In its last meeting prior to the start of legislation changing the leadership structure of the Prince George’s County Board of Education, the board voted 7-1 to create 15 new full-time equivalent (FTE) positions directly answerable to the board as a whole or its members.
The motion was added to the Thursday afternoon meeting agenda as an emergency measure, and passed with no discussion.
The measure creates nine FTE district liaisons, five FTE compliance administrators and one FTE secretary.
Board member Donna Hathaway Beck (Dist. 9), the sole “no” vote on the measure, said it will double the number of board employees.
“It creates 15 individuals under the supervision of the board. They’re not under the supervision of the new CEO,” Beck said. She was referring to the title for the next school system leader, who, under state legislation passed last month, will be chosen by the county executive and largely independent of the board.
Last month, the Maryland General Assembly passed House Bill 1107, which adds four appointed members to the school board, allows the county executive to appoint the board’s chair and vice chair, and directs the school board to focus on student achievement and parent, student and community engagement.
The bill came as a compromise measure after Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III put forth a proposal giving him control of the school system and making the next superintendent a member of his cabinet.
The board objected strenuously to Baker’s proposal, and community groups and unions rallied to the board during the two weeks it took the Prince George’s County legislative delegation to work out a compromise measure that still strips the board of much of its autonomy.
The legislation is slated to take effect June 1.
Board chair Verjeana Jacobs (Dist. 5) said the new legislation prompted the need for the new positions.
“If you read the legislation, you’ll note it is going to hold the board accountable for the level of community engagement,” she said. “We want to make sure that we have the process in place to have the staff we’ll need to do that work.”
The new district liaisons, Jacobs said, will allow board members to “cover more ground” in their districts and foster stronger connections to their constituents.
Jacobs said the five compliance administrators are needed, as new members come onto the board, to ensure that the school board is in compliance with the new and existing legislation, and to provide additional fiscal monitoring of the system’s budget.
Board member Zabrina Epps (Dist. 1) said that during the two-week process that led to the passage of HB 1107, one of the criticisms leveled at the board by legislators was lack of communication. “With the addition of district liasons, we can supply additional outreach to our districts, as well as supplying additional points of contact,” Epps said.
Epps said that, with only one meeting each in April and May, it was important to have the measure in place before the June 1 changes.
“We wanted to make sure we could meet the demands of the legislation, as well as do the necessary processing,” Epps said. “We will need the new staff on board to help with the transition process.”
Beck, however, said she took issue with the manner in which the measure was passed.
“I feel it should have gone through the first and second reader process. There were components of it I could support, but I couldn’t support adding 15 staff people in the space of 15 seconds,” said Beck.
Although the board normally meets twice a month, Beck noted that no meeting is scheduled later this month.
The emergency resolution adds nine new full-time district liaisons, one for each elected member, five compliance administrators and an additional secretary to provide support for newly-appointed board members.
The measure also accounts for the salary and expenses for appointed board members for the month of June in the current fiscal year.
According to Acting Chief Financial Officer Tom Sheeran, the measure will add $1,944,104 to the fiscal year 2014 budget. That would include the annual salary ($18,000) and expense account ($7,000) each of the four new board members will be entitled to under the new law.
Sheeran said funding for the new positions will be worked out during next month’s budget reconciliation, following the return of the school system’s budget from Baker’s office.
The new positions, however, would not have been a part of the proposed budget submitted to county government by the school board last March.