Hispanic leaders criticize Baker for lack of Latino on school board

Some Hispanic leaders in Prince George’s County are criticizing County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) for not naming a Hispanic to the county’s reconfigured Board of Education.

Under a state law that changed the governance structure of the county school system, Baker was given the power to select three new members to the board, name the board chairman and vice chairman and select the new schools chief. The County Council was allowed to name one new school board member.

The Hispanic leaders said they were disappointed in Baker’s decision not to include a Latino among his choices, given that almost 23 percent of the student population in the public school system is Hispanic.

“I think it was a missed opportunity by the county executive,” said state Sen. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George’s), the first Hispanic elected to political office in the county. “We’re all shocked that a progressive county executive would not think to include a Hispanic on the school board. . . . I think it lacks vision for the future when you are talking about closing the achievement gap.”

Baker named Beverly Anderson, Daniel Kaufman and new chairman Segun Eubanks to the board. The council appointed Curtis Valentine. Of the four appointees, three are black and one is non-Hispanic white. Baker made his final selections on Monday. All have credentials in the education field.

Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Baker, described the picks as “outstanding selections” who were the best choices for the posts and noted that only two Hispanics had applied for board seats.

“County Executive Baker is committed to diversity and inclusion throughout Prince George's County, including within our school system,” Peterson said in a statement. “Unfortunately, out of the 160 applicants for the Board of Education, only two were Latino applicants.”

Peterson said one of the two advanced to the interview round, “but it was determined that the other candidates best filled the requirements of the available positions.”

Overall, there are no Hispanics on the school board, which has nine elected members along with the four appointees.

Ramirez said he was aware of at least one Hispanic candidate who holds two master’s degrees, including one from Princeton University.

Will Campos (D-Hyattsville), the only Hispanic serving on the county council, said some schools in his district have 50 percent to 80 percent Hispanic enrollment.

Over the past decade, Prince George’s gained 72,000 Hispanic residents, the fastest-growing group in the county. Hispanics now make up more than 15 percent of the county’s population.

“I think, culturally, it makes sense to have someone who not only speaks the language but culturally can relate to this large, growing population,” Campos said. “I think that the appointments are great, but it’s nice to have diversity, and we don’t have diversity at all. It would have been a great opportunity to show balance across the board.”

Ramirez, who voted in favor of the state school legislation, said he expected more from Baker.

“He failed the community,” he said. “The ones who will suffer are the students and the parents.”

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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