The Washington Post

Prince George’s school board adds 15 new employees weeks before Baker takeover

In one of its final actions under the current school governance structure, the Prince George’s County Board of Education voted to hire more than a dozen employees who will work for and report to the board.

The emergency measure, which was approved with no discussion, comes with a $145,000 one-month price tag for the remainder of the current fiscal year and is projected to cost the school system nearly $2 million next year.

The action comes just weeks before state legislation is scheduled to take effect that allows Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III (D) to select the school system’s school superintendent, known as the chief executive officer. Baker will also be able to appoint three board members, creating a hybrid school board, and choose the board chair and vice chair.

The board took the hiring action last week with a 7-1 vote. School board member Donna Hathaway Beck (District 9) was opposed and Carletta Fellows (District 7) was absent.

Hathaway Beck said she did not think the measure should have been considered an emergency. The public did not have an opportunity to find out about the budget item, she said.

“It’s hard for me to criticize [County Executive] Rushern Baker for a lack of public engagement when we held an emergency vote to create 15 positions,” she said.

The school board has repeatedly taken Baker to task for pushing the school takeover proposal in the final weeks of the state legislative session. Board members complained that Baker did not give residents ample time to consider the measure.

School Board Chairman Verjeana Jacobs (District 5) and Quon Wilson, a spokeswoman for the school system, did not return calls seeking comment.

Under the resolution, the board allocated $11,000 to pay for one month’s salary for the four new appointed board members. School board members receive an $18,000 annual salary and $7,000 for travel and other expenses.

It also added one secretary at a cost of $6,500 between June 1 and June 30 and five administrators, who will be assigned to give direct support to schools and departments. The administrators; positions, which will cost $68,000 for one month, will provide “technical assistance and professional development for school staff. . . on evidence-based and best practices strategies to address improving student achievement and positive management techniques.”.

The other nine employees will serve as “district liaisons” for the nine elected board members. The positions will cost $59,000 through June 30.

According to the measure, the positions were created to address the state legislation, which says that the purpose of the school board is to increase parental and community engagement. “Individuals in this position will assist in the development, implementation and coordination of all activities related to parent, student and community engagement.”

Ovetta Wiggins covers Maryland state politics in Annapolis.

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