SCHOOL REFORM in Prince George’s County is in its infancy. The governance structure that gave County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) more involvement in school issues is a little more than three years old, and the superintendent he recruited is just now coming to grips with the myriad challenges facing the system. The last thing that Prince George’s students need is to have the plug pulled on this fragile progress, which makes next month’s elections for the board of education important.
The nonpartisan elections come amid tension between those who support the improvement effort led by Mr. Baker and those who want to undo the legislation giving the county executive a role in education. There is no question that serious problems exist — notably student safety issues highlighted by troubling incidents involving Head Start and the arrests of school personnel for abusing children — but there also have been hopeful signs. Chief Executive Officer Kevin M. Maxwell has put forward a strategic plan and can point to improvement in graduation rates, expansion of full-day pre-kindergarten and the addition of specialty education programs.
Five seats on the 14-member board, a hybrid of elected and appointed members, will be filled Nov. 8. The 1st District seat being vacated by Zabrina Epps will be filled by David Murray, a former member of the Maryland State Board of Education making his third run, after his opponent moved to Virginia and dropped out of the race. Mr. Murray is smart and capable.
In the 4th District, incumbent Patricia Eubanks is being challenged for reelection by Abel Olivo , stay-at-home father of two children in the public schools. Ms. Eubanks is one of the board’s more low-key members, but as a single mother who successfully shepherded two children through the schools, she brings valuable perspective to the board. She has been an advocate for early childhood education and pushed for new ways to engage parents. She deserves reelection.
The 5th District race pits Cheryl Landis , longtime community activist and school employee, against Raaheela Ahmed, a federal government financial consultant, for the seat opened by Jeana Jacobs’s loss in the April primary. Ms. Ahmed brings heart and energy to her second run for the board but Ms. Landis is the better choice by virtue of her experience, deep knowledge and level-headed approach to governing. Ms. Landis — who is backed by Mr. Baker — is focused on the academic achievement of children and how to engage the entire community in collaborative efforts to support schools.
In the 7th District, K. Alexander Wallace , appointed to the board last year by Mr. Baker, deserves a four-year term. In his short time on the board, Mr. Wallace has established himself as a thoughtful member attuned to the needs of both his district and the countywide system. His priorities include finding ways to retain good teachers and engaging parents and alumni. His opponent is John E. Richardson, a former teacher who now works for the county’s department of transportation and public works.
Incumbent Edward Burroughs III is widely seen as the favorite in the 8th District for a third term, but his challenger, county school teacher Stephanie Hinton, offers a better choice with a pragmatic and positive approach. That Mr. Burroughs sees his No. 1 priority as trying to undo the legislation that reshaped the school board and has led an effort to oust Mr. Maxwell is indicative of his destructive approach. Ms. Hinton, by contrast, has offered an eight-point platform focused on making schools safe and positive learning environments for students.