UPPER MARLBORO — Following the resignation of Board of Education (BOE) Chair Segun Eubanks, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced Alvin Thornton as his replacement on Dec. 5.
“I am eager to join the CEO and my fellow board members to work collaboratively on behalf of our babies,” Thornton said. “I call them our babies, I’ve been calling them that for 40 years in Prince George’s County because it expresses the love that I have for them.”
During a live announcement with Interim CEO Monica Goldson, District 8 Board of Education Member Edward Burroughs and newly appointed Board of Education member Paul Montiero also in attendance, Alsobrooks and Goldson expressed their gratitude for having Thornton on the BOE and the asset he will be to the school system.
“Today is monumental,” Goldson said. “It’s monumental because we have the opportunity to have a three-term chair, former chair of Prince George’s County Board of Education, rejoin our ranks. And it’s an opportunity for us to begin to continue the process that we’ve been doing of instilling trust back into our community.”
Thornton comes from an extensive career in education and education finance, having already served as chair of the Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) BOE for three terms in the past.
He was a professor at Howard University for 40 years and was appointed by former Gov. Parris Glendening as chairman of the state’s Commission on Education, Finance, Equity and Excellence in 1996.
He also created the Thornton Commission, a state school aid formula to ensure that all schools and school systems in Maryland would have the resources to provide every child with equal education.
“If you can imagine how honored we are today to have been able to appoint to act as chair of our school board the person who created the Thornton Commission with his extensive knowledge of funding at the state level,” Alsobrooks said. “He has extensive knowledge of our school system, so this is really a wonderful relationship we’re developing.”
Thornton’s appointment to BOE Chair comes after a controversial period in PGCPS history where former CEO Kevin Maxwell had a term filled with scandals and after his resignation in July, he received a $790,000 severance.
Former BOE Chair Segun Eubanks served in his position for four years after being appointed by Then-County Executive Rushern Baker, III.
In addition to the negotiation of Maxwell’s hefty severance, Eubanks was also on the receiving end of a lawsuit after he allegedly assaulted Burroughs after a BOE meeting over the summer.
Although the charges were dropped, the Republican Central Committee for Prince George’s County started a petition in August to get him removed from office.
Eubanks announced his resignation on Nov. 29 effective either Jan. 1 or when Alsobrooks appointed a replacement for him.
Alsobrooks highlighted a number of challenges that PGCPS still faces. The school system educatedsthe largest number of disabled students in the state as well as the most significant number of students who speak English as a second language. Additionally, 62 percent of students received free and reduced lunch.
However, the school system has made progress as it was announced on Dec. 4 that 83.6 percent of schools in PGCPS, a total of 168 schools out of the 207 public schools in the county, received at least a three-star rating on Maryland’s new five-star rating system.
Aligned with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new accountability system is designed to ensure that every student has post-secondary success.
Only 197 schools were rated, nine did not qualify under the ESSA’s standards. Nine schools, seven elementary, one high and one charter, received five stars and three high schools received one star.
Last month, the Kirwan Commission attended a BOE meeting to make a series of recommendations to improve the school system greatly.
These recommendations included investing in early childhood education, providing significantly more support for at-risk students, turning teaching into a high status profession with greater compensation so that more people want to be teachers, implementing a rigorous curriculum benchmarked to international standards which can lead to to college readiness and industry certified workforce credentials and significantly strengthen governance and accountability.
Alsobrooks said Thornton’s background will be critical in navigating the Kirwan formula and ensuring that all schools are fully funded.
“This is one of the first announcements that we’re making in our administration and it is not by accident,” Alsobrooks said. “It is because we all believe that in this country education is the great equalizer, so we start here for all of our students.
It is the most profound obligation of government is to educate all of our children, and we are committed to it. We are doing it together, and that’s the reason this announcement is so important to us.”
Burroughs will work directly with Thornton in this process along with Monteiro, former chief of staff at Howard University and Democratic candidate for county executive during the June primary election. Monteiro came in last week as one of Alsobrooks’ many new appointments to her cabinet and other local offices.
“At the level of making sure all of our children had adequate and equitable access to the resources that they need and that we have a governance umbrella over our children that is collaborative and shared and respected,” Thornton said.
“If we combine those two things, adequate and equitable funding with an accountability structure, an umbrella of consensus at all levels, federal, state and local, we will be able to achieve all of the things that our county executive wants us to achieve and our leaders.”