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Millard House II became the superintendent of Prince George’s County Public Schools on July 1, bringing experience working in several prominent schools to one of Maryland’s largest school districts during a contentious time.

From 2021 to 2023, House served as superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, the largest school district in Texas. He replaces PGCPS CEO Monica Goldson in overseeing the second-largest school system in Maryland.

House’s priority will be ensuring that PGCPS is a healthy educational system for students, he said. He plans to collaborate with the Board of Education and monitor the district’s progress in implementing the “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future” educational reform program, which aims to create an equitable education for all students.

“I will be coming into this school system working closely over the course of the next 90 days with Dr. Goldson to ensure that I listen and I learn,” House said at a press conference held last month.

In House’s most recent role in Houston, he supervised over 270 schools and worked with a $2 billion annual budget, Alsobrooks said. He led administration in removing 80 percent of schools in the district off Texas’ failing list, increasing teacher compensation by 11 percent and making challenging instructional material available to all students, according to PGCPS.

House has more than 25 years of experience in the education and nonprofit sectors. He started his career as a physical education teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Before overseeing HISD, he served as the director of schools of the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System in Tennessee for four years.

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He also founded a Tulsa college preparatory middle school that became one of the “most sought-after schools” in that area, according to PGCPS. House then served as the deputy superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools in Oklahoma.

District 2 Board of Education member Jonathan Briggs said he appreciates the experience that House brings to the table, from being a teacher to serving as superintendent.

“We have a legacy that Dr. Goldson will be leaving behind and in partnership with the board that is a good foundation,” Briggs said. “I’m hopeful that the new superintendent will be able to build on that legacy.”

A three-person committee reviewed 36 applicants from across the nation for superintendent. Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks interviewed the top three candidates.

“What stood out to me was his success, leading a school system that is so similar to ours, with a diverse population similar to what we have here in Prince George’s County,” Alsobrooks said of House during the press conference.

HISD’s minority enrollment numbers are similar to those of PGCPS.

According to the U.S. News and World Report, HISD’s minority enrollment is over 90 percent and in 2022, PGCPS had a minority enrollment of over 96 percent.

PGCPS appeals to House because he feels that it is unlike anywhere else he has worked, he said.

“This is a very different community,” House said during the press conference. “The galvanization around public education, the idea of not so much political back and forth in reference to what it is to support our children, is a major difference maker in terms of my decision.”

During the press conference, Alsobrooks stressed the importance of not politicizing or weaponizing the school system, stating students’ education and success must be the sole priority of PGCPS leaders.

This emphasis comes after outgoing CEO Goldson mentioned a “divide of philosophical beliefs” on the school board in a letter announcing her retirement from PGCPS.

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“The continued political infighting among certain Board Members demonstrates a misalignment in the vision for the children of this county,” Goldson wrote in the letter.

House enters his superintendency at a troubling time because of the politicization of the school board, a Prince George’s County parent and former county executive candidate Billy Bridges said.

“There’s a certain culture of Prince George’s County,” Bridges said. “If you’re not from here, you’re going to find out … that you can’t step on the wrong toes or you’re going to find yourself out quickly. I think that’s the lesson that Dr. House will have to learn.”

Through the past few years, the Prince George’s County School board has earned a dysfunctional reputation because of multiple conflicts — including former allegations of misconduct in office against board chair Juanita Miller and multiple board member resignations.

The board is split into nine elected members and four appointees, groups that are often opposed. However, the board will become all-elected in 2024 after a bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2022.

Prince George’s County parent and former Board of Education candidate Jennifer Pompi said that House’s experience from outside the county will bring a fresh perspective to PGCPS amid ongoing conflict.

“He can’t sort of be seen as someone who’s taking sides because he has no sides,” Pompi said. “He’s brand new and I hope that that will help ease school board tensions and help things move more smoothly.”