The Prince George’s County Board of Education on Tuesday night approved a four-year contract for Kevin Maxwell, who was named two weeks ago to be the new head of the struggling public school.
The decision came after a closed-door emergency meeting to discuss the agreement. It lasted more than two hours.
The board voted 11-0 on the $290,000 contract for Maxwell, making him the county’s eighth schools chief in 14 years. Board members Zabrina Epps (District 1) and Edward Burroughs III (District 8) were absent.
“We think we put together a contract that is going to keep an excellent superintendent a long time to come,” Board Chairman Segun Eubanks said. “That was our goal and we achieved that tonight.”
Maxwell, 61, who currently serves as Anne Arundel County’s superintendent, was selected by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) to run Maryland’s second largest school system. According to state law, the school board had to approve the deal.
Maxwell’s selection is considered to be a key component in Baker’s plan to turn around the county school system, which has shown gains on standardized tests in recent years but still continues to rank near the bottom in the state and across the Washington region.
Board members said before the meeting on Tuesday that they were uneasy about the timing of the vote and various provisions included in the agreement. The contract, which was negotiated by Eubanks, was given to board members Monday afternoon.
Eubanks said before the vote that he was aware of “some angst,” but that he was optimistic that the contract would be approved Tuesday night.
Members of the board, which vehemently fought Baker’s plan to take over the school system earlier this year, said they were not included in the decision to select Maxwell. But they said their reluctance to approve the contract did not mean that they disapproved of Maxwell, a longtime county resident who has spent his career in the Washington region, or that they were unwilling to work with Baker.
“The board is doing its due diligence,” said one board member who spoke anonymously because the issue was being discussed in executive session. “We have to review the contract.”
Under the contract, Maxwell will earn $290,000 per year as the district’s chief executive officer. He is currently paid $257,000 in Anne Arundel. William R. Hite Jr., Prince George’s former schools chief, earned $250,000. Interim School Superintendent Alvin Crawley is paid $215,000.
According to a source familiar with the negotiated agreement, the school board originally considered a deal that would contribute $43,000 a year to Maxwell’s secondary retirement plan. The highest amount the county has contributed in previous contracts was $16,000, the source said. Maxwell would also receive 36 days of paid leave. The standard is about 25 days, the source said.
Eubanks would not provide any details about the contract but said some changes were made to the agreement. The final contract will be released to the public after it is signed, he said.
Another board member said there are several new members (appointed and elected) who have never reviewed a superintendent contract and “you want to get it right.”
“It’s the due diligence aspect of wanting to perform your role to the best of your ability and you want to be aware of every component in the contract so you can explain it when the contract is public,” the board member said.
State lawmakers gave the county executive the power to name the new schools chief, select three new board members and choose the board’s chair and vice chair after Baker sought a complete takeover of the system three months ago.