“We made it clear that we were willing to do what we could to make him stay,” Baker (D) said later.
But with no direct control over how the school system operates or who gets hired, Baker was, in effect, little more than a bystander offering his opinions.
The next day, Hite — who had received a personal visit from Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D) about a week before — announced that he would leave Maryland’s second-largest school system to run the Philadelphia School District.
Now, with the 123,000-student system in search of a superintendent and a majority of seats on the school board up for election in the fall, Baker is positioning himself to take a greater role in county schools.
Unlike the D.C. mayor, who has direct power over the city’s school system, or the mayor of Philadelphia, who appoints two members to a five-member authority that runs the schools, the Prince George’s executive has no control over the county’s schools beyond allocating funds.
Baker, who realizes that good schools are key to the county’s prosperity, has staked a lot on improving the school system, telling residents to “judge this administration” on what happens with the schools. The system, which historically has had uneven test scores, has made strides academically in recent years. But with limited authority in education, Baker faces major challenges — including a skeptical school board — that could frustrate his attempts to have an impact.
In a news conference last month, Baker said he planned to be active in improving county schools.
“I am going to go beyond the traditional role as county executive,” he said. “I am going to push the envelope and seek out innovation models for teaching and learning for our children, because I am on a mission to make us a leader in this region and throughout the state.”
He announced the appointment of a 12-member com
mission that will advise him on educational policies.
Baker said the commission will make recommendations on programs in which the county should invest, work with county agencies and develop quarterly and annual progress reports.
The move has left some school board members suspicious of Baker’s intentions. About a decade ago, when he was a state delegate, Baker participated in an effort that led to the dissolution of an elected school board in Prince George’s. The appointed-board structure later ended, and the county went back to an elected board.
But Baker said he does not want to seize control of the school system.
“This is not a takeover of the board,” Baker said in an interview last week. “I’ve told them this is not. You don’t have to wonder where I’m coming from. If I thought the governance was the way to go, I’d say that.”