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State Board of Ed. Overturns Firing of PG Superintendent

Only state Superintendent Nancy Grasmick can fire Prince George's County Superintendent Iris Metts, the state school board has ruled, overturning the county school board's attempt to dismiss her.

The state Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to keep Metts, who was ordered by the county board on Feb. 2 to leave her post. Metts said the board should have consulted with Grasmick before dismissing her and appealed the decision to the state board.

A circuit judge ruled Feb. 3 that Metts' contract requires the board to give her at least 45 calendar days notice of firing.

"We think that it is legally within the state's board to have jurisdiction over this matter and that it is by statute the state superintendent's authority ... to have determination power over this part situation," said Marilyn Maultsby, the Maryland Board of Education president.

"Dr. Metts is extremely elated," said her lawyer, Stuart Grozbean. "She wants to be here, she' s working hard for the kids. If she was going to leave, she wouldn't be here."

Before the announcement, the state panel heard arguments from attorneys for both Metts and Prince George's school board members.

Tim Maloney, who represented three school board members who opposed Metts' dismissal, told the state board they were "the last word, the final arbiter in the administration of public schools."

"To have the superintendent told she must vacate her position in 48 hours or at this critical time cannot be allowed to stand," he said.

Andy Nussbaum, who represented the majority of the Prince George's school board, said Metts' contract allowed the board to dismiss her without state approval. Nussbaum said contracts between local Maryland school boards and their superintendents do not need state approval.

"I'm disappointed," said Prince George's school board head Kenneth Johnson. "We're going to consult with our legal advice and see how we proceed."

The Prince George'! s ! school board can appeal the state's decision to the county Circuit Court.

Meanwhile, a bill working its way through the Maryland House of Delegates calls for the establishment of a five-member oversight panel with veto power over the county school board on major personnel decisions and expenditures over $25,000.

The panel would also have the authority to review all school board decisions dating back to Feb. 2.

The bill has the support of a majority of the delegates from Prince George's County and the governor. It was scheduled for discussion before the full House on Tuesday.

Metts has had several public battles in recent months with the county school board and Johnson. The disputes have been over bonuses for Metts' deputies, authority over spending and even where Metts sits at regular board meetings.

The board says Metts is a poor communicator and is to blame for consistently low test scores in the county. She says the board, which recently stripped her power to ne! go! tiate contracts of more than $5,000, has tied her hands.

Copyright 2002 ABC 7 WJLA-TV

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