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Latino Leaders In Prince George's County Upset With Baker's School Board Picks

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Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk speaks at Casa De Maryland headquarters Friday morning. Casa De Maryland executive director Gustavo Torres is behind her.
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Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk speaks at Casa De Maryland headquarters Friday morning. Casa De Maryland executive director Gustavo Torres is behind her.

Latino leaders in Prince George's County are unhappy with what they say is a lack of Hispanics at all levels in the county's public school system. State Sen. Victor Ramirez says around 23 percent of students in Prince George's County schools are Latino, but only 2 percent of county teachers are Hispanic, with only one Latino principal in more than 200 schools.

"Look at the staff," he says. "Look at the recruitment. I hope that it's not happening intentionally. I just think that it's being overlooked."

But the last straw was County Executive Rushern Baker's appointment of three people to the Board of Education. None were Latino. Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk says there was a Latino candidate they urged Baker to choose.

"We got behind that one person," he says. "But you either get behind that person or you don't. We expected that person to be appointed. She was qualified. She has two Masters, she teaches at the University of Maryland... women's studies."

Appearing on WAMU's "The Politics Hour," Baker said he chose the three best people out of the 160 who applied. "Clearly the pool of applicants that we got in should have been greater than what I saw. Clearly, the administration has to do more... why is the pool not as broad as it should have been?"

Earlier this year, the Maryland General Assembly gave Baker greater authority over the county's school system, allowing him to pick the superintendent and three board members.

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