This story was corrected on May 15, 2013. An explanation follows the story.
The Prince George’s County NAACP announced Tuesday morning it is throwing its support behind legislation giving the county executive more control over the Prince George’s County school system.
“It is time to put the madness aside. It is time for the community to come together for our children, and that is what we are trying to do,” said Bob Ross, president of the county chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Ross said his organization’s executive committee voted 21-1 to withdraw from a coalition of community groups seeking to force House Bill 1107 to a referendum vote after meeting with members of the coalition and County Executive Rushern Baker III (D) on May 7.
The bill, signed into law in April, gives the county executive the power to pick the next superintendent from three candidates named by a state-appointed board as well as appoint three members to the school board, with the County Council appointing a fourth, and to choose the board’s chair and vice chair, all beginning June 1. Currently, the school board selects the superintendent.
“We were opposed to HB 1107 and we went to Annapolis fighting tooth and nail,” Ross said. “But we had to make a decision. Who were we fighting for? We are fighting for the children of Prince George’s County.”
Ross said the change came after the committee considered the timeline of a successful effort to bring the bill to referendum; the referendum would not be voted on until fall 2014 and, if successful, would not take effect until January 2015.
“The time period to bring this to a referendum would be almost two years before we could get a superintendent, and that was the deciding factor, the time,” Ross said.
The decision marks a significant break with the education watchdog organization Citizens for an Elected Board. The two organizations worked together in 2002 when the elected school board was replaced by an appointed board, and fought successfully to restore an elected board in 2006.
“I’m clearly disappointed in the decision of the [NAACP] executive committee to join with the political forces of the county to shut out the voice of the people in the governance of the schools. It’s clearly counter-historic,” said Janis Hagey, co-chair of Citizens for an Elected Board.
The coalition still plans to collect signatures for a referendum vote. It needs 8,000 signatures from registered voters by May 31 to prevent the bill from going into effect June 1, and 24,000 signatures by June 30 to force the legislation to a vote of Prince George’s County residents.
Deborah Sell, president of Prince Georgians for an Informed Citizenry, a community advocacy group that has taken a leadership role in the coalition, said an informational meeting is planned 6:30 p.m. May 21 at the Sasscer Administration Building in Upper Marlboro.
Correction: The date of the informational meeting is May 21.