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Baker forms panel to improve school system

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) gives an interview in Annapolis in March 2011. (Mark Gail/WASHINGTON POST)

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) has started to wade into the governance of the school system, establishing an education commission to advise him on ways to improve the county’s schools.

Baker said the 12-member panel, which largely consists of parents, educators and business leaders, will provide him with recommendations to “move our system forward.”

Baker is scheduled to make a formal announcement about the commission Wednesday. He will also announce plans to work with the Board of Education to expand the county’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs and create a committee that will focus on leveraging education funds for the county.

In the District, the mayor has direct power over schools. But in Prince George’s, Baker’s power is limited to allocating school funding.

The county executive said he wants the commission to help him take a more proactive role.

“They will help me look at ways I can play a role beyond visiting the schools and providing funding for their budget,” he said. “We are going to be aggressive. We are going to push the envelope. We want to look at ideas that may or may not work, think of best practices outside and inside.”

Members will include Charlene Dukes, president of Prince George’s Community College and a member of the Maryland State Board of Education; Donna Wiseman, dean of the College of Education at the University of Maryland at College Park; and Donnette Davis, head of Reid Temple Christian Academy.

Baker said that the commission will collaborate with the school board and Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and will seek to avoid duplication of effort.

“We have to raise the level of involvement of the business community and the nonprofit and faith communities,” Baker said. “I have no interest in being superintendent or taking over the school board. This is about making sure everyone is pulling their weight when it comes to education.”

Segun Eubanks, director of teacher quality for the National Education Association, who has two children in county schools, will chair the commission.

“We want to be the outside cheerleaders and the voices for innovative ideas,” Eubanks said.

This is not the first time Baker has pushed for education reform. As a state delegate several years ago, he spearheaded an effort to abolish the elected school board in favor of an appointed one.

Ovetta Wiggins covers Maryland state politics in Annapolis.

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