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Proposed hearing for Prince George’s school board chair set for November

At the Prince George’s County Public Schools headquarters in Upper Marlboro administrators must cope with tensions between school board members. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

A hearing schedule to decide whether to remove controversial Prince George’s County school board chair Juanita Miller from office will be arranged in two parts.

Legal proceedings set by Richard O’Connor, an administrative law judge with the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings, would run from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2 and resume Dec. 19 to Dec. 21.

Miller faces allegations of misconduct in office, willful neglect of duty and incompetence brought against her by six former and current school board members.

Among the offenses they allege are that Miller did not sign a contract with a law firm after the board approved it on April 28, 2021 and that she allowed two representatives from different firms to attend “confidential executive board sessions” on Feb. 24 and June 24 in 2021.

In addition, the six elected board members at that time – Edward Burroughs III, Raaheela Ahmed, David Murray, Shayla Adams-Stafford, Kenneth Harris and Joshua Thomas – claim Miller withheld seven ethics reports from the board.

Burroughs and Ahmed have since resigned to run, respectively, for county and state offices.

The six are represented by attorney Brandon Cooper. Miller is represented by Marcus Bonsib and Sydney Patterson.

It’s undetermined whether the proceedings will be conducted virtually, in person, or in a hybrid format. After the attorneys confer with their clients, the location would be settled in a few days, the judge said.

After the hearings, the judge has up to 90 days to render a decision and forward it to the Maryland State Board of Education which voted in May to issue charges against Miller. Miller appealed and requested the hearing before an administrative law judge.

Alternatively, the judge could issue a summary judgment in the case by Oct. 23, without a trial. If not, the hearings will commence in the fall.

It would not be the first time that a school board member in Maryland faced such proceedings.

In February 2017, an administrative law judge issued a summary judgment against then-Washington County School board member Karen Harshman, after Harshman posted a message on her Facebook page in October 2016 stating that a teacher was having an affair with a student. After the judge’s ruling, the state Board of Education voted in April 2017 to remove Harshman from the Washington County school board for misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty.

It remains unclear if a summary judgement would happen in the Miller case.

In Prince George’s, the elected school board and appointed members have clashed publicly over various issues.

Some of those issues came to light after a scathing report released last month by the state’s inspector general for education, Richard P. Henry.

In the report, Henry criticized an ethics advisory panel report last year that presented opinions and inaccuracies against most of the elected board members.

The report notes that the ethics panel, whose members resigned after the inspector general’s office began an investigation, cost the majority Black school system more than $100,000 in producing the report.

No criminal charges were found in the investigation, but Henry distributed the report to top state and county leaders.

Not everyone agrees with the inspector general’s report.

‘Cherry pick’

Members of the Citizens for Accountability in PGCPS Board of Education responded to Henry with an 11-page rebuttal letter dated Aug. 31.

The four residents who signed the letter – Derrick Homesley, Steffanie Jackson, Tonya Wingfield and Donna Young – claim the inspector general’s report used “misleading and incomplete information” and sought to “cherry pick” details to misrepresent events, doing the public a disservice.

No member of the citizens’ group responded to requests for comment Monday and Tuesday.

The group asserts that the inspector general didn’t provide evidence that the ethics panel’s investigation exceeded $100,000.

When asked if Miller should be removed from office, former school board member Belinda Queen said yes.

“If the county executive asked you to step down and you refuse, that is a problem,” said Queen, who resigned from the school board this year to run for a seat on county council. “It makes it look like a bad appointment for Angela. That’s my issue with it.”

County Executive Angela Alsobrooks appointed Miller chair last year, but asked her to step down in June.

Thanks to a state law passed in April, the school board will soon choose their own chair and vice chair, beginning in December.

In July 2024, under the new law, there will no longer be appointed members on the school board. The board would consist of nine members from nine separate districts and one student member approved by the county’s Regional Association of Student Governments.