Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) faced new pressure to jettison his handpicked education chief on Thursday, when a top ally called on him to seek the resignation of embattled Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Kevin M. Maxwell. State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks (D), who hopes to succeed Baker atop county government, issued a carefully-worded statement in which she said, “I believe that we cannot get back to focusing children, educators and families and what they need from us.. until Dr. Maxwell is removed as CEO of our school system. So, I am calling on County Executive Baker to ask for Dr. Maxwell’s resignation.” Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), some of Baker’s rivals in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, and some of the other candidates in the race for county executive have been more forceful — calling on Baker to fire Maxwell, a position the county chapter of the NAACP has also taken. The county teachers’ union approved a no-confidence vote on the school system’s leadership structure. In an interview, Alsobrooks said, “We cannot move forward as a county unless we address this issue. We have to address it now.” Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell at an event this week/Bruce DePuyt A woman known for her dogged campaign style, Alsobrooks said, “I haven’t met a person yet who hasn’t said this needed to happen. I’ve been in living rooms. I’ve been in association meetings. I’ve been in churches. And the truth is people here feel almost held hostage by this particular decision.” While Baker has repeatedly praised Maxwell for bringing in more experienced teachers, boosting salaries and expanding program offerings, among other advances, the CEO’s tenure has been marked by near-continuous controversy. A volunteer pleaded guilty to sexually abusing numerous children. There have been allegations of grade and graduation rate inflation. A deadline for tapping federal Head Start funds was missed. Questions have been swirling regarding pay raises for central office staff. And most recently, a surveillance camera was discovered in the ceiling of a school office, leading to a police probe. “I’m sick of turning on Fox 5 and hearing about how adults have failed children,” Alsobrooks said. “Every week it’s something new.” Former U.S. Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D), who called for Maxwell’s ouster last summer before formally entering the county executive race, blasted Alsobrooks Thursday in a sharply-worded statement. “Real leaders lead,” the former congresswoman said. “Was it the loss of $6 million/year in Head Start funding that put you over the top? Or the grade fixing? Or the unethical contributions? Or the 12% pay raises? Or the $450k CEO contract? Or that PGCPS is still 23 of 24 school systems in MD? Or your polling?” Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D), another candidate for executive, called on Baker to fire Maxwell more than two years ago. Alsobrooks denied being slow to speak out. “I’ve been saying this now for months. It’s not new.” Prince George’s State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks/Bruce DePuyt In an interview with The Afro in February, Alsobrooks declared her intent to “bring my own leadership team.” In addition, her spokesman provided talking points Alsobrooks has used in campaign events that read: “Maxwell has to go and he will be fired/told to resign when I become County Executive.” That was not nearly enough to satisfy Edwards. “For months, parents, teachers, students and members of our board of education have been calling for Kevin Maxwell to be fired. Now after getting permission from her handlers, the establishment candidate deems it politically safe to call for his removal.” Alsobrooks and Muse attended Baker’s eighth and final State of the Economy address on Wednesday, an event Maxwell attended as well. Had she called for Maxwell’s resignation even one day earlier, that otherwise celebratory event would likely have taken on a different cast, given Baker’s alliance with the state’s attorney. Scott L. Peterson, a spokesman for Baker, said the executive has no interest in throwing “PGCPS leadership into disarray for the next eight months just for political expediency.”
“State’s Attorney Alsobrooks, Senator Muse, Former Representative Donna Edwards or any others running for Prince George’s County Executive will eventually have the opportunity to decide who they would like to be the next PGCPS C.E.O. thanks to the reforms County Executive Baker has implemented to PGCPS oversight,” Peterson said.
Former state Senator and county council member David Harrington said Alsobrooks’ decision to speak out is a sign that a sizable chunk of the electorate has concerns about the direction of the county school system.
“It may mean that she’s knocking on doors and she’s hearing this, and she [feels compelled] to take an even stronger position,” Harrington, head of the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce, told Maryland Matters. “You’re getting close [to the June 26 primary] now — 68 days, or whatever — and things are going to get hot. “So, allies be damned. It’s about getting elected at this point.” [email protected]