Prince George’s schools chief adds executive-level positions and attracts criticism

December 23, 2013

Prince George’s County Schools Chief Executive Kevin M. Maxwell, who came to the district as part of an overhaul of the school system, has added four new executive-level positions to his administration, hires he said will improve academic achievement.

Maxwell, who took the school system’s top job in August, has spent $1.53 million to hire a chief of staff, a diversity officer, a health officer, a performance and evaluation officer and 10 employees to assist them. He said the hires were necessary because he noticed that some jobs were not being done adequately and children were not being properly served because there was less coordination.

“You have to be organized around the work that needs to be accomplished,” Maxwell said in a recent interview about the decision to add employees. “If you don’t have people in place to do particular jobs, you might find a situation where you have someone doing 15 jobs.”

The hires offer a glimpse of how Maxwell envisions Maryland’s second largest school system running under his administration by placing skilled, experienced leaders in positions that will lead to more coordination.

But some board members who opposed the move by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) to overhaul the school system have been privately critical of Maxwell’s hires. Two board members said they were surprised by the cost associated with the hires. One said some of the money could have been used on instruction, including reading specialists.


Kevin M. Maxwell (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Others said that the moves seemed to repeat mistakes made by Maxwell’s predecessor, William R. Hite Jr. who was often accused of having a bloated and top-heavy administration.

Maxwell said he has spent the past few months assessing the school system’s daily operations and that each of the new cabinet members is critical for the 123,000-student school system. Perhaps most important, he selected George H. Margolies, who earns $207,586, as his chief of staff. Margolies was Maxwell’s chief of staff in Anne Arundel County .

Maxwell said Margolies will oversee the communications office and legal department; serve as the district’s liaison to the school board; and help create policy.

Without someone in the position, Maxwell said he would have to oversee the legal department and “it would be difficult for me to give it the justice it is due,” he said.

Maxwell also hired Maritza Gonzalez as the first diversity officer to focus on Latino issues, in recognition of the changing demographics of the county.

She is one of the only Latino affairs officers for any school system in the Washington region.

Gonzalez, who was hired in September with a $143,458 salary, is expected to partner with the county government, businesses and organizations to provide academic and social support service to Latino children and their families. Maxwell said Gonzalez, who recently completed a doctorate in higher education, student affairs and international education policy at the University of Maryland, will also improve recruiting efforts and assess school system policies and procedures regarding diversity and develop new communication and outreach strategies.

“We need to do a better job in support for parents in that area,” Maxwell said. “We also need to do better in hiring and recruiting, so I hired somebody to focus on that work for us. I think it’s important for our credibility.”

Angela M. Wakhweya, the former director of School Health for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, will supervise the more than 200 nurses and coordinate services between the nursing staff, the district’s four wellness centers and the county health department in her new role as the district’s chief of health policy, services and innovation. Wakhweya, who earns $154,216, will also improve health and wellness programs by taking a comprehensive approach to nutrition and physical education.

“If we are going to talk about improving education we have to realize that improving health is a part of that,” Maxwell said. “There is nothing sadder than kids coming to school hungry.”

Maxwell also hired William Harrison Ryan, who earns $168,562. He comes to Prince George’s from Howard County, where he worked for the past nine years as a principal and most recently as executive director of school improvement and school administration.

Ryan will be responsible for the new evaluation system for teachers.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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