Prince George’s groups set to rally Saturday on school takeover proposal -- Gazette.Net


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This story was corrected at 10:38 a.m., March 22, 2013. An explanation of the correction is at the bottom of the story.

More than 30 members of the Prince George’s County NAACP and Citizens for an Elected Board met Wednesday night to rally participation for a Saturday meeting in Annapolis on County Executive Rushern L. Baker III’s proposed takeover of the school system.

Earlier this week, Baker announced his intention to introduce legislation that would take appointment and supervision of the school system’s superintendent away from the Board of Education and make it a cabinet post in his office. The shift would take away budgetary control from the board, add appointed members to the board and direct the board to focus on student achievement and parental involvement. The Prince George’s County House Delegation will hold a public meeting at 9 a.m. at the Lowe House Office Building, room 150 in Annapolis.

Delegation Chair Jolene Ivy (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly announced in a press release Thursday that the meeting would feature a discussion with Baker and Board of Education Chair Verjeana Jacobs “on the future structure of the county school board.”

Although there will be no chance for public comment during this meeting, the public is invited to submit written testimony to the delegation via email at pg2@mlis.state.md.us by March 27.

Bob Ross, president of the county branch of the NAACP, said the goal of Wednesday’s meeting at the NAACP’s Largo office wasn’t to persuade attendees one way or another, but to help educate the public “on how the [legislative] process works and what you have to do. Keep things simple as possible, whatever decision you make, pro or con.”

The legislation is being introduced as a 53-page amendment to HB1107, a bill authored by Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Dist. 23A) of Bowie to create a task force looking at best practices of school boards.

Leonard Lucchi, a county lobbyist, said the bill passed without the original amendments on the House side and the amendment is expected to be added on the Senate side, Lucchi said.

Lucchi said the county’s senators are seemingly strongly in favor of some form of this legislation and the bill would then go to the House on Monday for amendment approval.

“It’s currently up to the 23 delegates of Prince George’s County,” Lucchi said. “It takes 12 to pass or defeat the bill and my preliminary interviews with folks leads me to believe it’s close and that a push from different stakeholders in Prince George’s County could push it one way or the other.”

Bernie Horn, communications consultant and senior advisor with Washington, D.C.-based Progressive Majority Action Fund, a nonprofit progressive advocacy group, presented a list of “talking points” for anyone interested in opposing Baker’s plan.

“This is the biggest increase in power of any political body that I have heard of,” Horn said.

Correction: This story incorrectly reported the type of meeting scheduled Saturday as the public is invited to attend, but public testimony is not taken during a public meeting.

janfenson-comeau@gazette.net