The Chief of Staff to Prince George’s County School’s CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell is out of a job after a leaked email exposed first by WUSA9 appeared to show an attempt to cover up a child abuse scandal in the county’s Head Start program.
“Today I have asked my colleague and friend George Margolies to step down as my Chief of Staff. I thank him for nearly 40 years of service in public education,” said Maxwell in a statement emailed to reporters late Wednesday.
Margolies is the first high level casualty of a child abuse scandal that resulted in federal officials suspending $6.4 million in federal Head Start funding to the county. The grant was transferred to a Denver-based contractor who will be responsible for running Head Start in Prince George’s.
In the April 7 email to a deputy superintendent, Margolies reports his battle with a Board of Education Member to keep discussion of Head Start off the board’s public agenda for an upcoming meeting. Instead, Margolies says the information will be posted online and only mentioned at the end of the public meeting as “Follow up Items” to “the few people remaining in the audience at that time.”
Had the discussion of the minutes of the Head Start Advisory Council been public in April, it would have revealed that federal investigators had confirmed the abuse and humiliation of a 3-year old boy in a Head Start class and school officials refusal to provide information investigators were demanding. Federal officials were also threatening to withhold funding for Head Start in the County. The minutes also confirmed that school system leaders had ordered a retraining of teachers and staff in response to federal demands.
The scandal only became public after the US Administration for Children and Families learned of additional abuse incidents and announced it would withhold federal funds for the school systems inability to guarantee the safety of Head Start students.
The teacher involved in the abuse of a 3-year-old at the H. Winship Wheatly Early Education Center continued to work for nearly a month after the child’s mother first reported the allegations to top school officials, including in a January email to School CEO Kevin Maxwell. The teacher was eventually transferred to another school where she would not be paid with federal funds, where she continued to work with children. She was only suspended after the scandal became public in August.
Maxwell has since recommended her to the Board of Education for firing.
Before firing Margolies Wednesday, Maxwell told WUSA9 the Margolies email was unfairly taken out of context.
“It was a conversation about releasing information, not withholding information,” Maxwell said.
The email was about a long-term strategy for meeting federal requirements on reporting Head Start oversight matters to the Board of Education, without crowding the board’s agenda, Maxwell explained.
Prince George’s County State Senator C. Anthony Muse, called on Maxwell to resign Wednesday. Muse promised to introduce legislation to undo 3-year-old changes to the structure of the school system designed to give the County Executive more power over the hiring and firing of school leadership.
County Executive Rushern Baker’s staff released a statement Wednesday: “County Executive Rushern Baker is not seeking Dr. Maxwell’s resignation as CEO of the Prince George’s County Public Schools.”