This is the statement by the four fearless and selfless school board members on the school graduation controversy in Prince Georges County Public Schools (PGCPS). It looks many whistleblowers are coming forward to substantiate their concerns after their letter to the governor requesting an investigation of PGCPS graduation rates, and the response from the CEO and other board members. Keep up the good work David Murray, Edward P. Burroughs III, Raaheela Ahmed and Juwan Blocker.
June 20, 2017
As elected school board members that represent one-third of the county’s electorate plus the student body, it is our responsibility to look into issues brought to us by our community. Over the past few months, various teachers, administrators, staff, parents, and students felt the need to come to us with concerns about graduation rates, and we did our due diligence to look into them and speak the resulting truth. After all, as we teach our kids, if you see something, say something.
We saw enough to say something confidentially to an authority that we had hoped would listen to our concerns and take them seriously. What happened as a result? Denial and retaliation. Our CEO has called our plea ‘politically-motivated’ and denies any systematic issue, and the majority of our colleagues have asked for our resignation. It’s disheartening that the board would come out with this position before thoroughly reviewing the evidence from all sides, as we did. It is this kind of dismissal that we feared would occur had we gone to local leaders first. It’s proven to be true.
If this is the backlash we, as board members and elected officials, receive for trying to speak up on an issue, we can only imagine the kinds of backlash our system employees would receive in speaking up.
We were absolutely unaware that MSDE had done an investigation on the matter earlier this year. Neither the CEO nor Board leadership informed us of it previous to yesterday evening, when it went out as a blast to school system stakeholders and the media. We now have an additional concern that this investigation was hidden from us, similar to how Head Start was hidden from us. Doubt arises on how many more investigations have occurred that the board is not aware of.
Upon review of the MSDE report, it appears that investigative findings were made without input from school-based individuals that live the day-to-day operations at our schools. Rather, the investigation was largely one-sided, led by statements from the accused – Dr. Maxwell – and his central office staff. We are asking MSDE to re-open its investigation and work with other authoritative entities, like the Maryland Attorney General, to allow a safe avenue for whistleblowers to come forward so that an even more thorough and objective investigation can occur.
We are all recent graduates of our system; we care deeply about it. It is this passion that drove us to serve on the School Board in the first place, and it is with this determination that we work to ensure a quality, honest, and ethical education for all our students. Let’s be clear: legitimate student success is worth every ounce of celebration, but if a school’s math proficiency on standardized testing is in the single digits when graduation rates are over 90%, then what are we really celebrating? As representatives of the community, we have a responsibility to be transparent about where we are and work to right the wrongs; we have a responsibility to do what’s right and speak truth to power. We understand there is a price to pay when exposing wrongdoing – and we are prepared to pay that price. That’s our commitment to PGCPS.