Prince George’s residents plan petition drive against school governance structure

Some Prince George’s County residents who fought to restore the county’s elected school board after state lawmakers replaced it in 2002 with an appointed board said they plan to start a petition drive against the county’s new school governance structure.

David Cahn, co-chair of Citizens for an Elected Board, told the Board of Education Thursday night that the drive will aim to take the issue to a referendum.

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Cahn’s group, along with the teachers union and the Prince George’s chapter of the NAACP are strongly opposed to County Executive Rushern L. Baker’s school takeover bid.

Baker (D) asked the Maryland General Assembly to put him in charge of the school superintendent and the school system’s $1.7 billion budget. While lawmakers denied those requests, they did give Baker considerable influence over the school system.

Cahn said the new law, which allows Baker to appoint three new board members, select the school chief, and name the board chair and vice chair is an attack against democracy.

“This is intolerable,” he said. “We lost our vote the last time. This time it’s watered down.”

In 2002, the county’s turmoil-ridden elected board was replaced with a board appointed by the governor and the county executive. Four years later, the county elected board members by district.

Soon, beginning in June, it will have a hybrid board, with four new appointed members and nine members elected by district. Baker will name three members, and the County Council will appoint one member.

“We’re fighting back,” said Deborah Sell, a concerned citizen.

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