By Margie Hyslop and Vaishali Honawar THE WASHINGTON TIMES
George's County lawmakers and Maryland Gov. Parris N.
Glendening yesterday moved to strip the county school board
of much of its authority, setting the stage for overturning
the board's ouster of Superintendent Iris T. Metts.
are developing legislation to restructure the school board
by swapping some of its nine elected positions for three
"It is clear
that there is a crisis in the management of the Prince
George's County public schools. I am frustrated that there
has been too much focus on petty issues instead of creating
the learning environment our children need to succeed. Too
many of our school officials are engaged in irrelevent and
petty power plays," said Mr. Glendening, himself the former
top elected official in the county.
impending crackdown on the suburban county is rare but
unquestionably legal, lawmakers said. According to the
Maryland Constitution, all local government, including
school boards, derive their authority from state law. The
principle also applies to the membership of school boards,
which still are appointed in 11 of the state's 24
In 1997, the
state switched the city of Baltimore's school board from an
elected to an appointed one and instituted extra state
oversight to improve the failing city schools that rank as
the state's worst.
Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat who has insisted on
school reforms in Prince George's County, the state's
second-worst-performing system, dismissed critics who call
an appointed board undemocratic.
is democratic, [and] the Constitution gives the state the
responsibility of providing a fair and efficient school
system. Clearly the Prince George's system is not," Mr.
undemocratic is to have people without choices have to
decide to send their children to schools that don't work,"
said Delegate Rushern L. Baker III, chairman of the Prince
George's House delegation.
what Mr. Glendening called a "circus" and "an absolute
crisis in Prince George's school system management," county
lawmakers and Mr. Glendening said they will back legislation
to create an executive committee with power to veto any
major personnel action or contract over $25,000 that the
school board proposes.
personnel provision and a $25,000 threshold ensure that the
current board — none of whom is up for re-election until
November — would be unable to install a new superintendent
selected by a six-member majority that many accuse of
micromanaging and political grandstanding.
George's delegation approved the bill last night on a
nonbinding 15-3 vote; two members who are school system
employees declined to vote.
The bill now
goes to the House, where the Ways and Means Committee could
take it up as early as today.
would be retroactive to Feb. 1, which would make it possible
for the panel to reject the board's Saturday firing of Mrs.
also would give the executive committee — with two members
appointed by the governor, two by the county executive and
one from an existing Management Oversight Panel by the state
superintendent — power to appoint a superintendent, and
other top administrators, if the executive committee rejects
two consecutive board appointments.
agreed with the General Assembly, particularly with the
senators and delegates of Prince George's County, to create
a Crisis Management Board that will review all major
personnel and financial decisions in the school system," Mr.
also would buy time for a second measure legislators are
developing to restructure the board to include appointed
immediate focus has shifted to the emergency bill, Prince
George's Senate delegation Chairman Paul G. Pinsky,
Democrat, said recent developments make it even more likely
the legislature will approve a bill to restructure the
county school board.
Glendening and state leaders said the emergency bill to
limit the school board could be signed into law at the end
of this week or the beginning of next.
Robert Callahan said the emergency bill in Annapolis is "a
very tough piece of legislation. If passed, the board should
take action against it in the courthouse." He described the
legislators' move as "backroom, election-year politicking."
returned to work yesterday at the school system's Sasscer
Administration Building in Upper Marlboro after a weekend
during which she was fired by the board and reinstated by a
accordance with the court order, Mrs. Metts was served with
a 45-day notice of termination yesterday by board Chairman
Kenneth E. Johnson, but board sources said they might
explore other options, like placing the superintendent on
administrative leave or scaling back her authority.
Grozbean, Mrs. Metts' lawyer, filed an appeal with the state
Board of Education yesterday. He said the superintendent was
hoping to serve until the end of her contract, which expires
next year, and not just for the 45-day notice period.
notice is not a valid notice. We think that the resolution
that Judge Missouri found invalid made the entire resolution
invalid," Mr. Grozbean said.
there was concern in Annapolis that Mr. Johnson plans to
offer Mrs. Metts an expensive buyout of her contract as
early as today.
the board fired Mrs. Metts 21/2 years into her contract
after talks of a resignation deal broke down. On Sunday,
three board members who voted against firing Mrs. Metts and
the Management Oversight Panel won a 10-day injunction to
stay Mrs. Metts' firing.
Johnson would not name her, sources say the board's choice
for interim superintendent is Jacqueline Brown, a Howard
County administrator, who was in the race for the
superintendent's job in 1999 when Mrs. Metts was hired.