Amid Controversy at Prince George's Schools, Former U.Md. Dean Joins Board

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker has filled a vacancy on the county’s school board.

Dr. Donna Wiseman, the former dean of the University of Maryland’s School of Education, was sworn in Wednesday. She filled the vacancy created when Dr. Beverly Anderson resigned in June.

In Anderson’s letter of resignation, she complained that the board of education — which has four members who are appointed by the county executive and nine members who are elected — was badly split. She also called the board “dysfunctional” and complained that Baker was not listening to her concerns.

After being sworn in, Wiseman acknowledged the controversy surrounding the board of education’s operations, as well as allegations that the school system had engaged in a form of fraud by changing students’ grades to boost graduation rates.

Wiseman said she’ll spend the first phase of her term listening to feedback.

“We just have to be open,” she said. “We have to listen to data. And yes, a very substantial investigation is extremely important.”

At Wednesday’s ceremony at the Prince George’s County Administration Building, Dr. Segun Eubanks, who’s served as the board chair, was reappointed to that position and sworn in along with Wiseman.

Both said they were open to the findings of the Maryland State Department of Education’s investigation into grade-fraud allegations. Wiseman and Eubanks were aware of “anecdotal” accounts of grade tampering, they said, but they wanted to see evidence of “systemic” grade changing before drawing any conclusions.

“Look, I’m a researcher,” said Wiseman, referring to her background in education. “I need to have a lot broader perspective. It’s the evidence that’s so important, and we need to see the whole picture.”

Eubanks agreed, saying grading policies had changed in Prince George’s County, with some innovative approaches for getting students ready to graduate.

“The accusations are that somehow, the administration or the board or people from the central office have put significant pressure on principals to actually force them to cut corners. And you’re not going to find that,” said Eubanks.

“If the state department [of education] is going to look at us,” he said, “look at everybody.”

“So far, we’ve got just some allegations that don’t have any real evidence associated with them,” Eubanks said.

If the Maryland State Department of Education does find wrongdoing in the system regarding the way grades were handled, Baker said, “then there will be huge changes here. It is unacceptable. It is not allowed.”

Baker said he told both Eubanks and Dr. Kevin Maxwell, school CEO: “If you know about this, if you think it’s going on — you need to cut it out. Because when we come in here and make the changes, it will be swift and it will be certain.”

The Maryland State Department of Education announced it was contracting a third party to conduct the investigation into grade changing. Applications for that contract closed last month.

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