Thursday, May 24, 2007

Education activist to lead PTA

Bob Ross will try to calm county’s volatile relationship with state PTA

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A Clinton man will take over as president of the Prince George’s County Council of PTAs after a close vote Tuesday night, where organization members hoped new leadership would serve local PTA units better in the next two years.

Bob Ross, head of the PTSA at Surrattsville High School who immersed himself in Prince George’s County education issues after moving to Clinton in 2003, won a tightly contested election against Edwin Green, vice president of the county PTA since 2005, at Largo High School.

About 50 members of individual PTA units cast their ballots. The first vote taken was a tie between Green and Ross, but a second vote gave Ross, 52, the presidency.

Walter Searcy, a county PTA member who stepped down from the vice presidency in 2005 in protest over alleged corruption by current PTA President Darren Brown, withdrew his name from the race for president. Searcy attended Tuesday’s meeting but left before making a comment.

Ross, helped organize the South County Coalition for Quality Schools. It covers 18 South County schools and invites parents to forums and PTA training sessions.

Ross’ wife, Catherine Taggart-Ross, will serve as vice president for legislation after she ran uncontested.

Ross said his first goal during his two-year term – which begins in July – will be to mend relations with the Maryland PTA, which has threatened to revoke the county PTA’s charter in recent years.

The threats came after financial records and bylaws were not properly prepared and submitted to the state organization – a requirement to keep a charter.

‘‘This will be a challenge,” Ross said after being congratulated by county school board members Pat Fletcher and Ron Watson. ‘‘We’re not out of the woods yet. ... We’re gonna work on building a relationship with [the state PTA] and hope that pays off. We need to let bygones be bygones and put a new vision forward.”

Brown, who has been roundly criticized for his leadership of the PTA – including harsh criticism from Searcy at a PTA meeting in April – said he had high hopes for Ross and the newly elected county PTA administration.

‘‘I think they have a good team,” he said. ‘‘We’re still a viable organization and our charter will be fine.”

The state PTA has declined several times to comment on the standing of the Prince George’s charter.

The county PTA’s mission is to stimulate membership in local PTA units, provide resources to those units and to lobby decision-makers for education policies and grant money.

Al Travis, legislative chair of the James Madison Middle School PTA in Upper Marlboro, said the new administration should strengthen ties with the state PTA, ensuring the group’s charter is safe in the coming years.

‘‘There’s been a lot of bickering going on, but I think these people will get it together,” Travis said.

Other officials elected Tuesday included Michael Sedgwick, member of the Mitchellville’s Ernest Everett Just Middle School PTA, who won his race for first vice president. Tandelyia Samuels of James Madison Middle School in Upper Marlboro won treasurer, Regina Bracey of Brandywine’s Gwynn Park Middle School was elected to secretary, Faith Pounds of James Madison Middle was selected as vice president for membership and Tracye Funn Stephen Decatur Middle School in Upper Marlboro was elected vice president for leadership.

E-mail Dennis Carter at dcarter@gazette.net.