Prince George’s school system plans a reorganization of Human Resources Division

Several dozen people who work for the Prince George’s County schools’ human resources department were recently called into a meeting and told that their jobs were no longer their jobs.

No one was fired, at least not yet.

As part of a major reorganization, 64 of the department’s 72 employees were told that they had to reapply for their positions, schools officials said. Some will have new job descriptions, others will need new qualifications, and all the jobs are open to candidates inside and outside the school system.

The major shake-up at the school system’s central office is the first significant move from schools chief Kevin M. Maxwell, who took the reins in August.

Max Pugh, a school system spokesman, said that Maxwell’s decision to revamp the division was a response to a recent state legislative audit, a strategic plan survey and a transition report, all of which highlighted alarming deficiencies in human resources.

“Overall findings from all three sources indicate negative customer service ratings, ineffective employment functions and consistent reports of inefficient and inconsistent services,” Pugh said. As a result, “executive staff will be reorganizing the Division of Human Resources to ensure the structure reflects the current needs of the school system and that staff with a high-level skill set is in place to support both internal and external stakeholders.”

The Office of Legislative Audits released an audit in February that found weak financial controls and insufficient oversight, lapses that resulted in $1 million in overpayments to employees.

The report said that school system officials paid some contract employees for days they did not work, processed duplicate payments, paid some employees who were on unpaid leave, improperly calculated leave payouts to terminated employees and inaccurately recorded employee separation dates.

Maxwell, a veteran educator who was hired after County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) engineered a takeover of the school system, faces high expectations for turning around the county’s schools and has been given broad authority over them. Among many possible changes, Maxwell has said he will take a hard look at the system’s use of resources.

County Board of Eduction member Verjeana M. Jacobs (District 5) said the board was not aware of Maxwell’s plans or the purpose behind the reorganization.

She said she was concerned that employees be treated with dignity and respect.

“We want the system to be effective and efficient,” Jacobs said. “But you should be able to make a case for why it is needed. When you are clear about that case, you need to make it.”

Board members have received e-mails from employees who have raised questions about publicly posting their positions for hire and ensuring fairness in the interview process.

Doris Reed, president of the principals union, which represents about 20 human resources employees, said the reorganization does not violate the union’s contract and “has been in the wind” for a few months. Reed said human resources has gone through several reorganizations during the past decade. But, she said, “It seems to have made it worse.”

Reed said that unlike in past reorganizations, the administration did notify union leaders about its plans and how it will proceed. “We will be monitoring to make sure it’s done fairly,” she said.

Donna Hathaway Beck, a former school board member, said she was shocked to learn that the school system was undergoing its third reorganization of human resources in seven years.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten,” Hathaway Beck said. “It doesn’t seem like a good business model to do a reorganization every three years by essentially the same people.”

Pugh said that the positions will be posted on a “rolling basis” and that the reorganization should be completed by July 1.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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