- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Prince George's County [Md.] schools Superintendent Iris T. Metts is considering instituting year-round schools as a step toward continuing her efforts to improve early childhood education and student achievement.
Mrs. Metts said the mandatory summer-school program and full-day kindergarten program she implemented improved achievement in the county's schools and added that year-round schools would be another step in this direction.
Neighboring Fairfax County already has instituted several year-round schools, which allow students only five weeks off during the entire school year. Students attend three optional two-week intersessions, adding as many as 30 additional instructional days to the regular calendar school year.
"We see all this leading to a longer school year," Mrs. Metts said in an interview with The Washington Times yesterday at her office in Upper Marlboro.
The superintendent said she would use the time remaining on her four-year contract to increase student scores in the county and bring more accountability into the system.
"For the first time we have demonstrated a high achievement among students in science and math," she said.
"We have already seen an improvement in the CTBS scores, and we are expecting to see an improvement in the MSPAP [Maryland State Performance Assessment Program] scores and in SAT scores," she said.
This month, Mrs. Metts completed two years of her contract — a period troubled by disputes with the school board and charges that her stubborn attitude has driven away principals and teachers.
Under her leadership there have been dramatic increases in student scores on the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills and the school system has received much-needed money from the county and the state. Mrs. Metts' "back-to-basics" curriculum has drawn praise from various quarters.
During her tenure she has implemented several early education programs, including full-day kindergarten and the mandatory summer-school program. Recently, she signed a contract to convert one of the county's lowest-performing schools, Forestville High, into a military academy.
Over the next two years, she also plans to do everything in her power to improve relations with her strongest critics — the school board and the county administrators' union.
In addressing her troubled relationship with a majority of the school board members, and criticism from the administrators' union in the county, she stressed the need to resolve these issues in an "adult" way.
"I am committed to the children of this district," said Mrs. Metts, 58, who said she will retire after her stint ends as Prince George's schools superintendent.
"I have enjoyed being here," she said, adding that she had inherited her father's streak of determination. "I know I can do the job that is before me. I know I can make a difference."
"This is my last superintendent's post. I would like to have a legacy of accomplishment here," she said.
The school board has vocally opposed several of Mrs. Metts' her past actions, especially her decision to award bonuses to four top deputies without board approval. Recently, she also drew fire for not disclosing enough information to the school board about her plans to start a military school at Forestville High.
The Times last week reported that a school board member said the board might give Mrs. Metts a negative evaluation this month as a result of some of these actions.
Reacting to the reported comment, the superintendent said she wonders how members could discuss the evaluations before they actually are done.
"I hope a majority of the board would give me the benefit of the doubt. How can one assume it is a negative evaluation?" she asked.
Members of the administrators' union in the county have criticized Mrs. Metts' policies, claiming she has driven principals away by refusing to compromise, to which she counters: "No one likes change but a wet baby."
"When I came in, there were administrators and teachers who had not been evaluated for four and five years," said Mrs. Metts.
"I introduced accountability into the school system" she said, adding that this could have set some in the administrators' union against her.
Mrs. Metts, who previously was secretary of education in Delaware, said the criticisms had sometimes affected her, but that she took it as part of her job. Despite her rocky relationship with the Prince George's County School Board, she said she will continue to press forward with her reforms.
"I have not given up. I am not going to throw in the towel. I certainly hope there is some room for compromise so I can continue to be in charge and the board can provide vision and direction."

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