Investigating Head Start and other PG school fiascoes

With so many news reports about the abuse of vulnerable children and the county’s loss of Head Start program funds and control, perhaps it is time for Gov. Larry Hogan to step in and arrange for a comprehensive investigation of the Prince George’s school system, either by a qualified and truly independent investigator, or by the state Board of Education (if they can be trusted to do the job honestly).

In his 2010 inauguration speech, Rushern Baker said:

Some have asked, “Are you planning on taking direct control over the county schools?” My answer is no, but let me say this: I will also not sit idly by and be silent. 
Despite what Mr. Baker said then, he later went ahead and persuaded the General Assembly to give him substantial control over the schools.

Neither Mr. Baker’s inauguration speech, nor his request to his enablers in the General Assembly said that he would use his control of the county schools as a high paid jobs program for his cronies or that he would (1) tolerate sexual predators and bullies who would prey upon and humiliate our youngest, most vulnerable children, (2) protect the high paid cronies who allowed that behavior to continue, (3) allow the destruction of, and give up funding for and control of, what was once among the most successful of the county schools’ programs, or  (4) that he would, in fact, “sit idly by and be silent” while his cronies ignored ongoing problems and concealed them from elected board members and the public for months.

Note that after the latest scandal–Head Start–became public, the Mr. Baker’s minions took action against six low-level employees, including a whistleblower who was fired despite having reported abuses to her boss, but Mr. Baker has done nothing about the administrators who tolerated and/or were ignorant of the behavior of their subordinates.

Another of Mr. Baker’s promises, repeated frequently with essentially the same thought but varying wording was

I also pledge to establish a first ever County Inspector General to police ethics conduct and perform annual ethics audits.

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The County will create an office of Inspector General to investigate waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement and conflicts-of-interest in the County government. The Inspector General must be professionally qualified with a background in auditing and public financial management. The Inspector General must be selected based on ability and integrity, without regard to political affiliation. The Inspector General will be appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Council for a fixed term of office that is staggered and non-concurrent with the Executive and Council. The office of inspector general will have its own staff and will enjoy subpoena power. The Inspector General will conduct investigations, review financial managements, examine potential conflicts-of-interest, conduct performance audits and similar reviews, make recommendations, public findings, and make referrals to law enforcement agencies. The Inspector General will also conduct annual ethics audits of locally elected officials and make results public.Creating the Inspector General office was just another of Mr. Baker’s broken promises.

If Mr. Baker had kept that promise, and hired the kind of person he promised, with the kind of staff and authority he promised, we would have an Inspector General who presumably could be trusted to conduct an honest, independent investigation of the Head Start fiasco and other serious problems with the school system and board. Mr. Baker failed to keep his promise. Now that the problems in the school system and with the school board members he appointed have once again come to the attention of the media and the public, Mr. Baker seems to be acting as if he has nothing to do with problems in the schools, but says he has full confidence in his people And Mr. Baker now seems willing to let the relative and cronies he appointed to run the schools, who allowed all this to happen, who covered up, investigate themselves. In most cases, in the real world, crooks and incompetents do not investigate themselves, someone else does.  But normal rules don’t seem to apply in our one-party county.  It is easy to understand why Prince George’s County gets so little respect. News reports over the past few years suggest that physical, mental, and sexual abuse of Prince George’s County schoolchildren is not as rare as county and school officials would like us to believe. The right thing for Mr. Baker to do would be to ask an independent authority to conduct a truly independent investigation.  If our Mr. Baker and our other county leaders refuse to do what is right, Gov. Hogan should step in and see to what is necessary and right.

Here is a sampling of 2015-2016 media headlines (other than widely-reported Head Start humiliation and Deonte Carraway sex abuse scandals).  Many additional problems in earlier years were listed in PG-Politics daily news summaries):

Crossposted from PG-Politics | Facebook | LinkedIn Twitter: dcrussell | pgpolitics | About

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