Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) announced Friday he was extending the contract for Kevin Maxwell, the schools chief executive officer, giving the educator another four years to continue reform efforts despite recent abuse scandals that led to calls for Maxwell’s resignation.
It is the first time in nearly 25 years that a superintendent in Prince George’s County will get a second term. Before Maxwell, the state’s second-largest school system had seven superintendents in less than two decades.
Maxwell is paid just under $300,000 a year. He was appointed by Baker in 2013, shortly after the state legislature awarded the county executive broad new power over school-system governance.
His leadership is a central part of Baker’s plan to overhaul and stabilize the system after years of scandal, poor performance and dwindling public trust.
Maxwell, who grew up in and began his career in Prince George’s County, has seen graduation rates reach record highs at some schools. Enrollment and some test scores also have increased.
He expanded full-day prekindergarten and language-immersion offerings, and increased participation in dual-enrollment programs that allow high school students to take college-level courses.
But the system faced sexual-abuse and child-abuse cases last year involving school personnel, including a one-time aide who now faces decades in prison. The allegations led to a federal investigation and the loss of control by the school system of millions of dollars in Head Start funding.
“It has been challenging but at the same time, it’s been some of the most rewarding work that I have ever done,” Maxwell said at a news conference at DuVal High School, where he introduced a specialized academic program focused on aerospace science.
Maxwell cited letters he has received from grateful students, the number of strategic business and philanthropic partnerships that school officials have brokered and a more than $44 million increase in the value of scholarships offered to county graduates in 2016.
“I see this as my capstone for my career,” he said. “I see this as my legacy and reinvesting in the community that gave me the life that I have today.”
More than three dozen business, government, philanthropic leaders and school board members attended the announcement, giving Maxwell a standing ovation as he ticked off his administration’s accomplishments.
Absent were at least three elected members of the Board of Education, including Edward Burroughs III, one of Maxwell’s most strident critics. He led calls for Maxwell to step down following revelations that a Head Start worker forced a child to mop up their own urine and texted a photo to the child’s mother.
Amid the fallout, Maxwell asked his chief of staff to resign over an email that appeared to suggest that school administrators tried to keep the Head Start scandal quiet.
There were separate allegations of abuse, involving a school bus aide accused of molesting students.
Baker, who is term-limited in 2018, said he “never lost confidence” in Maxwell through all the “bumps and stumbles.”
“Have we had problems? Yes,” Baker said. “The question is how we react. . . . I want him to continue the work he is doing.”