Rosalind Johnson’s name stricken from Prince George’s school board record

The Prince George’s County Board of Education has deleted all references to former board member Rosalind A. Johnson from the minutes of its meetings over the past four months, in response to her staying on the board after she moved out of her district in June, a violation of state law.

“In light of becoming aware that Ms. Rosalind Johnson moved out of her district . . . we have determined that minutes must be amended and reconsidered,” Verjeana Jacobs (District 5), the board chairman, told members Tuesday night before taking the unusual action of striking Johnson’s name from the records. The board voted unanimously to remove Johnson’s attendance, her introduction of resolutions and her requests for information.

It was unclear whether Johnson would have to return pay for the four months she should not have served on the nine-member board, which would amount to about $6,000 out of an $18,000 annual salary for the position. It also was unclear whether Johnson would be financially responsible for trips to Atlanta and Miami she took on school business during her final weeks in office.

Johnson, 68, resigned last week after The Washington Post discovered that she was residing outside her district while serving in the elected position. Maryland law requires board members to live in the districts they represent and to forfeit their seats should they move out of their district.

In an interview with The Post, Johnson said she moved out of her Laurel home in June to care for her dying mother, who lived in New Carrollton.

Johnson initially said that she planned to stay on until next month’s general election because her “skill set” was needed on the board and because she worried that stepping down would have left the District 1 seat vacant.

After Tuesday’s vote, board members Henry Armwood (District 7) and Peggy Higgins (District 2) expressed their appreciation for Johnson’s service, calling her a passionate and dedicated advocate for children. Johnson, who was elected in 2006, was known for promoting student achievement and equity in education for black and Hispanic students.

“I will miss her probing questions and her meticulous nature for detail,” Armwood said. “I wish that she will continue to contact me and mentor me.”

But some residents said they have been unhappy with Johnson’s representation for years, adding that she has been unresponsive and unwilling to work with parent organizations.

“We haven’t had much representation for some time now,” said Karen Coakley, president of the Beltsville Citizens’ Association. “She may have been at board meetings, but being there for the schools in this community, she was totally missing in action.”

Johnson could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Johnson attended 17 meetings from June 14 to Sept. 20. The meetings included 10 closed executive sessions during which the board discussed or took action on administrative appointments, employee appeals, legal cases and contracts.

All the votes from the executive sessions had more than five members voting in favor of an action, Jacobs said, which means Johnson’s votes had no bearing on the final outcomes. Minutes of executive sessions are not public.

For many country residents, removing Johnson’s name from the minutes was not enough. They said Johnson should be obligated to reimburse the county for the money she received after she moved out of her district.

“Ros [Johnson] should be returning that money to the school system that she took since June,” said June White Dillard, former president of the county chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Jacobs said she hoped Tuesday’s actions let the public know that the board had “done its due diligence.” Jacobs said Johnson attended board meetings and filed reports for trips she took for school-related business. She said there is no “direction in the law” for dealing with Johnson’s decision to remain on the board while she was not allowed to serve.

“We’ve consulted with the State Board of Elections, and we’re taking the position that there is nothing further that the board has to do,” Jacobs said.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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