By an 11-to-1 vote, the Prince George’s County school board gave final approval Oct. 24 to begin using two new textbooks — however, the books had already been purchased and distributed to students at the beginning of the school year.
The two textbooks, Algebra II and Geometry, had been approved by the school system’s textbook committees last spring, but were not brought to the board at that time.
“The procedures for the school system were not followed adequately in the case of the ... Algebra II and geometry textbook adoption,” said school system CEO Kevin Maxwell. “They were approved [by the textbook committee] back in the spring, but there was a delay in bringing them to the board.”
Maxwell said the purchasing department ordered the books and delivered them to the schools in advance of final board approval.
The school system’s Administrative Procedure 6180.1 states that textbook selections are to be presented to the school board for approval by the end of March and prior to purchasing.
The procedural lapse occurred prior to the Aug. 1 start of Maxwell’s tenure.
The cost of the textbooks, $1.3 million, had already been budgeted into the current year budget.
Chief Academics Officer A. Duane Arbogast said the new textbooks are needed as they are aligned more closely with the Common Core education standards being adopted by Maryland.
“We felt that our old books were so far off the mark from where we needed to be with Common Core, we just needed to replace them,” Arbogast said.
Arbogast said that normally the school system replaces textbooks every eight to 10 years, and the previous Algebra II and geometry books should have been replaced a few years ago, but hadn’t been due to school system budget cuts.
The textbooks were selected by a committee comprised of high school mathematics teachers and instructional specialists in the school system’s Department of Mathematics.
Education activist David Cahn said he didn’t question the need for the new books, but the way in which it was done.
“I’m not knocking the textbooks, it’s the way we’re going about purchasing them with very little knowledge on the part of the school board and very little knowledge on the part of the public,” Cahn said. “I think there’s a problem getting enough information in a timely fashion to the board and to the public.”
School board member Verjeana Jacobs (Dist. 5) cast the sole “nay” vote in final approval of the textbooks.
“We just had this long discussion about how this is going to benefit students, but in reality, these books are already in the classrooms anyway. My ‘no’ vote was not about the textbooks necessarily,” Jacobs said. “It was really more about how we’ve got to do a better job following protocol and processes.”
Arbogast said there was no intent to hide anything, but that the paperwork just got misplaced.
“We’ve set procedures in places so this shouldn’t happen again,” Arbogast said.