Choices for Prince George’s school board

October 22, 2012

AFTER SEVERAL YEARS of progress for the Prince George’s school system, there has been little good news of late. The departure of its highly regarded superintendent, William R. Hite Jr., and other key administrators has caused uncertainty — some say turmoil — for the 125,000-student system. So a lot is at stake in upcoming elections for school board.

Five seats on the nine-member board of education will be selected in nonpartisan elections Nov. 6, with one largely uncontested. (The opponent for District 8 incumbent Edward Burroughs dropped out of the race too late for his name to be removed from the ballot.) The biggest challenge facing those elected will be selecting a permanent replacement for Mr. Hite, who announced in June he was leaving to head Philadelphia schools. One apparent factor in Mr. Hite’s departure was worry about a new school board that could be remade with inexperienced members.

If Prince George’s hopes to attract a top-quality superintendent, this is no time for on-the-job training. That’s why Jeana Jacobs, a six-year incumbent now in her second term as chairman of the board, is a better choice than Raaheela Ahmed, one of the three school-board candidates who are college students. Ms. Jacobs’s steady leadership and support for reforms initiated by Mr. Hite and his predecessor helped put the system on the right track. Her understanding of the issues and easy style of collaboration make her the better choice for voters in District 5.

The race for the District 1 seat recently vacated by Rosalind A. Johnson is a contest between Zabrina Epps, an academic adviser at the Community College of Baltimore County, and David Murray, a college student who served a year as the student member on the Maryland state board of education. Mr. Murray has engaging ideas about education, but the breadth of Ms. Epps’s experience — she’s a former budget analyst for the Maryland General Assembly and has a master’s in public education — would make her a valuable addition to the board.

Our choice in District 4 is Micah Watson, a foreign affairs officer for the State Department with a history of civic involvement in the county, including stints on the Cheverly Town Council. Incumbent Patricia Eubanks has failed to provide much focus or advocacy, while Mr. Watson has honed in on issues including better serving the community’s non-English speakers. Mr. Watson would also provide a needed voice as a parent of a child in public school.

District 7 incumbent Henry P. Armwood Jr. has brought a sensibility to the system’s pressing budget problems, and his background as a parent liaison gives him good insights in how to engage the community in education. He deserves reelection over Carletta Fellows.

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