State board upholds censure of Prince George’s school board member
By Hamil R. Harris and Miranda Spivack,
The Maryland State Board of Education has upheld the censure of the youngest member of the Prince George’s County Board of Education.
The decision, handed down April 26, reaffirms an earlier unpublicized decision in January by the county’s school board to reprimand Edward Burroughs III for visiting a high school to investigate a truancy complaint.
“We conclude that the local board’s decision . . . was reasonable and that Mr. Burroughs demonstrated a lack of understanding of the role of a board member,” the state board said in its ruling.
Burroughs, 18, said Thursday that he understood he had upset members of the board. “But the bottom line is that I got the job done,” he said.
Burroughs (District 8) was elected to a two-year term on the county school board in November. A month later, he received a complaint about truancy at High Point High School. He brought up the issue with school board member Rosalind A. Johnson, who represents District 1, where the school is located, and Superintendent William R. Hite Jr.
Both asked Burroughs to let them deal with the complaint.
Burroughs decided to visit the school in January and check whether there was a problem. He took along David Murray, a friend and an unsuccessful candidate for the seat held by Johnson. After the visit, in which Burroughs and Murray were said to have approached and questioned an assistant principal, High Point’s then-principal called Hite to complain.
The visit rankled board colleagues and the schools chief, who said the unscheduled appearance was not appropriate or professional.
The board met in two closed-door sessions to discuss Burroughs and eventually voted unanimously to issue a private censure.
The school board also denied Burroughs’s appointment as the board’s liaison to the county’s Chamber of Commerce education committee and said it would “counsel” him about his “obligation to comply with his oath of office.”
Burroughs hired a lawyer and appealed the decision to the state Board of Education.
Burroughs said his efforts were aimed at saving a troubled school.
“When I get calls from civic leaders, real estate executives and elected officials telling me that the students are out of control or being stabbed on a daily basis, I am not going to sit back and say that it is not in my district,” he said.
“It was not like I wanted to go into a different district,” he added. “It was more like the leaders of that community telling me that they had not been getting a response for months.”
In the past year, parents and students had complained that the school system wasn’t doing enough to ensure student safety and cut down on truancy.
“Everything was downplayed, and they kept saying that changes were happening,” said Karen Coakley, president of the Beltsville Citizen Association.
In March, Hite replaced High Point’s principal, Michael Brooks, after a video surfaced on YouTube of a High Point student being attacked.
Coakley said Burroughs was penalized for bringing attention “to a situation that was out of control.”
Johnson could not be reached Thursday for comment.
Hite said he would let the state board report speak for itself. He said that the high school has a new principal and that she is working to address its truancy problems.