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Education

Prince George’s school board couldn’t select a new chair, but it did choose a vice chair

The Prince George’s County school board chose half of its new leadership during a special meeting Dec. 15. Photo by William J. Ford.

The Prince George’s County school board held a special meeting Thursday to select new leadership, but only half of that task got done.

Eight of the 13 members, including a high school student, chose Lolita Walker as the board’s vice chair through a secret ballot, with votes tabulated by the two school board attorneys. Walker, who wasn’t in attendance, defeated Kenneth Harris II, who received five votes.

It only took one round of balloting for the board to select Walker, who won her seat in last month’s general election.

However, it was more challenging to choose a new chair.

Similar to the process for vice chair, the current chair Juanita Miller, who hinted recently that she might not seek another term as chair, asked for nominations to the position.

Board member Jonathan Briggs nominated Shayla Adams-Stafford and Judy Mickens-Murray nominated herself.

The smooth process ended there.

The first ballot vote was 7-6, but eight votes are required to appoint a new chair.

Board parliamentarian Mary Grant said the board must continue to vote until one person receives at least eight votes.

The board conducted the ballot procedure six more times, but the highest number achieved was seven votes by both Mickens-Murray and Adams-Stafford.

On three occasions, board counsel Bradley Farrar said one person didn’t vote and the tally ended with a 6-6 tie.

While Farrar and the other board attorney, Dennis Whitley III, walked back and forth from their seats to a table inside the meeting room counting the votes, Miller asked her colleagues if they wanted to postpone the meeting and reconvene at a later date.

Board member David Murray said no, based on state law approved this year. According to the legislation, it states that “beginning on Dec. 5, the county board shall select a chair and vice chair of the county…”

Whitley said it technically didn’t require the board to vote on that particular day, but the “best practice would be to select a chair and vice chair as soon as possible.”

“That’s what we’re trying to do, but were not being successful” choosing a new chair, said Miller, who added the law remains “a matter of interpretation” because it doesn’t specifically state a vote must be done on Dec. 5.

Pamela Boozer-Strother, who served as vice chair pro tem Thursday, suggested the board conduct the vote when Walker is present. She represents the 14th member who could represent the eighth vote for either Adams-Stafford or Mickens-Murray to become the new chair.

The board postponed selecting a new chair and will reconvene during its regular session Jan. 12. Walker will preside over the meeting as the new vice chair.

Meanwhile, Miller faces a legal battle before a Maryland administrative hearing judge after current and former school board colleagues accused her of misconduct in office, willful neglect of duty and incompetence.

The school board last week discussed $32,000 in legal fees accrued by Miller, who’s represented by the firm MarcusBonsib of Greenbelt.

Miller requested the hearing after the state Board of Education voted in May to move forward in the process to possibly remove her from the Prince George’s school board.

Miller requested an administrative hearing that began the week of Nov. 28 and is scheduled to resume Monday.