- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2001

Prince George's County School Board Chairman Kenneth E. Johnson yesterday asked state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick to mediate and help "end the politicization of public education" in the county school system.

"We need your help and leadership the continued politicizing of public education in our county is hurting the children," Mr. Johnson, District 6, wrote in a letter two days after Mrs. Grasmick sent the school board a letter warning she would withhold funds from the school system because of ongoing management disputes.

Mrs. Grasmick's letter came after a meeting she had last week with several members of the state legislature, including Rushern Baker and James Proctor, both Prince George's Democrats, and Pete Rawlings, Baltimore Democrat.

Mr. Johnson, who asked Mrs. Grasmick to convene a meeting between the elected officials and the school board, said the legislators "are trying to politicize the issues in Prince George's County and create problems where there aren't any."

"It is time for the elected officials to stop hurting the children in Prince George's County," he said in his letter.

Some board members have expressed concerns about Mrs. Grasmick's role as a mediator in disputes involving the school board, saying she is too close to county schools Superintendent Iris T. Metts to be an unbiased party.

But Mr. Johnson yesterday said Mrs. Grasmick could "play a very substantial role as a conduit to help" resolve some of the issues.

"Any dialogue about the things happening right now would be helpful," said board member Angie Como, District 1.

A spokesman for Mrs. Grasmick said she had not seen Mr. Johnson's letter and could not comment on it.

In her letter dated July 17, Mrs. Grasmick named several violations by the school board with regard to the state-appointed Management Oversight Panel (MOP), which monitors the school board.

Mr. Johnson He said the board had made every effort to work with the MOP, "but they don't want to."

MOP Chairman Artis Hampshire Cowan said the panel had made "extraordinary efforts" to resolve the issues with the school board.

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