Ovetta Wiggins, Washington Post, September 6, 2013
Upset that there are no Latino members on the newly reconstituted Prince George’s County Board of Education, some Hispanic leaders have demanded that the county devise a plan to increase the number of Hispanics considered for board appointments and county jobs.
Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s) said Hispanic leaders have asked Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) to create a task force to examine whether Hispanics — who make up more than 16 percent of the county’s population and about 25 percent of the school population — are properly represented in the county government and the school system. The task force also would offer recommendations on how to boost the numbers.
Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Baker, said the county executive is eager to work with the Hispanic community on the issue.
“The Baker administration, in concert with Latino leaders throughout the county, will be announcing a task force to address this issue in the upcoming weeks,” Peterson said in a statement. “County Executive Baker is committed to diversity and inclusion throughout the county government. He looks forward to working with this task force and hearing their recommendations.”
Peterson said Baker wants the task force’s charge to be broader. While the task force probably will be chaired by Hispanics, it will represent various immigrant groups in the county, including Africans and Asians, and address concerns they have about education, public safety, economic development and county representation as well.
Pena-Melnyk said the idea for the study came in response to Baker’s selections for the Board of Education. In June, Baker appointed two African Americans and one non-Hispanic white to take county-wide seats on the board.
On Wednesday, he selected Lyn Mundey to fill a district seat vacancy. Mundey is black. None of the 13 members of the school board is Hispanic.
Pena-Melnyk said Baker missed an opportunity when he was making selections for the county-wide seats.
“I find it really, I don’t have the words, disappointing,” Pena-Melnyk said. “We have 204 schools and only two Hispanic principals. We have over 9,000 teachers and less than 2 percent are Hispanic. What do those numbers tell you? Do you think that makes sense?”
Jaime Contreras, an immigration advocate, union leader and parent of two Prince George’s public school students, said Latino parents and students are not being adequately served by the school system.
“It is important for Latino parents to have someone they can relate to and to talk to them about their issues,” Contreras said. “And it is important for children to have role models.”