ANNAPOLIS The absence of the Prince George’s county executive did not go unnoticed during county’s appeal before the Board of Public Works for additional school construction funding on Wednesday.
Halfway through Deputy Superintendent Robert E. Slade’s presentation, Treasurer Richard N. Dixon stopped him and asked where Wayne Curry, the county executive was.
“This is a poor showing for Prince George’s County,” said Dixon, one of the three board members.
Dixon’s words left the delegation momentarily speechless. Then senators, delegates, and county council members assured Dixon and the Board of Public Works that the county had plenty of representation.
“I know the senators and delegates are great,” Dixon replied. “I am just wondering where the county executive is?”
Delegate Carolyn J. B. Howard, D-Prince George’s, said she noticed Baltimore City Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke was not present for his delegation’s appeal. Nothing was said about his absence, she said.
Dixon, Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer comprise the board, which is responsible for approving state contracts and making the final decision on school construction funding.
The absences of Curry and Schmoke could have political origins. Both chose to support Glendening’s Democratic primary opponent in last year’s gubernatorial election. That initial lack of support has strained Curry and Schmoke’s relationship with the governor, according to Ray Feldmann, the governor’s press secretary.
Curry was scheduled to attend a meeting for the state’s top seven county executives from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Howard said Curry was never expected at the Board of Public Works.
The county executive, the school board, the senators, legislators, and the county councils are “all on the same page in support of these projects,” Slade said in response.
The county is supporting approximately $25 million in school projects, including initial planning for five elementary schools and one middle school.
Prince George’s appeal focused on three things: construction funding, including additional money for Ardmore Area High School, Northwestern High School, and the combination of New Hill Road Middle School and Benjamin Davis Elementary School; planning and construction funding, including money for major heating and cooling system replacement projects, science classroom renovations, and a disruptive youth program; and planning authority, including new elementary schools in the Greater Capitol Heights area, Colmar Manor, and Seat Pleasant and a middle school for the central section of the county, as well as renovations to Carmody Hills and Berwyn Heights elementary schools.
“The ability to educate a child cannot be captured once it’s lost and that’s what we are doing by crowding students in,” said Doyle Niemann, vice chairman of the Prince Georges Board of Education.
The county has 414 temporary structures currently in place, Niemann said, and those are inadequate for learning.
Niemann also said the county needs funds to replace aging and ineffective heating and cooling systems.
Sen. Ulysses Currie, D-Prince George’s, Delegate Rushern L. Baker, D-Prince George’s, and County Councilman Thomas R. Hendershot also supported the request for funds and assured the board that all of Prince George’s County — including Curry backed the proposal.
“Ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto, to everything my friends said,” Hendershot said. “We are all substantially, wholly unified.”