public in setting school policy. That being said, one assumes they would seek input from people with expertise. Unfortunately, that hasn't seemed to be the case. Assistance that has been offered has frequently been received reluctantly. It appears that when input is offered from someone outside the board, the board perceives it as simply another 'pushy outsider,' rather than an invested stakeholder; this includes the county executive, who actually funds the school board budget.

    Hiring a leader to run a $1.5 billion organization, in this case, the school system, is an overwhelming responsibility and no easy task. Only two of the current board members have hired a superintendent and that was when they simply elevated the deputy superintendent, the 'number two,' into the top spot. Seven other school board members have never been through this process. The dearth of management experience in making this type of decision is indeed a concern.

    As the search to find a new superintendent proceeded, it seemed this 'circle the wagons' mentality grew stronger. It was at this point, my personal frustration grew. The superintendent position is critically important to the organization and to our county at large.

    One thing that most drives teachers crazy -- and frequently, to leave our schools -- is ineffective school principals. Principals set the schools' tone. They decide whether to set high expectations -- for students and staff. They are the ones who must have a courageous conversation with staff members who do not meet those expectations. They are the ones who are accountable to students, staff and parents. Being a principal is not an easy job. Additionally, and sadly, poor principals generally make poor staff hires; they also document underperformance poorly. All of this hurts children and impacts student achievement. That's why the hiring of a strong superintendent is so important. This leader is the one who sets expectations for principals -- and enforces those expectations. The wrong choice destines our schools to mediocrity, or worse.

    At this point, I have more confidence in the county executive's willingness to gather input and make a selection than I do of the board's ability. Is there any one structure that has proven to be more effective when it comes to running a school system? An elected BoE vs. an appointed BoE? A superintendent who reports to the county executive or mayor rather than the school board? To my knowledge, no one governance approach has proven to make the difference.

    Is there ever a 'right time' to take action? Of course not. Events frequently dictate that time. Would an extended conversation have been better? Of course. But we are faced with a situation where choices were limited. The county executive chose to step in. While I didn't agree with his original proposal, I believe he is listening to feedback and working to better shape his proposal, as I am.  For example,  I believe employee relations, including collective bargaining should be retained by the Board of Education and am optimistic that will prove to be the case.

    For these reasons, I support the county executive's intervention and his response to the drop in confidence of our current Board of Education.

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