- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2000

The departure this month of Templeton Elementary School Principal Michael Castagnola to Montgomery County is just the latest in a series of high-profile defections among administrators in Prince George's County.

Mr. Castagnola was widely credited with the success of Templeton, in Riverdale, which was honored as a national Blue Ribbon School.

Since Superintendent Iris T. Metts arrived last summer, at least a dozen principals have left, most for jobs in Montgomery County, where they can earn a minimum of $12,000 more each year.

During the year, the superintendent's relationship with administrators became increasingly shaky when she demoted 15 principals last fall and fought to lower their salaries.

"Why should they stay?" asked Doris Reed, executive director of the Association of Supervisory and Administrative School Personnel, the administrators' union. "They get no respect, no support and can make more money over in Montgomery. They are looking around because, even though many of them have been here decades, they have had it."

So far, at least 35 of the county's 182 schools will have new faces in the front office when classes resume next month. The changes affect at least 12 of the county's 20 high schools.

Mr. Castagnola followed in the footsteps of another venerated veteran, Northwestern High School's Kevin Maxwell, who will head Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda.

A month earlier, Gerald Boarman, the acclaimed principal of Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, departed for a North Carolina science and technology high school.

"This is just terrible," said one county official of Mr. Castagnola's departure. "[Mrs. Metts] is just driving people out left and right."

But Mrs. Metts has her supporters.

"We have some great people coming in," a state legislator, who did not want to be identified by name, said privately. "We'll be OK."

Mrs. Metts defended her plan to reorganize the school system and its administrators in June and repeatedly has said reorganization is necessary to ensure school reform.

"It is not that we disrespect any administrators, but funds in the system need to be spent at the classroom level," she said in an interview in June. Mrs. Metts also rejected accusations by union and some school officials that she is trying to dilute the administrators' union's power by bringing in outsiders.

"I am not a union buster," she said. "I believe in the unions and am supportive of them."

But along with approving eight new principals in a third round of appointments two weeks ago, the Prince George's County school board also approved the appointments of 10 retired principals to return at their full salary plus retirement under a new state plan to retain principals.

It was under this plan that Mr. Boarman was to remain at Roosevelt. But according to some principals, union officials and Mr. Boarman himself, retired principals were told they may not belong to the union.

Although school officials denied telling administrators they could not belong to a union, a June 19 memo from Mrs. Metts to the board reads that under the retired principal re-employment program, principals "will not be eligible for union representation and will not be required to pay a representation fee."

"[Mrs. Metts] told us back in July that administrators shouldn't be in a union," said Mrs. Reed, whose union disputes the administration's position. "That's what she is trying to ensure."

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