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Return to All-Elected School Board in Prince George’s Is Likely, But Not This Year

The Prince George’s County Public Schools headquarters in Upper Marlboro. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Prince George’s legislators have reached consensus on a bill that would abolish four appointed seats on the county board of education. If it passes, the retooled board would consist of nine elected members plus a student.

The current hybrid board — with nine elected and four appointed members, with one student — was fashioned by the General Assembly in 2013 at the request of then-Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D).

The return to an all-elected board is a priority for County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D). In January, a task force that she created recommended a return to an all-elected board in time for this year’s elections. But many Prince George’s delegates and senators said they were disinclined to move that quickly.

Under a compromise reached late Monday and expected to be voted upon later this week, the return to an all-elected board would take effect in 2024. The push to delay implementation of the changeover was led by Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s).

The executive and the delegation believe that the public solidly supports the return to an all-elected board, but lawmakers decided to pump the brakes on implementation. “Nobody wanted to rush this thing,” said Del. Nick Charles (D), chair of the county’s House delegation. “We realized there’s no true consensus around everything, so we wanted to give folks the time to study some of the other components” of the shift.

Some lawmakers feel burned by the late-filed bill that was submitted at Baker’s request in 2013 to establish the current hybrid board.

“There are a lot of loose ends that we need to pull together to make ensure that we get it right this time,” said Senate Delegation Chair Joanne C. Benson (D). “We need to take our time — but not too much time.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Alsobrooks said years-long dysfunction at the board played out “at a most inopportune time during the pandemic when all of their focus should have been on our children.”

While laying out the steps she took in forwarding the task force’s recommendations, Alsobrooks did not object to the proposed delay.

“The House Delegation is acting on key recommendations of our task force that will help ensure we have a Board that will be able to remain focused on providing the best educational opportunities for our children,” she said in the statement.

The Prince George’s school board has been mired in controversy on and off for years, prompting a series of changes in the panel’s structure, from all-elected to all-appointed to hybrid and eventually — it would appear — back to all-elected.

The current board, chaired by Juanita D. Miller, an Alsobrooks appointee, has been criticized for a spasm of personality-fueled disagreements that led to the filing of ethics charges and attempts to remove several members of the panel.

“There have been some very unfortunate situations and problems existing with the current school board, and people are complaining about it,” said Benson, a former educator who cautioned future members not to stray from their lane.

“Not everybody sitting on the school board can be the superintendent,” she said.

Under the compromise proposal, the nine members of the school board would be elected by district and they would choose their own chair and vice-chair. Currently the county executive determines the board’s leadership.

The measure also establishes a workgroup, made up of county leaders and educators, that will be tasked with preparing a recommendations to help the new board function more effectively. That report will be due by Oct. 1, 2023.

Del. Julian Ivey and then-Del. Ron Watson (both D-Prince George’s) introduced bills last year to abolish the board’s appointed members, but they died without a vote.


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Return to All-Elected School Board in Prince George’s Is Likely, But Not This Year