Baker fills District 9 seat on Pr. George’s Board of Education


Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III in November 2013. (Mark Gail for The Washington Post)
December 20, 2013

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III has appointed Sonya Williams, a parent with one child in public school and another in private school, to fill a vacant seat on the county Board of Education.

Williams will represent District 9, replacing Donna
Hathaway-Beck
, who resigned in September after serving more than seven years on the school board.

Baker said it was a “difficult choice” to fill the seat because he had a lot of “really good candidates who brought different skills to the table.”

But after two rounds of interviewing finalists, Baker said he was pleased to announce Williams’s selection.

Baker said he was looking for someone who was not only interested in education but was also politically savvy. In less than a year, the appointee would have to launch an election campaign because the term for the seat is up next December.

He said Williams, who brought a child back to the public school system and became actively engaged in his school, provided an interesting perspective to the board.

“We didn’t have that currently on the board,” Baker said. “We’re excited because she’s going to do a great job. She’s going to be a great partner and add a lot to the school system.”

Williams is the fifth appointee Baker has named to the board under legislation that changed the school system’s governance structure. She is the second appointee to replace an elected board member. In September, the county executive named Lyn Mundey to represent District 7 after former board member Carletta Fellows abruptly resigned.

With five appointees, Baker, who this year sought a complete takeover of the school system, has solidified his influence over the board.

The District 9 seat sat vacant for three months.

Christian Rhodes, Baker’s liaison to the school board, said there were 27 applicants for the seat and each was vetted, a process that “took longer than all of us wanted.”

“The county executive has always looked at who a board member is and what perspective they bring to the table,” Rhodes said. “This was a deliberative process.”

He rejected a notion that politics delayed the selection. Earlier this month, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George’s), who endorsed Hathaway-Beck in her campaign, said he had not made a recommendation on the seat.

“People are lobbying me for the position, and I tell them to call the county executive,” Miller said.

Council Chairman Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro) said this month that he was also waiting to hear from Baker on his pick.

Rhodes said Williams represents middle-class parents in the county who have opted to send their children to private school. She is also the type of parent that the school system is trying to attract, he said.

Last year, Williams removed her son from private school and placed him at Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, which has an automotive course as an elective. Williams’s other child attends a private Montessori school.

Williams became president of the Gwynn Park High School Parent Teachers and Students Association in 2012 and was recently appointed to the Prince George’s Democratic Central Committee.

A graduate of Crossland High School and a resident of Clinton, Williams is a civil engineer with more than 22 years of project management experience on local and national construction projects, according to her biography. Her most recent project was the Tanger Outlets at National Harbor.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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