“It looked like a magic moment when everybody said we want to make things dramatically better for our county,” said Maxwell, a longtime Prince George’s resident. Maxwell wanted to be a part of it, opting to leave what he called an “easier career path” in Anne Arundel for what he knows is a far more challenging one in his home county.
Maxwell ‘has lived it’
Hired this month with the expectation of turning around the second-largest school system in Maryland — now chronically one of the state’s worst-performing districts — Maxwell also is at the heart of Baker’s ambitious plan. The county executive has pinned much of the school system’s future, and perhaps his own immediate political future, on Maxwell’s selection as superintendent.
Baker (D) said he came up with a composite of the type of person that he wanted to lead the school system: A team player who would raise employee morale. A strong administrator willing to make the tough decisions. A proven leader who would commit to the county.
“He brings something unique that you can’t find unless you came through the system,” Baker said. “He brings judgment about the school system that he has worked in and has sent his children through. He has lived it — the good, the bad, the ugly.”
Maxwell is a veteran educator who grew up in Prince George’s, attending public schools and spending much of his career there. The Bowie resident will assume the top schools job Thursday as part of a major administrative shake-up that limits the role of a reconfigured Board of Education and places more power in the hands of the superintendent, now known as the chief executive officer.
In an interview at his Annapolis office, Maxwell said people have asked him why he would leave Anne Arundel for a county that has struggled and has seen rapid leadership turnover. He will be the eighth schools chief in Prince George’s in 14 years. Maxwell said he welcomes the challenge.
“I think I can make a huge difference in Prince George’s,” said Maxwell, who is highly regarded for his leadership in Prince George’s, Montgomery County and Anne Arundel schools, where he was superintendent for the past seven years. “I’ve already made a huge difference here, and while I can continue to make a difference in Anne Arundel County, I think the opportunity is even greater in Prince George’s County.”
No one thinks the road to repair will be easy.
“I wouldn’t say he’s got an uphill battle, but he’s got a tough one ahead, and he’s going to have to make some tough decisions,” said Juanita Miller, the education chairwoman of the NAACP’s Prince George’s branch. The NAACP, which backed Baker’s plan after initially objecting to it, has pushed for an audit of the school system. The organization hopes resources can be redirected from the central office to the classroom.