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Reforms to county school board proposed

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Posted on: February 17, 2022

BY A.R. CABRAL

The Prince George’s County Board of Education Task Force finished their work Wednesday night with the submission of recommendations to improve the county’s education board.

All members of the task force unanimously voted in favor of the 18 recommendations created by three different subcommittees. 

“It’s the right time to take these recommendations seriously for change that is needed,” Sue Livera, a member of the task force and retired educator, said in an interview with the Hyattsville Life & Times. 

The task force was created in Nov. 2021 via executive order by Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks. According to the task force’s website, it was formed with the intent to study and review the operations of the Prince George’s County Board of Education.

The recommendations passed by the task force included:

Taskforce member John Erzena reported during the meeting that the recommendations made by the task force will be presented to Alsobrooks. The county executive will then take them to the General Assembly for further discussion.

The recommendations aim to improve and measure the success of the board of education. 

This news comes on heels of school board member Raaheela Ahmed’s resignation from the board and announcement of her campaign for the Maryland State Senate.

“The taskforce was comprised of leaders from multiple stakeholder groups, and we worked extremely well together by bringing our respective expertise to the table,” wrote Dr. Sean T. Coleman, chair of the task force and the associate dean in the College of Education at Bowie State University, in a Feb. 4 email.

“There definitely should be elected members; I kind of prefer this hybrid model we have right now,” Joseph Jakuta said during testimony at the Dec. 8 task force meeting. Jakuta explained that a hybrid model incorporates a system of checks and balances, similar to how the state and federal governments are run.

Patrick Paschall, a parent of two children who attend Hyattsville Elementary School, wholeheartedly endorsed the recommendations of the task force.

“Our school board is dysfunctional right now; the reason it is dysfunctional is because of the infighting over ethics violations and broken laws,” Paschall said.

Paschall cited a July 2021 Maryland Matters article that reported on board member stalemates with the board chair, Dr. Juanita D. Miller; ethics complaints resulting from violations of conflict of interest rules; and “the board’s epic battles over hiring, contracting and procedure.”

The article described the dysfunctions of the board, including cyberbullying between members, a lack of legal representation and combative factions.  

Paschall is a member of the Hyattsville Elementary School PTA and testified for the task force workgroup on Dec. 8, 2021.

“This school board is not doing much operating or serving because they’re fighting over petty squabbles and personality differences, rather than serving students,” Paschall said in an interview with the Hyattsville Life & Times.

During a Prince George’s County Council meeting on Feb. 8, lobbyist Hayley Evans mentioned that conversations are ongoing between the county executive’s office and Delegate Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk, the sponsor of PG 503-22, the bill that established the task force. 

The result of these conversations is HB0355, presented by the Prince George’s County Delegation, which if passed will create a workgroup on the operation and membership of the county’s board of education. The hearing for the bill is set for March 3.

A.R. Cabral is an intern at the Hyattsville Life & Times.

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