On Thursday, Mr. Baker announced his choice: Kevin Maxwell, a seasoned, highly regarded former teacher, principal and administrator in Prince George’s and Montgomery county schools and, for the last seven years, superintendent of the neighboring school district in Anne Arundel County. It is an excellent selection.
Mr. Maxwell, who attended Prince George’s schools, is a known quantity whose broad experience suggests he has a fighting chance to navigate the perilous politics between Mr. Baker, a highly fractious school board, understandably anxious parents and the schools’ nearly 18,000 employees, among other interested parties.
As someone who has lived in the county for years, he presumably grasps how tightly tethered its economic fortunes are to the schools’ performance. Simply put, without significant improvements in the schools, Prince George’s will continue to struggle to compete with wealthier suburban neighbors to attract the best brains, talent and jobs.
As superintendent in Anne Arundel and, before that, as a senior administrator in Montgomery and Prince George’s, Mr. Maxwell has applied a deft touch in schools and regions whose populations were highly diverse. He’ll need those skills in his new job, where some in the overwhelmingly African American system are likely to regard Mr. Maxwell skeptically because of his race (he is white).
It is critical that the school board give Mr. Maxwell the space to do his job, which includes managing a $1.7 billion budget and more than 200 schools. Previous county superintendents have complained that they spent more time dealing with phone calls and e-mails from board members — often pressing petty concerns — than with principals, teachers and students.
That was a factor in the departure of the county’s two most recent schools chiefs, John Deasy and William R. Hite Jr., the current chiefs of the school systems in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, respectively. Blithely driving away talent in that manner is unacceptable, and the county can’t afford it.