On Monday, as Kevin Maxwell pondered challenges awaiting as new CEO of Prince George's County schools, he reflected upon his seven-year tenure as Anne Arundel County Public Schools superintendent, saying he's proudest of programs he implemented, yet regrets not doing more to further narrow the county's achievement gap.
Maxwell formally resigned from Anne Arundel County's public schools last week and was introduced by Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III as chief executive officer of that county's troubled school system.
Maxwell said at a Monday press conference he hopes to finish his career at Prince George's County schools, where he will become the eighth superintendent in 14 years.
"I'm excited about the opportunity that lies ahead to go back to Prince George's County, where I started my career," said Maxwell, who lives in Bowie and worked for Prince George's County Public Schools for some 22 years. He also worked in Montgomery County Public Schools for six years before coming to Anne Arundel.
Maxwell, 61, took over Anne Arundel school system — the state's fifth largest with about 78,000 students — in July 2006. During his tenure AACPS launched the county's magnet programs as part of the school system's Programs of Choice initiatives to offer more educational choices for students and their families.
"It may be odd to say as I'm getting ready to leave, but I am proud of the stability we've brought to this school district," Maxwell said. "I'm the first superintendent to have renewed a contract in Anne Arundel County since Carol Parham, for whom the board office is named."
Some Anne Arundel officials last week expressed surprise and disappointment at Maxwell's sudden resignation. On Saturday the county's school board met for two hours in closed session to begin its process of naming an interim superintendent and selecting a permanent successor. The board said in a prepared statement that it will meet again on Wednesday in closed session.
"When you go through interview processes, whether they're for assistant principals or principals in our district or any other district I'm aware of, or superintendents, those are confidential matters," Maxwell said regarding his decision. He added that Prince George's County officials had set a date on which they would announce his appointment, but plans changed once word of his hiring leaked to the press.
"So the notification had to change a little bit," said Maxwell. "The board wished that they had known things sooner, but when you're asked to hold things in confidence, I take that very, very seriously."
Maxwell answered a few questions relating to some things he wishes he could have done better while at the helm of Anne Arundel schools. For instance, in 2005, the school system and the U.S. Justice Department signed a memorandum of agreement to address disparities in achievement after local civil rights groups and parents filed a complaint to the Office for Civil Rights. The county school board agreed to close the achievement gap by 2012, and local NAACP officials said last week the school system has fallen short of that goal.
Maxwell said, "We have done some narrowing of the gap and reduced the number of suspensions and expulsions, particularly of minority children, but if there is one regret I wish I had been even more successful."
Maxwell said that currently there isn't a definitive date as to when he must leave Anne Arundel County or report to Prince George's County — but said there are some vacancies at key positions there. He said he hopes to report no later than Aug. 1. First day of schools in the district is Aug. 19.
"There is a need to evaluate the current structure and see if that is going to meet the expectations that I have for how I want to go about accomplishing the work," he said.
He said among his priorities for Prince George's are continued improvement in reading and math scores as well as confidence in the school system from county residents.