Rushern Baker says school takeover bill is a 'good compromise'

As a bill that will give Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker control over his county's school system moves to Gov. Martin O'Malley for his signature, he says that the measure is a "good compromise" that will help move the system forward.

In an exclusive interview on Newstalk with Bruce DePuyt Monday morning, Baker said that his takeover of Prince George's County Public Schools will give students and parents the accountability they deserve. The bill passed Maryland's House of Delegates by an 81-45 vote on Saturday.

"They're giving me the ability to say to voters that come June 1, I will be accountable for education," Baker said. "If it does not improve, you know exactly where to go."

Under the new measure, Baker will be able to select a superintendent of schools from a group of three candidates that will be vetted and interviewed by a panel of three people - the state superintendent and two representatives selected by O'Malley.

Baker will also appoint the chairman and vice chairman of the county school board, who he says will have more time to focus on academic achievement. Four members will be added to the 10-person board; three will be picked by Baker and one will be selected by the Prince George's County Council.

"We're all tied into making Prince George's County better, and that's what I wanted from the beginning," Baker said.

The compromise in the final bill is rooted in that pared-down list of superintendent candidates. In Baker's original proposal, which he readily says caught the General Assembly off guard so late in the session, he wanted the ability to pick his own candidates. Under the final legislation, Baker will be able to pick from three candidates that are selected by the panel.

Baker and the new panel will have to move quickly to appoint a new superintendent by the start of the 2013-14 school year, which he says is his goal. However, he and the county will have to start from scratch after two candidates in the search, Alvin Crawley and Harrison Peters, withdrew their names from consideration over the weekend.

"I want to have someone in place early this summer so there's readiness for 2013-14," Baker said.

Despite that, Baker said that he refuses to make a quick pick and he's focused on picking the right person who will "be here for a while."