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UPPER MARLBORO – Former Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell will receive a $790,000 severance package after a lengthy debate in the Board of Education’s final meeting before the start of the upcoming school year.
The Board of Education (BOE) voted to accept Maxwell’s May 1 resignation “effective immediately,” reaching a settlement “based upon advice from legal counsel” according to a press release.
The finalization of Maxwell’s two year, six-figure severance package attracted criticism, considering Maxwell’s tenure was riddled with scandal. From the loss of a Head Start grant that costed the county $6.5 million every year, to unauthorized staff pay raises that were as high as 36 percent, to allegations of grade inflation that resulted in the graduation of students who did not meet the necessary requirements.
Prior to the vote, not all board members supported the decision of the severance package. BOE David Murray of District 1 disagreed of the methods of how the package was created and said that the funds should go back into the school system.
“This $800,000 is money that we could be utilizing right now to pay our employees, to give our students everything that they need, and that’s no small amount of money,” Murray said.
“I was not privy to the details of all the negotiations but it’s mind boggling to me that when we can’t find money for pens and pencils, we can’t get our students new textbooks, we can’t even replace 30-year-old temporaries or fill all of our bus driver positions, that we have money to pay the superintendent that absorbent amount to not do his job”
However, District 7 member K. Alexander Wallace reminded meeting attendees of the possible consequences of not accepting the agreement. Providing examples of Howard, Baltimore and Montgomery counties going to court with outgoing superintendent and paying more after losing, Wallace said that option could end “costing us more.” Maxwell still had three years remaining up in his contract and possible litigation would have cost a “$1.3 million payout.”
“So it is either nothing and [Maxwell] stays and we have a system in turmoil with leadership; we go to court and we know how that story ends and pay more than three times what we settled here or we hit the restart button,” Wallace said. “Those three options are not palatable, I am sure it is a risk for some of my colleagues to vote for but I am all about the projection forward.”
Before the vote, Murray asked for the resignation of BOE Chair Segun C. Eubank and received the approval from fellow member Edward Burroughs III of District 8, calling Eubanks a “weak negotiator.” Following the meeting, Burroughs filed charges against Eubanks, who pinned him up against the wall and threatened him. Police had to separate both men.
“I think this board would be better off with absolute new leadership,” says Burroughs. “I think that the leadership has enabled this bad behavior that has led us through scandal after scandal after scandal, and now we’re here in this position losing over, or about $800,000 in tax dollars, and if we’re really going to turn a new leaf, we cannot do it with, no offense, a relative of the county executive leading the board, especially with the track record that we’re currently in.”
In a statement from the Prince George’s County Educators’ Association (PGCEA), Maryland’s largest teachers’ union, President Theresa Mitchell Dudley described this decision as “appalling” and “particularly outrageous given that educators who are steps behind are being told there isn’t enough money to reopen contract negotiations to improve teacher pay.”
“Eight hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money. That’s several teachers that could be working in our system. Or it could be used towards improving salaries,” says Dudley. “The school board should reopen our contract for negotiations [of teacher salaries]. If you have money to give somebody a million dollars, almost $800,000 in severance… it’s not about if they have the money, it’s if they have the will, and I just don’t think that here’s a will to do what’s right by people.”
Following Maxwell’s resignation, the BOE announced on July 12 that current Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Dr. Monica E. Goldson will take over as Acting CEO. During her 27-year career in PGCPS, she began in the classroom at Suitland High School and worked up to serving as Chief Operating Officer for the county.
She will perform Maxwell’s role until County Executive Baker appoints the interim CEO to serve during the 2018-2019 school year.