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Prince George’s school board leadership calls for a special meeting on budget; other actions paused until audit

Prince George’s County Public Schools Board of Education chair and vice-chair called for a special board meeting to vote on the budget Thursday, and said all other board initiatives will be on hold until an audit is complete.

The agenda for the meeting only includes March 2021 expenditures and FY2022 Board of Education Requested Annual Operating Budget that the board has to vote on because it has to be sent to the county executive by March 1. There will be no public comment portion during this meeting, according to the agenda.

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Chairperson Juanita Miller canceled Last week’s board meeting as she called for several investigations into board activities, which some board members called a “unilateral shutdown of board operations.” She has called for an external audit of all board initiated contracts for the past two years, a review of a reorganization initiated prior to her appointment and a performance audit of board operations to ensure they are in alignment with policies and standard operating procedures.

“We were not planning to have a meeting Thursday but after further discussion, we determined we would limit it to the core functions of the board. Since we were 72 hours from a meeting we were able to call this special meeting to solely focus on the budget and expenditures,” Vice-Chair Sonya Williams said. “Continuing with more items that we are investigating would not be prudent for the board to do. So that’s why we limited it to the work that we have to do as a board and only those items.”

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Edward Burroughs III, who represents District 8, said the board leadership canceled the regularly scheduled board meeting and called the special meeting to only discuss the items on the agenda because, at a normal meeting, members would be able to amend the agenda to talk about what they think matters.

Burroughs calls the leadership actions, “Reckless and immature and not student-centered.” He wanted to vote on “equity learning hubs” that would provide in-person instruction to serve students struggling in the distance learning system used since classrooms were closed because of COVID precautions.

Montgomery County, Charles County and Baltimore City have the hubs already, according to Burroughs.

Miller said until an outside review and ethical review has been done, the board will only do the budget and oversight.

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“Items that board members have initiated, those are just put on pause until this investigation has been concluded,” Miller said.

Burroughs said that making sure students are educated in the middle of a pandemic is also a core function.

District 5 representative Raaheela Ahmed said it is unacceptable that there are only two items for action on the agenda.

“It’s a slap in the face to the community members and officials that elected or appointed us to do this work,” Ahmed said. “There is no good reason why we can’t meet to discuss and vote on issues like re-opening, equity learning hubs, climate change action, or the school-to-prison pipeline. This is negligence from board leadership.”

Depending on the outcome of the investigation, board members’ initiatives that followed proper processes will be able to move forward and ones that weren’t will not go in front of the board, according to Williams. No timetable has been set and they are waiting to hear back from the state department of education to see if it will audit the board.

Miller said the pause on most board actions won’t impact the opening of schools or student’s daily education and that schools will reopen in-person for hybrid learning in April.

Ahmed and four other members requested two emergency board meetings to discuss items they weren’t able to discuss due to the canceled meeting. It is undetermined if these meetings will happen or not, she said.

For the next meeting on March 11, Miller will determine what will be placed on the agenda, she said.

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