Some union and community leaders in Prince George’s County are questioning whether a meeting between Schools Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and school board candidates was appropriate and if Hite requested the discussion to sway potential board members.
“There is no reason why you would call in a prospective boss,” said Linda Thornton-Thomas, a former member of the school board and a member of the Consortium of Concerned Organizations, a coalition of community leaders. “His job is very political. He is looking for ways to make sure it works for him. These are people that may alter his job placement.”
Hite’s scheduling secretary sent an e-mail earlier this month inviting the candidates to a brief meeting Monday night at the Sasscer Administration Building. The invitation offered no agenda.
Hite said 13 candidates attended the meeting, including Edward Burroughs III, an incumbent.
Hite said Tuesday that the hour-long meeting included a 13-slide PowerPoint presentation and a question-and-answer session. It was designed to provide a broad overview of the top challenges facing the school system.
Among some of the topics discussed were the the district’s revenue, its enrollment, and maintenance and repair of school property.
“This wasn’t about this is the role of the superintendent and this is the role of the school board,” Hite said. “We didn’t talk about the demarcation of the administration and governance, just the issues facing our school district.”
Joseph Kitchen, who is running to replace Patricia Eubanks (District 4), said he decided not to attend the meeting, but sent a member of his campaign.
Kitchen said he supports Hite’s efforts and thought Hite’s intentions were good, but, he said, there was the appearance that he wanted to tell “candidates what the board is supposed to do. It’s supposed to work the other way around.”
Hite said John Deasy, his predecessor, held individual meetings with candidates running for the school board. He said he opted for a group meeting.
“It’s disconcerting that some would represent it as inappropriate or political,” he said.
Micah Watson, one of five candidates in the District 4 race, said he could not attend the meeting but appreciated the invitation.
“I could tell from the e-mail that he invited everyone and I took it as him inviting everyone to sit down to outline some of the big things he’s working on and inviting the candidates to ask questions about the system,” Watson said. “I didn’t see it as a forum to defend himself.”
Twenty-three candidates are vying for five seats on the board during the primary election, which will be held on April 3.