Baker reestablishes education commission to advise him on improving schools

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) has reestablished a commission, made up of parents, business owners and educators, to advise him on ways to improve the county schools.

The Commission for Education Excellence took a hiatus last year while Baker pushed to take over the school system and after Segun Eubanks, the commission’s former chairman, was appointed to lead the district’s new hybrid school board.

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Christian Rhodes, Baker’s education adviser, said the panel’s charge remains the same: to find innovative ways to improve education.

It will be a “sounding board” for the schools chief and others to discuss ideas to boost academic achievement, Rhodes said.

The commission was originally formed in 2012, just prior to former School Superintendent William R. Hite’s resignation.

At the time, Baker, who had limited authority over the school system, said he formed the 12-member panel to allow him to have a more active role in the schools.

But members of the elected school board raised concerns about the commission’s role and Baker’s intentions.

Nine months later, Baker sought control of the school system. He ultimately gained the power to appoint three school board members, hire the schools chief and name the chair and vice chair of the school board.

Eubanks said now that he has served on both bodies, he can “see how different they are.”

He said he hopes the commission can assist the board with community outreach, becoming “outside advocates for education.”

He said it would also be helpful for the commission to continue to explore “best practices,” looking at how other systems across the country have addressed similar challenges that face Prince George’s schools.

“The primary thing is a spirit of collaboration and shared vision,” Eubanks said. “If there is mistrust, their role will be in conflict.”

Aimee Olivo, a Cheverly parent who served on the original commission, will replace Eubanks as chairman.

The new members include deputy director of the Maryland Multicultural Youth Center, Lupi Grady; president of Opera Kids, an arts nonprofit, and chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, Yvette Lewis; director of STEM education at Howard University, Chanda Macias; an adjunct instructor at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, JaNay Queen; and an intermediate reading instructor, Jennifer Urbaez.

Returning to the board are a Cheverly parent, Betsy Ramirez; dean of the school of education at the University of Maryland at College Park, Donna Wiseman; executive director of the Prince George’s Community Foundation, Desiree Griffin-Moore; president of the Prince George’s County Business Roundtable, M.H. Jim Estepp; business owner Keith Singletary; head of school at Reid Temple Christian Academy, Donnette Davis; and director of the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System, Kathleen Teaze.

 
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