ANNAPOLIS – Prince George’s County delegates have drafted a bill to create a task force to closely monitor the county Board of Education.
The bill, scheduled for a vote this morning at the county’s delegation meeting, is designed to ensure that members of the board “carry out their duties as expected,” said Delegate Obie Patterson, D-Prince George’s, county affairs committee chair.
Delegate James W. Hubbard, D-Prince George’s, the county education subcommittee chairman, sponsored the bill because “there has been concern raised about accountability and responsibility of school board members,” Patterson said.
Patterson called the task force a “fact-finding exercise”, whose duties would include examining other possible means of governing the county’s school system, funding sources for the county’s schools and ensuring the board uses and reports these funds to the county, according to the bill.
Future means of improving the school system and student performance would also be studied.
“I gather from time to time any school board could stand a review of what we want to correct, what we want to enhance,” Patterson said.
Kenneth E. Johnson, school board chairman, responded angrily to the bill.
“I don’t need anyone else telling me what to do,” he said. “You would have 16 people (on the task force) who don’t have a clue as to what’s going on.”
The 16-member task force, made up of appointed county officials and members of the public, would meet periodically until Dec. 20, 2001, when the findings are to be reported to county officials, including the county executive and superintendent of schools.
The task force will not replace the Management Oversight Panel, which monitors school system improvements. The MOP may be evaluated by the task force, and the main difference is that it will have more power to examine records and procedures, “whereas the MOP may not have the authority to look at all the ins and outs,” Patterson said.
The bill comes in response to the “breakdown of communication” between the Management Oversight Panel, the county superintendent’s office, and the county Board of Education, Patterson said.
The bill was filed last summer, just after the spending of board members came into question, according to published reports. School board members have been accused of using their expense accounts for personal expenses and for overspending.
The bill also comes at a time when the county’s schools are particularly troubled.
Last year, students who took the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests scored well below the state average, according to the Maryland State Department of Education web site. And last month, four Prince George’s schools were put on a list of schools with such poor performance that they are at risk of state takeover.