State dismisses appeal by Prince George’s residents over use of vacant school

The Maryland State Board of Education has dismissed an appeal by a nonprofit group and dozens of Prince George’s County residents who challenged the county board of education’s decision to allow MGM Resorts to use it as a casino training facility.

The county board asked the state board to dismiss the appeal, arguing that the groups did not have standing to challenge its decision to transfer Thomas Addison Elementary School to the county as surplus properly.

The state board ruled in the county’s favor, deciding that Nehemiah's Vision and the group of residents “lack standing” to bring the appeal before the state board. It also found that Prince George’s Schools Chief Kevin M. Maxwell and his staff did not violate state law by declaring the property as surplus. Nehemiah's Vision argued that there was no evidence that the school system consulted with the state superintendent of education, as is required, to determine that the building was no longer needed for school purposes.

“The appellants cast themselves as education stakeholders, residents of the county and as taxpayers for the school system,” the ruling reads. “In none of those roles have the appellants shown that they suffer an injury in fact or demonstrate a direct personal and specific interest that differs from any other member of the pubic. Therefore, the appellants lack standing to pursue this appeal.”

Tonya V. Wingfield, executive director of Nehemiah's Vision, said her group plans to appeal the state board’s decision to an administrative law judge.

“We’re disappointed,” she said. “We feel as taxpayers that our dollars go across this county for every school and we should always have a weigh in on any decision regarding any school issue . . . Hopefully the judicial level will understand that.”

MGM, which has received approval to open a full-service casino at National Harbor, wants to use the nearby school as a training facility. Local officials hope the casino will create more than 3,750 jobs and boost the county’s economy.

The state board found that the county school board adhered to state law, ruling that the resolution passed by the county school board requires Maxwell to get approval from the state superintendent for the transfer to take place.

“The actual resolution passed by the board declares the property as surplus and ‘directs the administration to request approval of the state superintendent for this declaration of surplus and for the transfer and deed of the subject property to the County Council,’ ” the ruling reads. “The resolution properly establishes the local board as the initiator of the action, subject to the state superintendent approval. In our view, that resolution conforms to the law.”

Nehemiah's Vision also alleged that the county school board violated county regulations in January when it placed the transfer of Thomas Addison Elementary School on its consent agenda, which meant that it was not subject to public discussion. According to board regulations, consent agenda items are “ministerial and administrative in nature, or which have previously been presented to the Board for review and discussion at a prior Board meeting.”

The state board said it had “no jurisdiction to address those alleged violations.”

Wingfield said it “makes no sense” that the state board would not deal with a legal violation.

“They focused on a technicality,” she said. “The failure to address this is a failure of the educational system in the state of Maryland. They have set a precedent that says we cannot hold elected or appointed officials accountable through an administrative process.”

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Local

local

education