Incumbent District 1 school board rep resigns

Rosalind Johnson, the Prince George's County Board of Education member representing District 1, resigned from her position Tuesday, Oct. 16.

Johnson's resignation follows a report Monday, Oct. 15 from The Washington Post that she was no longer living in District 1, a violation of Maryland law.

Johnson, 68, formerly of Laurel, moved out of District 1 in June to care for her dying mother in New Carrollton.

"My mother's illness became very extreme," Johnson said in an interview Tuesday. "She needed 24-hour care, essentially, and I couldn't not be around her all the time."

Johnson said she knew living outside the district she represented was against the law, but she wanted to finish her term. Living outside of District 1 — a distance of about 11 miles, she said — had no impact on the quality of her service.

"There was nothing I missed," she said. "I never missed a (board) session; I never missed a vote or input in terms of what I needed to be prepared, so no, it did not (impact service). ... This is about a decision I made to continue to do the valuable work for the children, and to work well and hard for District 1.

"Even though I had family issues, there was never any loss of anything that District 1 needed. The fact is that District 1 is very stable, and very rich in terms of community investment. (Based on that) this is a decision I could make."

Johnson admitted she had not informed her fellow board members or County Executive Rushern Baker III that she had moved.

"I contacted no one. I communicated with no one," she said. "I just continued to do the work."

According to online court records, Johnson filed for bankruptcy in 2008.

Close to election

Johnson's decision comes three weeks before the general election and a little more than a month before the end of her term. She announced earlier this year she was not seeking re-election and was retiring from public service.

Two contenders — Zabrina Epps, 40, of Laurel; and David Murray, 20, of Bowie — are vying for her open seat. Johnson beat out challenger Murray in the 2010 election and has endorsed Epps for the general election.

Epps declined to comment whether she thought Johnson's resignation would affect her campaign.

"With three weeks left, my focus is running a strong race to represent District 1 as their next school board member," Epps said.

Epps said she believed that Johnson's situation is "a portrait of what is happening to families throughout our county in this economic downturn, so I can empathize with her."

Mike McLaughlin, a former candidate for Johnson's District 1 seat who dropped out of the race before the primary, also empathized with Johnson.

"I've lost a parent after a long illness, and I know the stress it takes over your life," he said.

McLaughlin, of Laurel, questioned the timing of the revelation that Johnson had moved out of District 1 — so close to the elections and to Johnson's retirement — and said it left him both sad and angry.

"Roz should have reported her move (in June) and resigned then," he said. "By not doing so, she did break the law, and she put the work she did on the board in jeopardy. ... I still wonder about the motivation behind this revelation at this time."

Epps' opponent, Murray, said he was disappointed to hear about Johnson's move and resignation.

"I understand that she had some very difficult circumstances, but I feel (resigning) was the right move," he said. "It's important laws are administered equally to everyone. I think it was the right call."

Murray declined to comment whether a lack of residency had impacted Johnson's representation of District 1, but said "she went out in a difficult way after serving on the board for so long."

Johnson was first elected to the Board of Education in 2006, and won re-election again for a two-year term in 2010. She has lived in Prince George's County for 58 years, and taught Spanish and French in county schools for more than 35 years — first retiring in 2000, then returning as a rehired teacher until 2003. From 2003-2005 she served as a substitute teacher and earlier said Laurel High was the last school where she taught for a continuous period of time.

"I had spent my entire adult life in Prince George's County Public Schools," she said Tuesday. "It was important to continue the work I had started. ... I made the decision I wanted to make. It was right in regard with what I should have done (but) with not notifying (others of the move) that clearly was wrong. ... One has to accept responsibility for the decisions they've made."

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