According to an early draft of the amendments, which were obtained by The Washington Post, the new superintendent would set the salaries of principals, teachers and other personnel. He or she would also have the authority to determine school boundaries and to consolidate schools. The schools chief would serve a four-year term, at the pleasure of the county executive.
The role of the elected Board of Education would be reduced to academic policy and increasing community engagement, according to the draft legislation.
The board, which would gain six additional appointed members, would also offer methods for student assessment and mediation and assist the superintendent in developing a program to train principals in increasing parental involvement.
School board Chairman Verjeana M. Jacobs (District 5) said during a break in a closed session Monday that the board is strongly opposed to Baker’s proposal, which is similar to reform efforts that gave mayors control of school systems in major cities across the country, including the District and New York.
“This is similar to the District of Columbia model, and we know how that’s turned out,” Jacobs said, suggesting that the matter be put to a referendum.
She added that the board has overseen some improvement in the county’s schools and takes its role seriously.
“[Baker] has said he wants achievement improved yesterday, and every indication in the state of Maryland and nationally shows that Prince George’s County has had progressive and steady improvement in achievement year after year after year,” Jacobs said.
“We clearly know that we want to do better, but the data doesn’t show what he is saying,” Jacobs said. “So on the one hand we’re not achieving that goal, but on the other hand that’s what he leaves to us.”
Jacobs said board members are concerned about the amount of power the proposed legislation would give to the superintendent, including the ability to deal with employee salaries.
“That is in direct contradiction to the negotiations process,” Jacobs said, referring to collective bargaining agreements with the teachers union.
County officials said last week that Baker’s proposed legislation probably will be added as amendments to a bill that Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Prince George’s) proposed months ago to form a task force to review school board operations.