Trejos and Manuel Roig-Franzia
Post Staff Writers
February 19, 2002; Page B01
George's School Superintendent Iris T. Metts, who was fired
by the county school board and then reinstated by the state
Board of Education this month, is a finalist for the top job
in the DeKalb County school district in suburban Atlanta.
has interviewed with officials of the 98,000-student school
district twice, Metts said she wants to remain in Prince
George's County for as long as she can.
committed to the school district. I'm committed as long as I
can do some good for the school district," Metts said
declined to talk further about her employment and referred
questions to an attorney, Stuart Grozbean.
said that a search firm asked Metts to interview with the
DeKalb County school district last month, just as Prince
George's school board members were saying they would be
willing to take a vote to fire her. The current DeKalb
school superintendent is retiring and is scheduled to leave
at the end of this school year.
event that something would have happened, she wanted to know
there was something else out there," Grozbean said. "Her
actions were reasonable in light of the fact that there was
so much uncertainty with her employment. It was prudent and
in no way should reflect on her desire to stay in Prince
imbroglio has prompted state legislators to consider a plan
that would sharply curtail the county school board's power.
They are also contemplating dismantling the board and adding
plan, which was passed by the Maryland House and is set to
go before the Senate, a new oversight panel would have to
approve or reject almost all of the school board's contract
and senior personnel decisions, including the hiring of an
interim superintendent if Metts were to leave.
hate for this current board to be in a position of selecting
a new superintendent if Dr. Metts leaves," Del. Howard P.
Rawlings (D-Baltimore), chairman of the House Appropriations
Committee, said yesterday.
said he understood why Metts looked elsewhere.
"Professionally, she had no choice, given the climate that
was created by the adversarial actions of the school board,
[but] to put herself in the marketplace," he said.
board members who say that Metts has spent money without
their approval and is responsible for falling test scores
and an exodus of principals and top administrators said they
hoped she would take a job elsewhere.
it's the best thing that could possibly happen to the
children of Prince George's County," said school board
Chairman Kenneth E. Johnson (Mitchellville). "I still think
she ought to be out of here."
board is considering appealing the state Board of
Education's reinstatement of Metts. Metts has feuded with
the county school board since her first months on the job,
but the relationship worsened last month when the board
approved a resolution forbidding her to sign contracts
exceeding $5,000 without its approval.
the board's vote on the resolution, Metts indicated that she
was considering jobs elsewhere but declined to say where.
that the school board was prepared to fire her, Metts
offered to let the school board buy out the remaining 1 1/2
years of her four-year contract.
flew to Georgia to meet with DeKalb County school board
members in the days before her attorneys were set to meet
with the Prince George's school board attorneys to negotiate
a buyout, sources said. DeKalb school board member Sarah
Wood said yesterday that a vote will be held soon to select
a superintendent from among four finalists. Georgia state
law does not require the board to disclose the names of
candidates until the finalist list has been whittled to
three, Wood said.
On Feb. 2,
hours after negotiations broke down, the Prince George's
school board voted 6 to 3 to fire Metts. The next day, a
Circuit Court judge ruled that the board violated Metts's
contract by ordering to leave immediately instead of giving
her 45 days' notice.
responded by delivering a termination letter with the proper
notice. Metts appealed to the state Board of Education,
which ruled last week that the county board ignored a state
statute giving the state superintendent the right to fire a
local superintendent, and it reversed the county school
Metts's reinstatement, some DeKalb County school board
members have indicated that they would probably not vote to
hire Metts because of the controversy, even if she is
qualified, sources said.
superintendent search has been watched closely by Georgia
civil rights activists, who hope that a black candidate will
be selected. The school system was under a federal court
desegregation order from the late 1960s until 1996. DeKalb's
black population has grown dramatically in the last decade,
rising from 42 percent of the county in 1990 to 54 percent
in the 2000 Census.
schools have struggled with low test scores and crowded
campuses, presenting vexing challenges for the next
said that Metts, who is black, would not work in a school
district if she were not unanimously chosen. She was tapped
to be the Prince George's top schools chief in 1999, even
though three board members voted for another candidate.
state Board of Education's decision to reinstate Metts has
granted her a job security she has not had in months.
unanimous decision by the State Board of Education, she is
committed to staying in PrinceGeorge's County," Grozbean
© 2002 The
Washington Post Company