Rosalind Johnson resigns from Prince George’s school board

Prince George’s County school board member Rosalind A. Johnson (District 1), who has been serving on the board while living outside her district since June, said Tuesday that she has resigned from her position.

Johnson said Tuesday that she sent an e-mail to board Chairman Verjeana M. Jacobs (District 5) and other members to notify them of her decision to step down. Johnson left the board after The Washington Post discovered that she was living outside her district while serving in the elected position, which violates Maryland law.

Johnson told The Post on Monday that she knew the rules and should have stepped down when she moved from Laurel to New Carrollton four months ago, and she initially said she planned to stay on through next month’s general election. She later changed course.

“I have sent a notice to the board to let them know that I’m not in District 1,” Johnson said. “So that ends my term.”

Johnson, 68, moved out of her Laurel home this year to care for her dying mother. Johnson said she decided not to step down at the time because the school system was dealing with a number of important issues, including the selection of an interim superintendent, and her “skill set” was needed on the board.

Under Maryland law, a board member who moves out of his or her district is supposed to resign.

“An elected county board member shall forfeit the office if the member fails to reside in the school board district from which the member was elected, unless this change is caused by a change in the boundaries of the district,” according to Maryland statute.

Johnson, who had planned to retire at the end of this year, said her resignation is effective immediately.

Linda Diasgranados, president of the High Point High School Parent Teacher Student Association, said Tuesday that she was shocked to learn that Johnson had been living outside District 1 for so long. She said it was unfair for Johnson to wait to notify the board about her change of address.

“I understand her mother was sick, but the rules are the rules,” Diasgranados said.

“If all the other ones are living in their districts, everyone should.”

The resignation comes just three weeks before the general election, when voters will choose a candidate to fill Johnson’s seat.

Christian Rhodes, the education liaison for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, said Baker conveyed to Jacobs that he wants to ensure that “all proper rules and regulations are followed regarding the vacancy of Ms. Johnson’s seat.”

Jacobs said Tuesday that the board is consulting with its attorney, its legislative liaison and the state Board of Elections to determine the next steps.

Johnson said she sent a brief e-mail thanking the board for working with her and expressing her gratitude for working with and for the children in the Prince George’s school system.

A teacher for more than three decades and a Prince George’s resident for 58 years, Johnson was elected to the board in 2006, after the county’s appointed board was dissolved. Johnson narrowly won reelection in 2010 against then-teenager David Murray.

Murray is now vying for Johnson’s seat. Johnson is backing Zabrina Epps, Murray’s opponent, in the race.

Johnson is one of the longest-serving board members in Maryland’s second-largest school system. During her time on the board, she has advocated for student achievement and equity in education for black and Hispanic students.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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