ANNAPOLIS – Prince George’s County lawmakers Friday approved measures to make the county’s public schools more accountable to the county’s Management Oversight Panel, the group in charge of overseeing school system improvements.
The requirements, contained in amendments to the state budget bill, would mandate that the county’s Board of Education and schools Superintendent Iris T. Metts file a series of reports with the MOP on poor-performing schools and principal and teacher involvement.
In addition, the board would submit quarterly reports to the panel on how fiscal and other recommended reforms are being implemented and how much money has been saved and in what areas.
Metts and the board would be prohibited from taking any action on any initiatives until the MOP comments within a certain time period, the amendments say.
Failure to use the MOP’s comments would require the school system to provide a written explanation to the MOP and State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick.
The proposed changes are in response to what has been viewed as a lack of communication between the school board, superintendent and the MOP.
The MOP was formed three years ago after a review of the school system, facing low student performance, was conducted. The oversight panel’s function is to make sure the recommendations to reform curriculum and spending are implemented.
Changes in school performance take time, and the school system has been working hard to make changes, Metts said.
“It’s not that we’re not following up, but it’s unrealistic to think we can have that quick of a turnaround in the system,” she said.
The amendments passed 16-5 among county delegates, and 5-1 among senators.
While some lawmakers said the measures would hold the school system more accountable, others said they were an effort to micromanage the county’s education system.
“We either have faith in the superintendent or we don’t have faith in the superintendent,” said Sen. Nathaniel Exum, D-Prince George’s.
Legislators also said the MOP is getting more power than it deserves, especially in light of what they see as its underperformance.
“We’re giving them all this power but we’re not holding them accountable for their actions,” said Delegate Darren Swain, D-Prince George’s.
For the last two years, said Delegate Obie Patterson, D-Prince George’s, the panel has not fulfilled its duty because it holds short and too few meetings. Language to make the oversight panel more accountable would be more effective, Patterson said.
“I really feel the MOP is getting away clean,” he said. “I am not pleased with (its) performance . . . We need (the MOP) to make a commitment.”
While Patterson voted for the amendments, he said the fact that the board and superintendent may have to wait as long as 45 days for MOP recommendations on any initiatives would make it difficult for the school system to implement changes effectively.
Under the legislation, Metts would have to submit quarterly progress reports on getting principals and teachers involved in school improvement.
“I don’t think any good superintendent would expect to run a system and not get input . . . and report back,” Metts said.
The implication that she has not been keeping in touch was insulting, Metts said, who added that she has met with more principals and kept more in contact with schools than any superintendent in the past 10 years.
The new responsibilities of the board and superintendent toward the MOP do not give the group more power, said Beatrice Tignor, a member of the MOP.
“There’s no power in making recommendations,” Tignor said.
The proposed changes will now be brought before a joint House and Senate committee, which will decide whether to approve the amendments to the state’s budget bill.