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Posted at 03:06 PM ET, 06/13/2012

Baker unveils plans for school system

It’s not being called a takeover.

But Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III made it clear Wednesday morning as he unveiled his education agenda that the public school system will not continue to operate as usual.

“We are going to move beyond the traditional role of county executive,” said Baker, noting that he plans to take a more active role in the schools.

He said that he wants residents to “judge this administration” on what happens with the school system.

Baker, who has limited authority over the school system, named a 12-member board, made up of educators, parents and business leaders, to advise him on ways to improve the schools.

He said the commission will make recommendations on programs the county should invest in; work with county agencies; and develop quarterly and annual reports on its progress.

Sounds like the work of the school board?

But Segun Eubanks, director of teacher quality for the National Education Association, who will serve as commission chairman, said the commission will not take the lead but act as part of the supporting cast.

“We’re the cheerleaders,” Eubanks said.

“I believe the board is doing a great job,” Baker added. “They are making progress. But they can’t do it alone.”

Baker said he plans to use the power of his office to talk about the strides the public schools have made over the years.

“Almost eight years ago, I stood on the House floor and said that I think we are rolling the dice by sending our children to the county’s schools,” he said. “But now, after my youngest has graduated, I can say we made the right decision.”

School Board Chair Verjeana Jacobs (District 5) said she is cautiously optimistic about the commission’s work.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t say the board needs any help to move student achievement forward,” Jacobs said. But she also noted that the system has been making progress.

Jacobs said she received calls and e-mails Wednesday morning from colleagues across the state wondering about Baker’s plan to form an education commission. They wondered what it meant for the board.

“At the end of the day, the board will continue its work and what it’s mandated to do by law, which is to govern the school district and set policy,” she said.

School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said he welcomed Baker’s decision to get the business, nonprofit, parents and faith communities more involved in the public school system. He said his “natural concern is in the details of how the commission will operate.”

Members of the panel include Aimee Olivo and Betsy Ramirez, both parents who live in Cheverly; Charlene Dukes, president of the Prince George’s Community College; Donna Wiseman, dean of the school of education at the University of Maryland at College Park; Desiree Griffin-Moore, executive director of the Prince George’s Community Foundation; Heather Iliff, a former school board member; Jim Estepp, president of the Prince George’s County Business Roundtable; Keith Singletary, business owner; Bridgette Blue, an educator in the Prince George’s County Public Schools; Donnette Davis, head of school at Reid Temple Christian Academy; and Kathleen Teaze, director of the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System.

By  |  03:06 PM ET, 06/13/2012

 
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