In one of its first actions since a law reconfigured its membership earlier this month, the Prince George’s County Board of Education voted Tuesday night to table a contract agreement with a new charter school in Hyattsville.
After a nearly two-hour discussion, the board postponed a vote on the contract with College Park Academy until next Thursday. Several members raised questions about the school’s lottery system, required reports on academic achievement goals and criminal background checks for members of the charter’s board. The board voted 12 to 1, with Segun Eubanks, its new chairman, voting against the delay. Edward Burroughs (District 8) was absent.
College Park Academy is scheduled to open in August and intends to offer classes for 291 sixth- and seventh-graders. The school eventually plans to provide classes for middle and high school students and offer college-credit opportunities.
Marcy Cathey, the academy’s executive director, said she is concerned that the delay could affect hiring and parents’ plans.
“We’re not able to hire at all,” Cathey said. “We’ve interviewed, but people will only wait so long. . . . My concern is the children and the parents.”
The decision on the charter school was one among many made by the hybrid board, which now includes four new appointed members in addition to the nine elected members already in place. The board also discussed the school system’s $1.7 billion budget, which must be approved by the end of June.
The board, which met in a newly outfitted chambers, convened one day after the final appointees — Beverly Anderson, Daniel Kaufman and Curtis Valentine — were sworn in.
“Prince George’s is preparing to enter a new era of change,” Eubanks said in his opening remarks. “This change answers the cry that many have had for years.”
The new board is the result of legislation that changed the school system’s governance structure. Under the law, which went into effect two weeks ago, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) was given the power to select three new board members, name the board chair and vice chair, and select the new schools chief. The County Council was also given the power to name one board member.
Eubanks told the board that he thinks the public school system is “good” and that many of its successes are not recognized. But, he said, the school system is “not good enough” and needs to compare itself to the best in order to make real improvements.
By not making the comparison, Eubanks said, it is like “telling us we shouldn’t believe in our children or the adults who serve them.”
Meanwhile, several Hispanic leaders this week have criticized Baker for not appointing a Hispanic member to the school board, which currently has none.
Hispanic leaders said they are disappointed in Baker’s decision not to include a Latino among his choices, given that almost 23 percent of the student population in the public school system is Hispanic.
“I think it was a missed opportunity by the county executive,” said state Sen. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George’s), the first Hispanic resident elected to political office in the county. “We’re all shocked that a progressive county executive would not think to include a Hispanic on the school board. . . . I think it lacks vision for the future when you are talking about closing the achievement gap.”
Will Campos (D-Hyattsville), the sole Hispanic on the County Council, said some schools in his district have 50 percent to 80 percent Hispanic enrollment.
Prince George’s gained 72,000 Hispanic residents in the past decade, and they now make up more than 15 percent of the county’s population.